Saturday, 28 April 2012


One could say that Elmer, although mostly honest, could still display a bit of a crooked streak. That is to say, if he thought he could get away with it, he'd be inclined to try it. That combined with a reputation as a cheapskate made him one of the last persons one would want to do business with.

Elmer loved fishing. During the summer he was seldom home except to farm; taken instead to the various fishing holes and lakes in the region. During the winter he kept himself occupied with ice-fishing, something he looked forward to as much as casting during the rest of the year.

It was in the dead of winter and the region had been struck with a cold streak for going on to a good three weeks or so. Usually that meant that most of the lakes were frozen to a thickness sufficient to support the weight of nearly anything one put on it; and one would have to emphasize the most and nearly part.

A nice sunny Sunday with the temperature barely peeking above the zero mark, someone like Elmer would think that such a day would be best spent out on Tyrrel Lake. Bore a hole, drop in a line then relax and wait with a cup of hot coffee or stimulating beverage in one hand with the other poised and ready to go into action the moment a fish foolishly went for the bait. Elmer wasted no time getting his gear loaded into the bed of his pale green 3/4 ton pickup and drove over to the lake.

He got himself set up and things seemed okay for a while despite the fish being about as interested in taking the bait as Ho Chi Minh would be in attending a Christian revival meeting. The day wore on, the thermos was empty and Elmer's feet were getting cold. He finally decided that he'd had enough and that it was time to pack up and head for home. He quickly put away the gear and prepared to drive off the lake.

Just as he was about to open the door of the truck, he heard the unmistakeable crack of the ice underfoot. He took a step closer and heard a second crack that sort of told him that he was about to have a very bad day. A third crack was accompanied by a sensation of dropping that also told him that he should try to get himself off the ice and leave his truck behind. He'd only made it few steps before he heard the fourth one.

Actually it was more of a crash. He wasn't quite to shore when the ice gave way completely. A quick glance over his shoulder and he saw his one year old pickup disappear into the freezing water, leaving nothing but a gaping black hole with several floating cakes of ice along with his tackle box.

Well, he should thank his lucky stars that he made it to shore safely albeit with wet socks.

Home safe and sound.

The next item on his agenda was to retrieve his pickup from the murky waters of Tyrrel Lake. There was one major drawback to this though, and it wasn't just getting the truck out of the drink and drying it out. You see, Tyrrel Lake is a rather unpleasant place; it's better classed as an alkali bog than a lake.

JC once told the story about when he and his friend, Gord, tuned up the boat for the water skiing season. They took it to Tyrrel Lake because it was a convenient distance away and it was evening; Ridge Reservoir where they had their summertime water sports was another twenty miles away. Everything worked fine and the two boaters enjoyed downing a few cold beverages while chasing mud hens with the boat. However, when they got the boat home, they discovered that the boat's purple and white finish was closer to a foggy pink with an equally foggy beige trim; it took several hours of elbow grease and at least one gallon of vinegar to to get the boat presentable again.

Elmer knew that he was only at the threshold of his problems. There was a good chance that because of the alkali he'd be plagued with electrical problems until the end of the next century. Let's see, he thought, I was at the north end of the lake where no one was around to see the truck go in, and the towing crew and the divers are out of Lethbridge some forty miles away...

That's it! Get it the hell out of there as quickly and quietly as possible, get some stupid backyard mechanic (even one of the mechanics from the shop in town) to come out to the farm after supper, get it drained out and running again then trade it off. Everyone knew that the truck was well maintianed so there shouldn't be any problem getting rid of it before the news got out.

And as long as everyone kept his mouth shut...

Bright and early Monday morning, Elmer hired the salvage crew then got himself ready and drove the family car into town. He stopped at the local GM dealership and immediately struck up a conversation with Courtney, the GM sales manager, whom, I might add, would have no idea of the diabolical plot that was being hatched, as he lived in Raymond, some twenty-five miles away.

"You're looking for a new pickup?" Courtney asked rather incredulously. "I sold you a new one just last year."

"It just isn't heavy enough for my camper," Elmer answered almost truthfully. "And I've always regretted not having air-conditioning."

Courtney should've heard the alarms and seen the warning lights flash as Elmer was so damned cheap that when he bought the ill-fated truck the year before, he chafed at features such as power steering and brakes which came standard on even the most basic 3/4 ton truck. But he and Elmer took a walk out to the lot and looked at a couple of possibilities, one of them being a fully loaded camper special with that super-sized gas guzzler of an engine--and air-conditioning. Totally out of character for someone who squeezed a nickel till the beaver took a dump, or Jefferson's eye's popped out, depending on which side of the 49th you were on.

Back inside, the pencil and calculator came out and the bartering began. "Where's your truck?" Courtney asked reasonably, to which Elmer responded with something to the effect that his boy was using it for a couple of days.

More warnings should have sounded as Elmer wasn't the type to let his wife use it, let alone his son. But it must have been a slow period where Courtney needed the sale. He knew the general condition of the truck anyways but conferred with JC and the boys out in the shop who assured him that the truck had just been for some service work and that it was in tip-top shape.

The dealing got fast and furious and finally a deal was struck. It would take a day or so to get the new truck ready and Elmer truthfully said that it would take at least that long to finish up what he was doing anyways.


Courtney, always the tradional type who believed in sealing every deal with a handshake, stood up to offer the gesture and Elmer stood up to confirm.

Just then, Jimmy, another customer, who happened to pass by the office at that moment, stopped to say hello. He then noticed Elmer.

"Hey, Elmer, did they get your truck out of the lake yet?"

"Wha-wha-what are you talking about?" Courtney asked, his curiosity naturally aroused and those dormant warning lights going off like a Mardi Gras celebration.

...Later that day, Elmer's truck, now liberated from its watery parking place, was towed into the shop. It was first drained of all fluids, flushed and replenished, then began a week's worth of drying out and checking. In no time at all every piece of wiring, every light socket, every switch and printed circuit had become encrusted with a moldy green residue and had to be replaced.

Elmer drove that truck for many more years; with its reputation no dealership between the two oceans would even look at it as a trade. He and Courtney remained on speaking terms for just as many years but there was no doubt that hell would be covered with a much thicker layer of ice than what covered Tyrrel Lake on that fateful day before they would ever do business again.  


  1. Oh, man that is priceless! The stories you tell! I love your description of how hard he would squeeze a nickel. And he nearly made the deal. Skunk!

  2. I'm trying to keep them cleaner than when they were told at the coffee shop. There are some coming down the line I might have to give advance warning for. But in the meantime, I'll try to keep them PG-14.
    Thanks for enjoying them. I like the stories you tell too.

  3. George, I enjoyed this story! Elmer sounds quite cunning! Too bad that people are so externally referenced! At least poor Courtney found out before she was delivered what was sure to be a lemon! Although, Elmer did drive it for some years afterward...In any case, I'm glad the truth came out! :)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I remember is as if it happened yesterday and it was actually 35 years ago. Both main characters have now gone to their eternal reward and it would be interesting to see if they might do business there.