“It’s OK. They’ve got lots of money!”
The boy’s mother was quietly reprimanding him. A fellow had knocked on their door. Said he had run out of gas and was hoping he could buy like 5 gallons from the farm. Gasoline they had, and a 5-gallon can they had. The young man had asked the driver for $5 for the 5 gallons of gas, who paid it, mumbling, because he knew his boss was paying something like 17 cents a gallon delivered bulk.
It was about 1972, and I was the driver. I was driving for the outfit that had the contract to haul the potato waste from one of the Nampa/Caldwell, Idaho, potato processors to a handful of feedlots in the region. My “horse” that night was “Yogi” – named after the leader of the Yogi Bear and Boo Boo pair of cartoon fame. Yogi was a Ford T-850 truck, powered by Ford’s 534-cubic-inch engine, with both a five- and a four-speed transmission. Boo Boo was similar but was the F-800, powered by the 391 V-8, also with five- and four-speed twin transmissions.
Most of the fleet had been 391-powered, and just before diesel trucks began to take over the fleet, some salesman had talked the owner into trying a Super Duty truck with the 534 engine. He was afraid it would use too much gasoline. In the real world of hauling bulk potatoes from storage sheds to the processers, there was only about a 1-mpg difference, with the 534 being thirstier than the trucks with the smaller engines.
One mpg doesn’t sound like a big difference until you realize that the smaller trucks were good for 4 to 4.5 mpg of petrol, while the 534 wanted 3 to 3.5 mpg. That is 25% more fuel. I wasn’t paying the fuel bill, but golly gee whiz was that a fun truck to drive. Fully loaded, I’d sacked a couple of diesel rigs on flat ground on the freeway. The normal operating speed for the engine was 3,200 rpm, slower than the 391’s 3,600. The exhaust note of the big engine was more of a deep thunder; unlike anything else I’d driven.
Two commodities made up the potato waste haul. “Chips” and dry peel. The chips were broken pieces and were hauled in an end-dump trailer. The “dry peel” wasn’t dry but was a slurry. A chemical bath loosened the potato’s skin, or peel, and jostling about caused the peel to kinda dissolve into a brown goo the consistency of thick gravy. The dry peel trailer had loading openings on the top, but when loaded too full, it was still easy to slop product on the road and other vehicles.
The load in question was too full. I also knew it would be “nip-and-tuck” as far as having enough gas to deliver and make it to the fuel depot. The road to the fuel was down a hill steep enough to sloop dry peel all over the trailer, probably the tractor (Yogi) and other traffic. I chose the lesser of two evils and ended up paying some farmer’s kid five bucks for what I hoped was enough “go juice” to get me back to the gas pumps. It was.
Some time “a long time ago,” I read an account of some fellows who challenged each other to see who could get the most time and miles out of a car purchased for about $100, which would then be their respective ride to work.
They each had to take another of the group with them to make the purchase to ensure it was a real $100 car and not someone’s grandpa’s pride and joy. Other than gas, oil and oil filters, anything purchased to repair the car had to be listed in a “demerits” list – used for comparison whenever they decided to end the game.
The guy who ended up with a Studebaker lucked out because, on inspection, the distributor cap and ignition points looked relatively new. Good, because Studebaker hadn’t made a new vehicle for some 15 years, and those ignition parts were not available anyway. It was interesting to learn how to clean and reuse spark plugs and how to file and reset ignition points.
I can relate to those guys.
We’ve been to the Grand Canyon and the Arches National Park in southern Utah in my pickup that’s just over one oil change away from the 500,000-mile mark. I’m planning to visit my oldest in Riverton, Wyoming, and am deciding on taking it or my 27-year-old Honda Accord (that I just changed the Schrader valves for the AC on and now have frigid air inside again). It’s got 255,000 miles on its clock. I think I get more of a charge out of keeping old iron dependably on the road than I did when I ordered my one and only new-from-the-factory rig.