Time Machine

My wife needed air in her bicycle tires. I told her it would take a bit; I’d have to plug in the air compressor.

“Isn’t there any air in the tank?” she asked.

“No, it leaks out,” I said, talking over the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of the compressor. “It’s really to be expected, this thing is pretty old.”

“How old?”

I paused for thought, then paused again. “Wow,” I said. “I bought it on Weinman’s sale. It’s the air compressor they used to fill their truck tires when they had a trucking company.”

“I don’t remember them having a trucking business,” she said.

“I don’t either. It was before we were born.” I did a little more math in my head. “That thing is at least 80 years old, maybe 100.”

The air compressor chugged, and the pressure gauge slowly rose. As we waited, my mind did a quick loop down memory lane. The Weinman boys, as they were known to neighbors, were a passel of brothers who farmed and had a trucking firm that ran cattle and other commodities around the state, back when a truck with a 14-foot box was state of the art and no one had dreamed of air ride seats and sleeper compartments. They were honest and hardworking, good neighbors and good farmers. Yet despite all their virtues, they were the kind of guys that conjured up a lot of stories from a lot of people. Perhaps it was the consistent gleam in their eyes, making you feel like there was always a little something extra going on.

A common destination for their truck was South Saint Paul, then home to one of the largest stockyards in the word. When my father was a young boy, he once rode along, captivated by the idea of a free ride to the big city during State Fair time. Even better, for a young man short of funds, there was a chance of an affordable night’s lodging at a place called the Drover’s Inn.

The few of you who know what I’m talking about are probably smiling. For the rest of you, the Drover’s Inn charged $1.00 for eight hours on a cot, in a room chock full of livestock haulers who’d spent their day sorting livestock and didn’t have access to either clean clothes or showers.

It wasn’t quite as elegant as it sounds. Dad paid his dollar and 80 years later, he’s still not convinced he got his money’s worth.

Sitting on the front wheel of the tractor listening to the old air compressor, thinking about the Drover’s Inn led me to another trucker story that always makes me smile. About forty years ago, a guy I know was hauling a load of cattle to Omaha. There are a couple things you need to know before the story. First, livestock trailers are built with many openings in the sides for ventilation, and second, just the way people suddenly have the urge to find a bathroom when the car stops moving after a long car trip, the same impulse effects cattle.

As my friend was headed into Omaha, he came up to the first stop light in about a hundred miles. As he rolled to a stop, he glanced in his mirror and saw two young women in a yellow convertible pull up next to his truck. He thought, “NOOO, don’t do it!” but before he could do anything but cringe, what he knew was going to happen, happened.

He wasn’t really at fault, but he was still relieved when the light turned green, and he was able to separate himself from the drenched young woman in the passenger seat.

I was still smiling when I unplugged the air compressor and it chug chugged to a stop. It’s old, and it leaks, but if you give it a little time it’ll still get the job done. The best part is, not only does it fill tires with air, it’s also a time machine.

I got a bargain.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson