40 years later: Good payback is especially rewarding
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40 years later: Good payback is especially rewarding

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I couldn’t believe it when Dad proudly told me he had bought me a new car.

“What did you buy me?” I excitedly asked Dad.

“It is a dandy,” Dad said. It took some questioning to find out Dad had bought me a black 1960 Rambler sedan.

Further questioning revealed he had bought it at a Sheriff’s sale for $50. He finally admitted that the previous owner must have hit a tree at a fairly high speed and a front fender and the hood were smashed badly.

I am not sure what caused this burst of generosity, but he probably thought to himself that Rodney was 20 years old and it was time for him to start dating.

Dad just happened to have a white 1960 Rambler out in the junk pile and I salvaged the necessary parts and bolted them on to my new dream machine. It ran pretty good and I soon cruised on to Fargo where I was a junior at NDSU. I was quite proud I finally had my own car. I was somewhat hurt when a guy named Carl dubbed it the Skunk Machine.

Surprisingly enough, my new Rambler did not turn out to be a Chick magnet but it did get me around town.

It was a three speed with overdrive and ran like a Singer sewing machine, but developed transmission trouble. It wasn’t long until I only had second gear. It was fine for driving, but not easy to park. I needed a long parking spot to get in and get out.

The streets were heavily snow-covered that spring and after a strong spring thaw, I saw I had parked it with the inside tires on the curb. On tilt, it somewhat resembled a dog by a fire hydrant.

It sat there for some time until one day my friend Tom stopped by and told me there was a note on my windshield. I hurried out to read it and it said, “Get that hunk of junk off my lawn and keep it off.” I was indignant and instantly boiling mad. The tires never even touched the grass. I almost stormed up to the nearest house and demanded an explanation or apology.

Tom seemed delighted with my fuming.

“I’ll be darned if I’ll move it,” I declared. I resisted the urge to scold the neighbors, but continued to fume for several days until I learned Tom had written the note. He almost injured himself laughing at my irritation.

A couple years ago, Tom told me he had an old truck for sale. He claimed the 1956 IH truck was in pristine condition.

“All it needs is a six volt battery,” he said.

I told him he should provide a new battery.

“No way!” he squawked. “You bring a battery when you come to get it.”

I forgot to bring a battery. Six volt batteries are not all that common so I wound up driving to New Town to buy one. I asked the clerk when I bought the battery if he knew Tom. Of course he knew Tom. I explained the situation and asked if he would make up a fake charge bill to Tom for the battery.

“Absolutely,” he said with a broad smile.

We had a little trouble getting the old truck started, but when we got it running I gave the bill to Tom’s daughter and told her to give it to Tom when I was out-of-sight.

Wasn’t long until I had a call from Tom. He was raving mad, called me a miserable cheapskate and used a lot of words you may utter when a scrub bull gets in with your prize yearling heifers. He continued to rant and it got worse when I reminded him that promptness in meeting your obligations strengthens your credit.

“No way am I going to pay for that battery,” he declared. Never in my life have I enjoyed being cussed out so much.

Tom’s lovely daughter, bless her heart, never told him what I had done and let him rant and rave until a week or so later when he drove to New Town to pay the bill and found out he’d been had.

For over 30 years I have had the pleasure to entertain audiences with enough humor to make them laugh and have fun, but I have to admit that sometimes it is delightfully delicious just to make someone mad.

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