Neighbors: I Downsized My Ride!

Jul 17, 2008

When this 70-something man was but a wee lad, his father made a prediction of the sort a little boy wouldn’t be expected to understand. But my good friend remembers his father’s words to this day, and he has marveled over the years at his father’s foresight.

“We were in Neelyville, farming with mules,” says my friend, who retired some time ago from a colorful array of occupations, including key posts in the floral and furniture-manufacturing industries.

“One day, my father saw that a neighbor had bought a small, one-row Allis-Chalmers tractor,” he continues.

“He said to me then, ‘Son, one of these days, we won’t have enough gas to run those’.”

And, well, what do you know? Here we are, living out a scenario in which people with tractors, autos, trucks, small businesses, and huge ones are all scrambling for solutions to the problem of gasoline.

This friend and neighbor of mine admits that his father wasn’t terribly taken with a lot of technology from the beginning. In fact, by his account, his father’s brief brush with the automotive revolution ended with him running his Ford Model T into a tree and muttering, “Forget it”.

But this was a man whose very nature and upbringing had demanded respect for the bounty of the earth in all its varied forms. Taking his cue from that man, my friend is shaping a more conservative approach to hitting the highways and byways, as gas prices continue to zoom skyward.

“I’ve already downsized—to a Chevrolet Tracker—and I’m still trying to sell my van, ” he says. He’s not holding out hope for a fabulous, or even an immediate, deal; the van only averages 12 to 13 miles per gallon. But the good news is that the spunky little Tracker he’s driving now manages about 23 mpg.

And what’s the “Tracker Experience” like? Says our new owner…“It’s like a tin can on wheels”.

But he notes something about his new tin can that has sold him on it in a big way. “Now I can gas up for $35,” he says. “With the van it took $85.”

Vowing to keep the new vehicle “until it falls apart”, my friend reminds me that “it’s tin-can time, but still, that tin can’s better than a horse and wagon”.

Better, too, I’m sure, than a voracious petrol-hound like the one he’s retired from the game altogether.

In response to our national fuel woes, he says, “I do know one thing. We are spoiled…You got old boys out there with 4x4s getting 8 to 10 miles to the gallon—and they still owe money on ’em!

“They’re gonna have to give ’em up or move to town…They’re gonna have to get rid of the 4-wheel drive or their wife!”

But, on a more serious, somewhat less medieval-sounding note, this gregarious jack-of-all-trades, this spinner of many a colorful tale, offers a sobering observation: “The government always put a patch on [the gasoline problem] before, but this time it’s just out of control.

“This is actually long overdue. It should’ve happened long time ago. Now, everybody’s gonna have to learn to live different. Big-time.”

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