I picked up Jody Beauregard hitchhiking yesterday. Jody is a sweet, gentle man who has worked on Tom Ripley’s truck for the last decade or so. He takes off every fall to hunt and usually can put up enough meat to last him through the year. I had never seen him hitchhiking before.

“Where’s your Bronco?” I asked him. He usually cruised the roads in about a 1970 Ford with a cracked rear window and rust holes patched with political bumper stickers.

Jody took a while to think about the question.

“Engine calved,” he said.

“What do you plan to do?” I asked.

“Tom had promised to sell me his red Roadmaster for $1,500,” Jody said, “but he traded it in on that Clunker deal and got $4,500 for it. It was a pretty good car but I couldn’t pay that much.”

The CARS program took nearly 700,000 “clunkers” off the roads replaced, as the official press release told us, by far more fuel efficient vehicles. The program processed $2.877 billion in rebate applications and put more than half the cash into foreign brands. It has taken a lot of excellent cars off the road, including a 1985 Maserati Biturbo in Plattsburgh and Tom Riley’s very nice 16 year-old Buick, including all of the clunker stock the poor will drive tomorrow but none of the real clunkers the poor drive today. Good planning on the part of the peeps who would run U.S. health care, U.S. stockbrokers, and the U.S. auto industry.

Tom Ripley is my garbage man. Here in North Puffin, garbage collection is private enterprise; we all contract with one of the haulers who has a route in our area. I like Tom. He’s friendly, always on time, and comes right up on the porch to pick up the trash cans. He even (usually) latches the storm door when he puts the cans back. He owns a couple of used garbage trucks that he bought at the state auction and usually has a couple-three pickups that he runs around his route every Sunday before church. He had originally planned to trade in his ’73 Chevy pickup under the CARS program but it was too old. It is a terrific truck but it gets 10 mpg winter and summer. 10 mpg empty and 10 mpg pulling a camper. A little rusty and a lot beaten but still on the road after 36 years. But it was too old to qualify for the clunkers program.

Cars traded must have been manufactured less within the last 25 years, have a fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less, and be insured and registered and drivable.

“The 350 in that Roadmaster purred,” Jody told me. “Tom put tires on it just the year before last. Paint was great — actually the whole body was pretty darned good. And the A/C worked. I’ve never had a car with A/C that worked. No rust, runs good, like the song says.”

“I’ve ridden in it,” I said. “Pretty good car.”

Jody looked out the side window for a half a mile. Not many leaves are turning yet and no deer in the fields; he was thinking about the car.

“Yeah. It’s not fair, you know. I need a car now and there just nobody’s got anything to sell. People are even snapping up old beaters like my old Bronco ’cause they can’t find anything else to drive.”

“That Buick would have lasted you 10 more years.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “Got better gas mileage than anything I’ve ever owned, too.”

4 thoughts on “Hitchhikers

  1. This just in. “Quicker than you can say, ‘Holy statistics, Mr. Wizard,’ the numbers nerds ascertained that the new vehicles sold under Cash for Clunker will use more — not less — fuel than the beaters that were turned in and destroyed.” Read More

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