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WILLIAM TELLS: Gasoline memories and a column offer - Odessa American: Billsalter

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WILLIAM TELLS: Gasoline memories and a column offer

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2008 12:00 am

AS GASOLINE'S PRICE guzzled from $3 a gallon to $4, Poor William seemed to have more than a dollar-a-gallon "mind-shift." This occurred to PW on July 18 as he made his quarterly trek to Brady to clear weeds from the Salter family gravesite.

PW's little pickup gets something more than 20 miles a gallon "on the road," but less "in town." And, it's 208 miles from the east side of Odessa to Brady's eastern city limits, so the trip requires about 10 gallons of gas each way which makes it cost about $20 more now than earlier roundtrips.

There's little doubt that PW would not have bothered computing a $10 additional cost in petrol, but TWENTY DOLLARS MORE! In other words, $20 really gets PW's attention; no doubt every other person (except those blessed with unlimited wealth) has some point where the absolute reality of higher gasoline expenses has "kicked in."

Isn't it scary?

LIVING IN THE OIL PATCH probably makes lifelong Permian Basin residents more tolerant of such things (gas always is higher here, after all). Even after almost 15 years here, it still bothers PW.

On his trip PW had such things on his mind, like "gas wars." PW remembers passing through Amarillo in the mid-1960s when "filling stations" on one side of the street had gas for 11.9 cents a gallon (and your windshield was wiped and tires checked, for free) while those on the other side had it for 13.9.

And PW's "gasoline memories" go back even farther. In the early 1950s, PW's father decided leasing an Humble station in Austin would be the thing to make a living, but that didn't last long.

For awhile, though, PW was rolling in dough as he took his whisk broom and swept out the floorboards of customers' autos. This was a "free" service, but PW usually received tips ranging from a dime to a quarter, a lot then for a 7-year-old.

AS HE DROVE TO BRADY, PW thought about all this and wondered if gas would get so expensive that he just would have to let the weeds grow in the Voca Cemetery. PW's mother, father, sister (who died at the age of 3 some 20 years before PW was born), grandparents, aunt, uncle and distant relatives are buried in the cemetery about 11 miles east of Brady.

PW hopes he will be able to drive there with a pickup full of hoes, rakes and other tools for a long time. But, it is said that the people in Europe (and other places) are laughing at Americans who they believe won't be able to give up their oil fix.

These scoffers already pay what amounts to $5 or more a gallon for gasoline. To combat this they have smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, and they cluster together tighter so they can walk or ride bikes to shop and go to work.

Some of these areas also have rail service for traveling from town to town. PW also remembers when this was possible to a greater extent in the U.S., before the bright idea was to tear out most of the rails and depend on cars, trucks and airplanes.

So, the logical end to PW's trip down memory lane might be to ponder whether he and Miss Kitty will have to buy a 60 mpg Smart Car for Two. Or, if scientists can make it work reliably, a fuel-cell auto.

Maybe it would be better, though, just to get a horse. Doesn't history repeat itself?

APPARENTLY THE LAST William Tells to appear in the Odessa American will be on Aug. 10. However, PW won't stop writing this column that will mark its 46th anniversary on Dec. 7, 2008.

As long as PW's mind and fingers work, this column will be available free to anyone who wants to read it, either at www.williamtells.com or through e-mail. Anyone who would like to receive the column through e-mail should send a message to PW at ageinc@apex2000.net.

As a "thank you" for those who send an e-mail to PW in the next few days, a copy of Sen. John McCain's commentary (that the New York Times refused to print) will be sent in return. McCain's column also is available on several Internet sites, but PW's sending of it will confirm receipt of requests for William Tells.

HAVE A SUPER SUNDAY and a wonderful week!

Odessa, TX

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