Dude, Where's My Buggy Whip?

Gary seemed down, today, so I’m going to share that I got a dandy nasty gram from a charmless young liberal thug who implied that all the evil in this nation is due to you spoiled Baby Boomers (Don’t blame me!  I am a war model and my darling Charles is from the Depression years.) screaming and crying to hold on to your entitlements and your selfish, wasteful consuming ways!

Do try not to choke on your coffee.  All right, crew, which of you have been pigging all the goodies and adjusting your motors so that they smoke, having useless MRIs and cosmetic by-pass surgery, and stomping on puppies?

Fear not, for Brian says that Generations X and Y are going to clean up the messes and that they’ve asked us nicely this time to give up our polluting land yachts and other (unspecified) evil practices, but that they won’t do it again.  I got the feeling he was thinking happily of tumbrels, guillotines, and vacations in Guantanamo, not remaining silent sensibly.

Gracious, no, I don’t need a buggy whip to cope with gratuitous insults, that being what words are for, and I even admired his line that my “railing against plugging in cars is like a caveman railing against the wheel.”  He thinks we should all be riding bicycles to solve the oil crisis and the obesity problem in America.

Hmmm.  It is fifteen miles to our beautiful Kroger store, and by the time I had pedaled that far in 100 degree temperatures and been able to bring back only what would fit in a little basket I would surely either have heat stroke or starve three men and myself to death.  Fortunately I do not know how to ride a bike so I am free to continue “to sadden him by defining myself by the cars I drive!”

Pity he doesn’t know we have a bucket truck, a back hoe, and an eight-ton truck capable of pulling 55,000 pounds.  Danged if I wouldn’t drive the big yellow Blue Bird school bus to the grocery store if it wouldn’t mean registering and insuring it.  Some jokes are too expensive to justify.

Which is where the buggy whip comes in.

Today a totally restored doctor’s buggy, resplendent in glossy black enamel and new upholstery was delivered–complete with a whip in the holder!  She’s a beauty–and a Deere, Emily!  Studebaker was top of the line, so ours is more like a fully loaded big Buick.

You missed a real La Vida Whiskey moment when Freddie got between the shafts and galloped down the hill to a storage barn, the wheels, picked out in silver, glittering in the sun!  I guess we could call it the American version of a rickshaw?

Charles and I are having an unprecedented failure to be of one mind on a subject.  I think his larger male horse should be taught to pull the buggy (clearly a shocking use of a highly-trained cow horse), while he suggests that my dainty, elegant thoroughbred Bonnie Blue should perform labor that is clearly not befitting her exalted breeding and aristocratic mien.  Fear not, one of the great love stories of the ages is not endangered because the solution is obvious:  if both equines decline to become cart horses we will simply buy one trained to pull buggies who doesn’t know this is beneath its dignity.

Or I’ll get Freddie to pull me around in it and learn to use my whip delicately enough to flick a fly off his ear.   “Whoa down, there, Freddie!” and “Haw, big fellow!”  Freddie has a great sense of humor and we just laughed uproariously over the idea.  He wants a silver-mounted bridle.  No bit, of course.  We don’t use bits.  And a reasonable stipulation that he doesn’t have to pull me up hills.  Buck (occasionally known as “Clyde,” for obvious reasons) loves to be ridden so that he lowers his head eagerly for Charles to slip his bridle on, and Charles rides him bareback when not working cattle.  Bonnie gets jealous and goes out and rounds the cattle up all by herself  and moves the Black Dexters up to the house.  She’s not up to Charles’ weight, some two hundred pounds on his six-one frame, but try to explain that to a horse with hurt feelings.

The lighthearted but serious lesson for today is that the most ethnocentric nation on earth really needs to stop sneering at old-fashioned technology.  Mankind got along splendidly for thousands of years with real horsepower, and it is only for the last hundred years that mechanical horses have come into being.  Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan conquered a fair bit of territory on horse back, although the Carthaginians came to grief trying to get 37 elephants over the Alps.  Asia rode Buck today without saddle OR bridle, because Buck both knee- and neck-reins and he likes to be worked.  Try THAT with an automobile.  On the other hand a massive war horse required a bushel and a half of oats a day…

WHY did even two of the world’s prime eccentrics want a buggy?  I really would drive a horse and buggy before I drove a trash can powered by a sewing machine motor, and because it may really be that the time will come when Dobbin and the buggy are the best transportation left if gas supplies are cut and we run out of diesel.  And because it will be fun, of course!  I admit cheerfully that I would have loved to live about 1812.  Assuming I weren’t a scullery maid, of course, but a plutocrat.  I can foresee situations where a pair of horses and their ludicrously expensive tack might be, quite literally, life savers.  If there were still a grocery store open it would take close to two hours in a buggy to get there, and the same to return.  That’s why towns tend to spring up about 25 miles apart, because half that distance makes a day-long trip to get supplies.

The old ways may not be the most convenient, but if we live to see the world of Jim Kunstler it would be mighty nice to have a buckboard to take into town once a month for staples.  Gary walks to the grocery store a few blocks away.  I wonder how frequently he has to go.  Several gallons of milk would be difficult to handle without one of those oriental pole yokes that fits over his shoulders and a growing, neophyte powerlifter can drink a gallon a day.  Imagine a grown man pulling a little red wagon!  If you haven’t priced a Red Flyer recently they’re a couple of hundred dollars.

This article is to balance the really gloomy (but totally justified) fear-mongering I wrote earlier, and I hope you enjoy hearing about our joyous La Vida Whiskey life on the Rafter TS, aka the nearest consulate and Residenze for the Republic of Texas.

Please reach into your memories and come up with old techniques and objects we could stock in case the Greater Depression is really bad.  I’ll start with this:  a fascinating item to add to your emergency stores is calcium carbonate, which, when exposed to water, produces acetylene gas which will provide ample light.  In its dry state it isn’t highly flammable, like white gas, it doesn’t need special storage like propane, and it doesn’t cost seven dollars a gallon like Coleman lantern fuel.  If you have a supply of wicking almost any oil can be used as a lamp, although you might not enjoy having your cave smell like fried chicken.

Piazza time, crew, when we sit on the terrace with alcoholic libations, admire the pasture art (our horses), cows, and the sundown reflecting off the lake, and explain to an adoring young goat that tables are not good to eat.

Wish you were here.

Linda Brady Traynham

June 29, 2009