COUNTY AGENT GUY
Every year the earth completes its circuit around our local star. The planet’s axis tilts by several degrees – this is known scientifically as being off-kilter – giving us in the Northern Hemisphere our four familiar seasons: fall, winter, spring, and road repair.
The federal government must somehow be responsible for our planet being so far out of plumb. I can’t think of any other entity that could mess up things on such a monumental scale.
I was motoring through a road construction zone recently (there’s so much road construction going on, it would be simpler if they put up signs that said “no road repair next 1/2 mile”) when I picked up a hitchhiker.
I wasn’t aware of the stowaway until the next day, when I noticed that one of the car’s tires was low on air pressure.
Actually, the car, which is much smarter than me, knew about this before I did.
The car flashed one of those ominous, hard-to-decipher dashboard warning messages such as “Check engine to see if it’s still there” and “How many times do I have to tell you, the wiper fluid reservoir is totally empty,” or “Your wife has had a really bad day. Better stop and buy her some flowers.”
The anxiety-inducing dashboard warning persuaded me to check the tires and I determined that they all had sufficient air pressure.
Then again, my definition of sufficient can be stretched to, “We’re OK, the rim isn’t even touching the ground yet.”
One tire was indeed a few molecules short of air pressure. I fired up my air compressor and puffed about a second’s worth of air into the tire. There. Problem solved.
But of course it wasn’t. In all my years of tire relationships, I have yet to meet a leaky wheel that healed itself.
This hasn’t stopped me from hoping that maybe, just this once, such a miracle might happen.
Not this time, though. The tire continued to leak, so I took it to a tire repair shop.
The technician swiftly removed the offending wheel and discovered that the tire had been impaled by a nail that was long enough to be used as an Olympic javelin.
As I examined the nefarious ferrous metal, I was struck by a deep irony. I was paying the tire guy to remove steel from my tire, but there once was a time when I would have paid him to put it in.
Before the advent of all-position tires, studded snow treads were considered a basic necessity of life here in the Northland.
Studded snow tires were no less a part of winter survival than owning a warm winter coat or a having A large dog with which you could snuggle during prolonged power outages.
Snow tires could be purchased with or without studs. But attempting to get through one of our epic winters without studded tires was like going to a gun fight with a pistol carved from a chunk of Jell-O.
If your tires came without studs you could take them to a tire repair store where a machine would force small chunks of steel into their surface. Nowadays, we call such businesses piercing shops.
But studded snow tires couldn’t simply be left on your car during our snowless seasons. That growling noise of studs upon pavement wasn’t just the sound of your tires wearing out; it was also the sound of roads being turned into potholes.
Every fall when I was a kid, we would participate in the semiannual ritual of swapping out our seasonal tires.
If you were well-off (which we weren’t), you could purchase an extra set of rims for each season’s tires.
Otherwise, you would have to take your car to a tire shop, your snow tires bouncing in the trunk like humungous overcooked donuts.
Dad would take our family sedan to our local co-op service station for a tire swap. I would tag along to watch and learn and listen.
I watched in awe as our car was lifted so high on the hoist that I feared for its roof. I learned that tires can make a startling “whoomp” when highly compressed air seats their beads.
I listened as Bert and Otis discussed the merits of various weights of motor oil.
Tire repair can be titillating. One of the tire guys might slather a thick layer of glue onto a punctured inner tube, then set the glue ablaze.
Who would have thought that a lowly tire shop would feature such exotica as inner tube flambe?
The days of swapping seasonal tires are mostly gone.
And that’s too bad, because without our autumnal tire changing ritual, the earth seems a bit more off-kilter.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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