From Gene Logsdon
Of all my old, junk machinery, I like my pickup truck the best. I could not function without it. I use it to haul hay, straw, manure, mulch, lambs, rams, calves, pigs, chickens, corn, wheat, grandkids, apples, firewood, logs, cans of gas, rototillers, dirt, lawnmowers, water tanks, fencing, gates, posts, lumber, chainsaws, shovels, forks, concrete blocks, trash for the recycler, gravel, rocks, railroad ties. To name a few. In the process, I also use it to back into trees, sideswipe gate posts, run into stumps, drop a front end loader on (insurance paid for one new side of the truck bed), and take incoming stones on the windshield (only one chip out of the glass so far).
I thought I was the wise guy, see. I should have traded the poor old thing in long ago, but I was sure a financial collapse was coming. No society could live as crazily as ours and not suffer retribution. So I decided I would wait until the second Great Depression hit and then I would drive a real hard bargain on a trade-in and get a new truck at a five or even ten thousand dollar savings.
So the collapse finally came. I waited patiently for the car companies to cut prices drastically. Nothing much happened except they moaned and groaned until the government gave them billions of dollars. The price of the pickup that I wanted did not go down one farthing. Oh yeah, a rebate here and there. The old maneuver. Jack up the price several thousand dollars and then give the poor dumb buyer a fifteen hundred dollar rebate and he’s supposed to dance around the showroom in utter bliss.
Then, it happened. The car companies didn’t do it, but good old Uncle came up with the Cash For Clunkers deal and I could get $4500 for a truck that did not have a hundred dollars of trade-in value left in her dear old cylinders. I sped into town and presented myself proudly to Bill, my favorite car dealer. I would not only get my $4500, but because of the hard times, I’d be able to dicker four or five thousand bucks off the sticker price.
“What year is your truck?” Bill asked.
“A 1981,” I said proudly.
Bill got the strangest look on his face, as if he didn’t quite believe what he had just heard.
“Yes, and she’s only got 40,000 miles on her,” I added, to show what a good green American I was, willing to have my beloved old gas-guzzling clunker executed for the good of the environment even though she had plenty of life in her yet.
“I’m sorry, Gene,” Bill said, and I could see he was having a hard time suppressing a smile. “You’re clunker doesn’t qualify. It’s too old.”
I’m sure people could hear my teeth grinding half a block away. My clunker was too old. I muttered that sentence over several times trying to come to terms with such strange logic. It only had 40,000 miles on it but MY CLUNKER WAS TOO OLD.
Well, since I was where I was, I thought I might as well see what kind of hard bargain I could drive in these, ho ho ho, hard times. The truck I wanted cost about $30,000 less a rebate or two. I offered Bill $20,000 cash and my dear old truck with only 40,000 miles on her, take it or leave it. He chortled. I think that sound is what you call a chortle anyway. Number one: they were selling cars like crazy because of the cash for clunkers scam, so they didn’t have to dicker. Number two: the days of dickering were over anyway. The company set the price, not the dealer. If I wanted to haggle, I would have to go to Detroit and talk to Henry Ford’s latest successor.
But all was not lost. In fact quite a bit was gained. In the five seconds it took me to absorb the reality about my clunker, I made about $25,000, which I bet is better than even Bill Gates has ever done. I decided that I would never trade in my beloved old pickup. I know a mechanic or two who can keep it running as long as my doctor can keep me running.
Gene and Carol Logsdon have a small-scale experimental farm in Wyandot County, Ohio.
Gene is author of The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse (Culture of the Land), The Last of the Husbandmen: A Novel of Farming Life, and just released: Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers.