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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Travelers forced to siphon

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The high price of fuel today is no doubt affecting travel across the country. Many prospective travelers will choose to hunker down and stay closer to home come vacation time. This is not the first time fuel prices spawned drastic measures. There was a time when 38-cent per gallon gas brought out the worst in travelers.

In the old days, during the migration of people fleeing the Dust Bowl and Depression, travelers offset the fuel cost by camping out in bar-ditches rather than pay a hotel or tourist-court bill. Though camping sites were available for 50 cents per night the bar-ditch was cheaper.

Many brought home-canned foods from their cellars and prepared meals over a campfire rather than pay at a cafe. A delicious Depression Stew could be made with almost any ingredients and maybe a stray cottontail as plenty of onions, turnips and peppers would cover any odd taste with ease.

Nonessentials such as soda pop, peanuts, candy bars and souvenirs were craved but not allowed.

Travelers drank from canvas water bags hanging off the radiator cap. Vehicle repairs were attended under a shade tree while flats were fixed with glue, rubber patches and tire boots. The family took turns at working the push-pull tire pump after the tire repair was made.

Even with these money-saving efforts, sooner or later the money ran out. Some turned to the "Arkie Gas Kit" or used "Okie Gas Credit Cards" to obtain fuel. No offense to these states but it was a well-known term at the time.

Simply put, a piece of rubber hose, a bucket of some type plus a tin funnel made up the kit accessories.

With these items in hand, merely take a discreet midnight stroll and with a little luck, fuel for a few more miles could be obtained cheaply.

Siphoning gas from another vehicle or a tractor parked in a field did not quite seem like theft if the welfare of your family was at stake.

If you were in oil-field-country, there was always "drip gas" available if you knew where to look. This pipeline condensate drained directly from a drip-pot and strained through an old felt hat could be added to the gas already in your car tank. Hit the brakes a time or two to refine the mixture, put up with a little strong smell, ignore the "ping" as your cylinders fired and the cheap fuel would get you on down the road.

Anyone ill-mannered enough to notice when you passed, knew exactly what kind of fuel you were burning and wondered how you acquired the fuel for your vehicle.

Poor people often had poor ways but they always seemed to get along. Good friends never appeared to notice if you opened your trunk exposing your siphoning equipment.

If in the future, if gas gets any higher than it is now, this age-old practice may be revived again.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" September 9, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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