An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 19, 2007
issued from the Sierra Nevada Foothills east of Sacramento, California, USA

HORSE MANURE & BUCK'S TRUCK

1928 Model AA Ford

On Tuesday I hiked upslope to my friend Buck's house where we'd agreed to meet and use his truck to haul horse manure from a neighbor's place to our garden. I hadn't seen Buck since last October but it didn't surprise me that when we met he just sort of nodded, didn't gush all over me, or even offer to shake my hand.

Buck is an old fellow who has worked hard all his life and accomplished a good deal. He sees things with a level eye and doesn't care much more about social graces and clean work-britches than I do. When I was a farm kid in Kentucky back in the 50s my impression was that you only shook hands with preachers and insurance salesmen. All other people you looked in the eye and you could see what they thought of you, and you knew they could see what you thought of them, so what was needed beyond that? Hand-shaking was superfluous city-stuff, and if we'd known about the kind of embracing and face-kissing some people do nowadays we would have regarded it as perverse.

Buck's truck was a 1928 Model AA Ford. You could start it with a hand crank if the battery got low. When we were climbing back upslope with our manure the truck stopped and I thought we were out of gas because the gauge registered zero. However, Buck rocked the engine and saw the gas-needle bob up and down, so he figured if there was enough gas for the float inside the tank to bob up and down we weren't out. He blew on the fuel line to unclog whatever he suspected to be stuck there, and then the truck started with no problems.

The admirable thing about the old Ford is that it's so simple that its problems can be diagnosed and usually they can be fixed without a lot of fuss. Using such an unpretentious vehicle, you're more in control of your life. This same dynamic functions at all levels of living. The more simple your life and the more self-sufficient you are, the less vulnerable you are to a host of potential aggravations and dangers. When I see new cars in which you can't even open the windows by turning a handle, I just want to spit.

How pretty it was to haul manure with my friend Buck. What a noble thing we accomplished that day. With what savoir faire Buck blew on the fuel line, and with what grace we pulled the whole thing off!

At the top of this page you can see what an elegant crew Buck, the truck and I made that day -- I'm the one holding a fistful of dock greens collected from next to the manure pile. Facebook Icon.