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By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

So I was driving along, minding my own business, when the left rear tire began to make that dreaded “wup, wup, wup” sound. A flat.

It was my own dumb fault. Just days earlier, I had mentioned to my wife that it had been years and years since I’d had tire trouble.

And every driver knows that the swiftest and surest route to the repair shop can be found by talking about the automotive gremlins.

I pulled onto a field approach and assessed the situation. Traffic whizzed by, and I wondered if I could summon assistance by showing a little leg. But then I recalled that it’s been a very long time since I’ve shaved my legs – as in never.

Realizing that taking this tack would likely scare off any would-be rescuers, I decided to take command of the situation. I opened the trunk and quickly discovered that the car’s previous owner had possessed a warped sense of humor.

He obviously thought it would be funny to replace the car’s jack with a toy facsimile. And in the place where the spare tire should have been, there was a steel plate encircled by an extremely overcooked donut.

But we Midwesterners aren’t complainers; we’re doers. Using the puny tools at hand, I managed to remove the flat and replace it with the donut.

There once was a time when cars came with full-sized spare tires. The spare I was forced to use was so embarrassingly small, I felt the need to make excuses as I hobbled toward the nearest town.

“It’s cold out!” I shouted at drivers who smirked at my tiny back wheel. “Haven’t you ever heard of shrinkage?”

The tire guy at the farmer’s co-op had me fixed up in no time flat. That’s the nice thing about small town farmer’s co-ops: you come in with a car problem and they get right on it without any of the brusque, “I can’t be bothered” attitude or the eye-rolling or the overcharging you might experience in a big city auto repair shop.

I thought my tire troubles would be over for several years. That is, until the same tire went flat two weeks later.

Again with the toy jack and the pint-sized spare. Another trip to another farmer’s co-op and another speedy and friendly tire repair.

There! I’d had enough tire troubles to last into the next decade! That is, until the same tire went flat later that day.

While another friendly farmer’s co-op guy fixed my tire, it occurred to me I was spending way too much time in tire repair shops. The combined fragrance of new radials and air compressor oil had become mildly arousing.

After that tire was made leak-proof, I assumed I wouldn’t have tire trouble for another quarter century or so. That is, until my pickup had a flat.

That flat was actually a stroke of tremendous good luck. I had gone to retrieve a piece of equipment, but the man I needed to see about it was gone. I was told he would be back shortly.

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The guy finally showed up, apologized, and said he would load me forthwith. We strolled out to my pickup – and it had a flat. Every flat is annoying, but I’ll gladly take one at a standstill versus a blowout at 70 mph.

“Can’t be too serious,” said the guy, “The tire’s only flat on the bottom side.”

Nobody likes a smarty-knickers.

My most memorable flat happened about 20 years ago. I was driving our combine down a gravel road as our hired man, a guy we nicknamed Burnout – he could have been Tommy Chong’s twin – followed in a grain truck.

As I sailed along at a breathtaking 18 mph, a loud boom, suddenly jolted the cab. The combine listed sharply to the right and spun sideways.

The behemoth shuddered to a teeth-rattling halt crossways on the road and halfway into the ditch. The combine’s right front wheel – complete with final drive gearbox – wobbled drunkenly into an adjoining field and toppled over.

I descended from the cab, visibly shaken. Burnout ran up to me, visibly excited.

“Wow, man!” he said, “That’s too bad! I really thought you were gonna make it!”

“Make what?”

“To the field, man. I saw the tube bulging way out, but I thought it would hold up.” He squatted to examine the damage. “Bummer,” he muttered.

I was beyond exasperated. He could have honked, waved, flashed the headlights. I would have noticed and stopped and avoided this catastrophe!

“Wow, man,” said Burnout as he studied the wreckage. “I bet you won’t have this bad of luck again for a long, long time!”

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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