The Last Windrow: A life lesson - if you need it, you will pay

Old friend who long ago predicted oil prices eventually would climb and we'd pay a lot more for gas was right

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Ed Swain warned me about it in 1959. Ed was right.

Have you filled your car or truck tank lately? Sticker shock is rampant across the country as these lines are written. Teeth are being gnashed at the gas pump and billfolds are being lightened.

Gas prices are the talk of the town. No one likes it, but it's the boat we're all in at the present time. Equally perturbed.

I had a friend in our community who had a way of dealing with another high gas price time we experienced about 10 years ago. Yes, there was another time in recent memory when the prices climbed above $4 a gallon, but we Americans seem to have short memories when it comes to things that jab us.

My coffee cafe friends were commiserating about the high price of gas at that time when my friend spoke up from his end of the table.


"Well, the price doesn't bother me a bit," he calmly stated. "When I pull up to the pump I just put in $20 worth and my price never changes!"

No one at the table could argue with his logic, although we all wondered if he ever watched the gallons going into his rusted out pickup's tank. We didn't push the subject further.

Let's face it, when you need gas, you need gas. I was on a salmon fishing trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a number of years ago when I learned a lesson on supply and demand. At the time, gas in northern Minnesota was priced at around 60 cents a gallon for premium, which my GTO Judge Pontiac demanded.

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I and my friends fished for a few days when I decided to fill up my tank for the trip home. I pulled into a gas station in Manistique and found that the price of high test gas was 99 cents a gallon. I mentioned this discrepancy to the station owner and told him that his gas was twice the price of the gas I purchased at home.

"Well, I guess you have a choice," he said flatly. "You can either fill up here now or spend the winter in Manistique. We'd love to have you stay!"

I shut up and put the nozzle into my gas tank. Lesson learned. If you need it, you will pay.

We had what we called "tractor gas" on our farm. Behind our granary stood a 500-gallon gas tank. We used it to fill our tractors and the state granted us a tax rebate with the caveat that this gas wouldn't be used in our cars.

It was not unusual to find one of our cars behind that granary from time to time. We called it the "farm discount" gas station. I doubt you could get by with that today.


Getting back to my earlier line about Ed Swain. Ed ran the small gas station just a quarter mile away from our farm. We bought most of our gas from his pumps.

One day while I was playing Buck Euchre in one of Ed's booths, I asked Ed what he had done prior to purchasing the gas station. He told me that he had just returned from Saudi Arabia where he was a welder on one of the oil pipelines that crossed the desert. He said he had made a lot of money working in the desert heat.

Then he told me this: "One of these days we in the U.S. will pay a lot for that oil. We're getting it dirt cheap right now, but once the pipelines are complete, we're going to get the squeeze put on us."

Ed told me this in 1959. Ed has long since passed on, but he knew then what we are learning today.

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

We can produce oil in this country and it's my bet that more drilling will occur before the country changes over to other sources. And, I believe other sources will be developed to get us out of this mess.

I'm hoping someone will come up with a nuclear solution along with the other sources of energy. We do have smart people working on it. There is hope.

Ed Swain was right. It just took a while for me to find that out.

See you next time. Okay?

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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