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Irons in the fire: Looking for a bargain

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 July 2018

Sometimes I’m a walking cliché. I tend to leap before I look, try to run before I walk, step over a dollar to pick up a dime, put the cart before the horse, count the chickens before they’re hatched … Well, you get the idea.

I’m either too far behind, or I’m getting ahead of myself while I try to catch up.

You know, stuff like getting piled into the concrete feedbunk by the 3-year-old colt because I jumped on him bareback to hurry around the bunch of eight-weight steers trotting down the alley. They were trotting down the alley because I left the gate out of pen 12 open.

I was in the pen to clear the moss out of the water tank that was overflowing because I hadn’t told the new pen riders that morning to clear the outlets every day before they left each pen. I left the gate open because I had to hurry to catch the feed truck driver to let him know we split pens 12 and 14.

I didn’t tell him earlier because I’d decided to forgo the early morning meeting that day in favor of spending some time with the 3-year-old colt. That little scenario seems to be a microcosm of my sometimes life.

My latest little metaphorical crash into the feedbunk took place on my latest foray into the ever-more-bustling mini-metropolis of Twin Falls. To me, Twin Falls is still the not-so-intimidating, more than quaint but less than cosmopolitan little city of 25,000 inhabitants of the mid-1990s. The truth, however, is: The city has doubled in population in the last 20 or so years.

I think that qualifies as near-explosive growth, but it has been kind of a boil-the-frog-slowly type of thing. Since I get to Twin on a fairly regular basis, I hadn’t really noticed the significant changes that were taking place. It was mere background noise to me as I took a load of cull cows to the sale yard or attended a meeting at the county Farm Bureau building or the Forest Service office.

It was with this overcooked amphibian attitude I crossed the massive Snake River Canyon, over the Perrine bridge, just west of Evel Kneivel’s infamous canyon jump-site to run an errand in Twin Falls. My destination was the baseball diamonds behind Twin Falls High School.

It was a simple enough trip, one that didn’t pose much of a problem for me, even in my relatively oblivious hick-like state of mind. Just before I turned left off of Blue Lakes Boulevard, the main drag of the city, I noticed a gas station with a particular distinctive yellow logo on the sign. Earlier that very day, I’d filled out a no-cost, no-obligation application from my insurance company for a discount gas card at this particular line of gas stations.

Though I would have to backtrack a bit, I made a mental note to slip back that way to fill up my tank before I embarked on the hour-long trip toward home. How fortuitous. I was going to save about $3.50 on my next fill-up.

At the completion of my assigned errand, I headed back to the gas station. I intended to enter at the back end of the station, but I miscalculated by one block and ended up on Blue Lakes again, so I would have to make a left turn into the station.

This was, of course, at 5:45 – and the traffic was at its worst. As I waited in the turn lane to go left, the stoplight behind me turned red, and the traffic immediately backed up for a block-and-a-half.

None of the drivers seemed to care much they were blocking my entrance, and none were making an effort at courteous citizenship. So, I decided to coast on down to the next available opening, which would again allow me to arrive at my desired destination from the back.

As it turned out, the first available left turn was into an express car wash. No problem. I’d just drive around and execute my plan. As my luck continued, however, there was no “around” the car wash. There was only “through” the car wash.

So I bought the cheapest “astro-something-or-other-wash” and spiffed up the ’98 Taurus. That’s the one that’s loaded with character. She uses oil by the gallon, has 280,000 miles on the odometer, no passenger-side mirror and myriad nicks and dents, each one the result of too many close encounters with midnight deer, renegade yearlings in the driveway and kids and horses sneaking between the parked cars and pickups.

It’s the one I drive to town because my wife has an aversion to being stranded 75 miles from home. It’s the vehicle that honestly looks better unwashed and, thus, has remained so for several years – until now. But, lest you scoff, counting my time as being worth at least minimum wage, I figure my $3.50 savings in gas only cost me $16.53.  end mark