Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cheap Tricks

Our 1990 Ford F350 had half a million miles on it. Literally. The odometer was turning over a hundred thousand for the fifth time when we finally sold the truck. The whole last year it was my commute to work vehicle because we'd sold my Dodge pickup and learned the hard way that a blown head gasket in a Grand Am can be fatal. To the car, not us, although there was a moment there when I thought my husband might blow a gasket of his own.

So I drove Big Red. Winter wasn't so bad. It had a good heater and a one ton dually is never a bad thing on icy roads. If nothing else, you're bigger than most stuff you slide into. Then spring came.

In Oregon, spring actually comes in the spring (as opposed to here, where we're pretty darn pleased if all the snow is gone from the coulees by the Fourth of July). As the temperatures climbed, it became apparent that Big Red's air conditioner wasn't conditioning much of anything. Diagnosis—um, I don't remember exactly but it was expensive.

Scratch air conditioning. Makes you soft, anyway. I drove with the windows down and proved beyond reasonable doubt that cheap generic deodorant really isn't as good as Secret Super-Dry. The worst part was getting in after the truck had been cooking in the sun with the windows rolled up. I left them down. It wasn't like I was going to get robbed. The cassette player had eaten its last tape at around the three hundred thousand mile mark, and the radio had played for so many hours the volume button was worn out in the lower ranges and the sound didn't kick on until increased to a point where the windshield vibrated. But what if someone stole the whole truck?

Excuse me for a moment.

Okay, done roaring with laughter. Pretty much. (snicker) Seriously, though, theft was not a concern. Big Red had the ideal security system. The ignition wires were so beat up they shorted out unless the steering column was tilted to an exact angle known only to me. Except it tended to change from day to day depending on the temperature, humidity and number of high school students loitering in front of Dean's Deli watching me try to find that perfect angle while melting into the red plastic seat cover.

The point of all this—believe it or not, I did have a point when I started—is how far a person will sometimes go to save a few bucks. A few posts back I wrote about a guy named Rooster who could pinch a penny until Abe Lincoln squealed. One of the comments pointed out this was a trait learned at his daddy's knee. And if you think Big Red was bad, you should have seen Benny's tractor.

It probably wasn't a bad tractor, until the battery went kaput. Benny dropped by the local tractor parts store to pick up a new one and catch up on the gossip. When they quoted him a price, he almost spilled his free cup of coffee. No dang way he was paying that much for a battery when he'd managed to start the tractor just fine for the past week without one.

See, Benny's house sits on a hillside. All he had to do was make sure he parked the tractor at the top of the hill pointing down before he turned it off. Next time he needed it, he just kicked off the parking brake and let it roll. Soon as he'd built up a good head of steam, he'd drop the clutch and the tractor would roar to life. No battery? No problem.

One day Benny recruited his wife to bale some hay while he tended to other chores. He rolled the tractor off the hill, got it running, and got her installed behind the wheel. Then he jumped down. Three steps away, he realized he'd forgotten the most important part of the instructions.

He turned around and yelled. "Whatever you do, don't turn off the tractor!"

"What?" she yelled back, over the roar of the engine.

"Don't turn off the tractor!" he yelled.

"I can't hear you," she yelled. "Just a second, I'll turn off this tractor—"

So now, for my entertainment and because I'm getting tired of listening to myself, tell me--what's the farthest you've gone to save a buck?


Anonymous said...

Har Har!

Love the idea that no one would steal your truck. Years ago we built a weekender on a lake. The week after we moved in, someone broke a window and got in. What did they steal? All the lawn equipment from the garage...weedeater, power saw, lawn mower, etc. However, NONE of those things actually ran. My hubby had taken all that over there because there was supposed to be a guy who lived in the area who could fix all that. Never found out. Insurance bought us all new stuff! Stealing that stuff would be like taking Big Red.

BTW - my current car is "little Red". LOL We have so much in common...except I don't have a broken toe. HOWEVER, I did close a door over my toes, broke the nails and ripped some of the skin off my little toe. OUCH.

When I was in high school, I drove an old 1965 Pontiac Catalina. No heater. I had to wrapped up in quilts to drive to school. We sold it in the summer when no heater wasn't an issue in Arkansas. No A/C would have killed me.

Sorry to hear about the generic deodorant failure. :) But a good thing to alert all your readers to.

Anonymous said...

YIKES. I just looked at my post. WOW. Just call me Chatty McChatterson tonight. (Can you tell I've been without my main computer with its internet?)

Susan at Stony River said...

It's hard to pick a favourite from all your posts, but this is definitely a top three! I love it.

Last year I was playing with the idea of making a coffee-table book called the Zombie Tractors of Rural Ireland, just from watching the tractors going by on our road. Quite a few have at least one part (such as wing mirrors) tied on with blue baling twine; half have straw bales for seats. Most have a variety of plastic bags and duct tape for windows, and not one of them is the same colour all over. Our neighbour's is blue when he's going to the village and yellow when he's going home, because we're looking at different sides.

All have one accessory in common: a border collie. I still think it would be a *great* book LOL

Anonymous said...

Way back when, I had an old blue Ford pickup given to me by a favorite uncle. I was a single mom at the time with limited income so this truck was a blessing....unfortunately I didn't have the funds or know-how to do much maintenance. The battery (again a battery:) was not in good shape - to get it started I had to hammer a kitchen knife down in-between the post and cable then get inside and start it then get back out and grab the knife...ususally getting shocked in the process...this system wasn't too bad except when the truck would die at a red light in my small town...very embarrasing...did love that truck though - Marcia in WY

Stan Grace said...

There have been many batteries of past years that lived a prolonged life using the assistance of a, "gravity boost" for the starting process. There are also probably countless stories yet untold about the frustration of relying on that process.
Yours is one of the classic's as Benny's thrift is legendary among many of his former traveling partners.

SAC said...

I remember once when I was in High School, as we walked in to a grocery store, asking my dad why he wasn't locking the family car behind us. He said, "Anybody who steals this car deserves it." That became what we always said to anyone who asked about our non-locking habits.

My parents have been known to fly from Maryland, where they live, to Utah, where their grandchildren live, to visit AND get dental work done. (The parents of said grandchildren also live in Utah, but we all know who they're really visiting.)

Julie Weathers said...

Dumspter diving for banana crates to build bookcases with for the kids.

Anonymous said...

Your sister here. Back a few years ago (ok a lot of years ago) a group of us college students, including Rooster, Benny's son, decided to go skiing at small resort across the Idaho border. As Rooster's parents' place was our departure point, he put together the refreshments for the trip. A loaf of cheap white bread, a jar of peanut butter and to wash it all down some delightful Mad Dog 20/20. Rooster happened to owe me some money or a favor and so offered to buy my lift ticket when we arrived. After I got over my shock at his generosity, I accepted. As everyone in our group was more advanced skiers than myself, we agreed to part ways at the top of the lower lift. They off to black colored diamonds and me to stay in greener pastures. After my first run, I proceeded to get back on the lift and the operator was a very nice older gentlemen. As I was getting on he asked if my older brother had deserted me. I was whisked away before I could reply. My next trip, the same gentleman reached over and zipped my coat up to my chin and commented that wind was coming up. I was a little taken aback but again I was lifted away before I could comment. Finally to my surprise, when it was close to lunch he handed me two dollars and said I should go in and warm up with a nice bowl of soup. At this point, I happened to glance at my lift ticket. It read Child Under 12 Free.


Julie Weathers said...
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