If you mention someone who is thrifty, or saving with money or materials of any sort, you'll immediately hear, "Oh, no, you've never known anybody who was 'tight'. You need to hear about (fill in the name of someone you know who fits into this category)." Just about everybody knows somebody who won't turn a dollar loose until he has to, or someone who uses and reuses the same things until it becomes a joke. Here are some favorites I've collected, but I know lots more and I'm sure you do, too.
Back when people used wagons, the iron rim "tire" around the spoked wagon wheel would get loose. If it ran off, the wooden wheel would tear up and it was a real serious breakdown. For awhile, soaking the wheel in water would cause the wooden wheel to swell out so that the rim would fit it snugly. Eventually, however, this just wouldn't work any more and the rim had to be tightened. This meant wedging the wagon axle up on something (no hydraulic floor jacks then), taking the keeper nails out of the rim, and pulling the rim off. Part of the rim was then placed in the forge until it was red hot, then taken out and put back close to the wheel. Water poured on the hot place as the iron rim was slipped back onto the wheel would cause the rim to shrink tight around it. The order of this was like shoeing a horse--left front, left back, and then right front. One story tells of an ultraconservative man who was having this wheel shrinking done for what he thought was an exorbitant price of twenty-five cents per wheel. The blacksmith had done the left front, left back and right back and was about to do the right front when the old fellow said, "Don't do that one." The blacksmith told him that it was just as loose as the others had been and might run off the wheel, but the old man, who just didn't want to part with another quarter, said, "Yeah, but I can watch that one."
Years ago when people often traded work, a man at Palava wanted his neighbors to help him dig a well. These workings were usually accompanied by visiting and a noon meal that could make it on the cover of "Southern Living". This day, however, turned out to be different. After digging on the well all morning the neighbors who had come to help went in to eat... What? Post Toasties, skim milk, and one cube of ice in each glass of tea. After all, the refrigerator had to run and use power to make ice. We hadn't thought of that, had we? This story may be the "double green envy" of all the tight folks who have to think about the man who managed to get a well dug for the small price of Post Toasties, a jug of skim milk, a jug of weak tea and half a tray of ice.
I went to school with a kid who said his daddy always made the family listen to a local radio station, since he believed that listening to one father away used too much electricity! This same daddy also thought soft drinks should come in half sizes. I hope he's still around, because now they do.
Barbara, the lady who used to help us at the office, said that when she was a child and visiting her grandparents, her granddaddy would come and knock on the bathroom door and say, "That's enough bathwater!" right after it was turned on good. If she or her sisters held the outside door open a little too long while the air conditioner was one, he would say, "You're letting all the 'bought' air out!"
I was told a story about a man who was working some of his nephews and when they were eating he would tell them, "That's enough. You boys don't need to eat any more." And another story about pouring half the syrup out of the jug and filling it up the rest of the way with water. And still another--it seems a grandpa was asking one of his grandsons about the young man's prospective bride. "Son, is she careful how much grease she puts in the biscuits or does she waste it?"
I guess one of the best sayings I've heard about being tight is, "Oh, he's so tight he gets out of bed and lies down the other way to keep from turning over and wearing out the sheets." I heard on the radio show "Car Talk" about a man who would try to park his car on a hill, put it in gear, let it roll off and then clutch it to keep from using the starter. That car had a hundred and sixty-nine thousand miles on it and he never had to replace the starter! I know one man who parks as far away from the place he's going as he can. That way, if he's meeting other people to leave from there and go somewhere else together in one vehicle, he can say, "Well, we can go in mine if you all want to, but we'll have to walk over there to where I park." Naturally, they'll all decide to go with someone whose car is parked a little closer, thus saving gas and wear and tear on my friend's car.
The best "tight" story I've heard lately was in the paper a couple of months ago. It seems an automobile dealership was offering a hundred dollar coupon in the Sunday paper to be taken off the price of a forty-thousand dollar SUV. One man brought four hundred papers, cut out the coupons, put them in a briefcase and showed up at the dealership expecting to get a new SUV in return for his four hundred coupons......NO. Maybe he's the grandson of the man with the wagon wheel rims.
Well, I'd better go to bed now so I can blow out the lamp.
Stan Johnson lives and works in Nolan County. Comments about this column can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .