Wednesday, January 27, 2010
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?