“Hey! I found a bulldozer on the internet!” I exclaim to my buddy Spalding. “And it’s free. We just have to go pick it up in Nebraska.”
“What you mean WE?” Spalding mutters.
To someone who doesn’t know him, Spalding’s reply would seem to imply a certain reluctance to drive across four states with his truck and trailer. But I know better. Usually, I just need to pay some dues—schmooze a little about this and that before he’ll go along with a gig. But, right now, I’m in no mood to dally. This is a first-come, first-served offer. I figured I could deliver the pitch on the way to Nebraska.
Turns out, all the talking happens on the way back from Lincoln. There’s this World War II surplus bulldozer, drab green and rusty, trailing behind us. Spalding is driving. That’s a condition of his involvement—only he can drive his International Harvester truck and trailer. That leaves me with the task of navigating and keeping him awake during the long tedium of wheat fields waving.
“You know, we’re down to half a tank of gas,” I thoughtfully inform him. “We might as well top her off at that gas station coming up,” I helpfully point out.
“It’s not a Shell station,” he replies.
What can I say? It’s his truck.
About this time, I notice Spalding starting to fidget and wiggle behind the wheel. Maybe it’s the caffeine I’ve been pouring down him the last 150 miles…trying to get back out. Once again, I suggest a stop…this time for emptying rather than filling.
“Naw, that’s all right. An aching bladder keeps me awake…that and your constant yammering.”
I start in on another thirty minutes of non-stop chatter. First, I talk about the bulldozer. I ask if he has any more of that hunter-orange paint he used to touch up his faded truck. I’m thinking I can camouflage the olive drab dozer so it blends in with the herds of opening-day hunters. Then maybe I paint DOZER in huge letters across the blade to keep the machine from getting shot up. I learned that from a buddy down the road who painted COW and HORSE and PIG on his livestock one deer season counting on city folk to read faster than they could shoot. ‘Course at the end of the firearms season, he found a few bullet holes in his JOHN DEERE tractor. Go figure.
I glance at the fuel gauge—quarter tank.
Next, I start in on how I could use the dozer to scoop out my little seep-pond and line it with clay. Then I could stock it with bluegills so me and my boys could trot down there and catch a few fish for supper while we watched the sheep come down to drink.
“What sheep?” Spalding growled. “You don’t have any sheep.”
“Not yet. Wait till I get that dozer going and I clear out my road frontage property and sell of a couple or three lots. Then I’m gonna go buy me a flock of Merinos for their wool. And then I’ll get my wife to make yarn and fleece slippers and hats and such to sell on the internet. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds like you want a whole lot of things.”
“Then with the money from the sheep, I’m gonna buy that piece of bottom land out by Shelby where I heard the road commission is running out a freeway. Um, speaking of ‘running out’…we’re pushing empty. Shouldn’t we be stopping for gas soon?”
“I know my truck. Don’t worry.”
I try not to worry.
“And when they get to get to excavating for the overpasses and such, I intend to have some low spots handy for some good, clean, pay-me-to-dump fill dirt. But first…get this, I’m gonna scrape off the top soil, which makes a bigger hole, of course. And then I’m gonna sell the top soil to a landscape company and the filled-in land to developers. Ha!”
“What you want to so all that for?” Spalding asks.
“So I can get enough money to retire and never have to work again in my life…leave my kids a bundle.”
“Maybe you could even get them to name a high school gymnasium after you,” Spalding remarks, raising a sarcastic eyebrow. “But what if the basketball team sucks? Ever think of that?”
“I’ll tell you what I’m thinking about,” I snap. “I’m thinking we’ve been riding on empty for the last five or ten miles and I haven’t seen a Shell station sign. Why are you doing this? We just passed a perfectly good gas station.”
“To keep me awake,” he says as he slowly scratches the gray stubble on his chin.
Five minutes later the truck wheezes, stutters and dies. I’m mad. “Damn, Spalding. Now, look. We’re stuck without a farm house in sight and nothing but a long sloping road down to the horizon.”
“The operative word here is down. If the road slopes, let’s put the truck in neutral and see what we find.”
So, we slowly trundle down the long curving road until it rounds into a small town with a Shell station on the corner.
Twenty minutes later, over hamburgers and pie, I crab, “Now what did that prove?”
“That you only need enough to get you home. No more.”