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Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's A Gas Gas Gas!

In 1957 I was eleven years old, and spending part of my Summers at my Aunt and Uncle on their farm in East Texas. Cousin Bobby was my age, and we had a great time fishing, smoking grape vine, telling lies to each other and riding bicycles up and down the blacktop roads of Wood County. It was a bit of Huckleberry Finn without the raft and dangerous characters. We made a bit of money working for my Uncle, baling hay and running dry corn through a hand crank device that separated the kernels from the cob. (chicken feed).  There were ponds on the farm that were made by pushing a small earthen dam out of the clay in a low spot, and let it fill with runoff. Bobby called them "tanks", but I think that was an East Texas term for a man made pond. The tanks were generally used for watering cattle. We used them to provide fish bait. I have no idea how fish came to these small ponds, but there were small catfish and crappies (No sniggering. That's what they are called. Look it up.) These we would use to catch larger crappies and what Bobby called "sunfish".  We caught a lot of catfish also, but those were caught on a "traught" line (pronounced "traught", but I suspect the actual word is taught) using treble hooks and wads of blood bait.  

Uncle Les drove a Ford pickup truck that he fueled with propane, and a '56 Crown Victoria also with a gas tank in the trunk. It was cheaper than gasoline and ran much cleaner. One of the tractors ran on propane also, so he had a large gas tank. This was 1957 and Texas was mostly concerned with choking off oil production in attempt to keep prices over a dollar forty a barrel. Gas was about twenty cents a gallon, and two guys would come out of the station, check your oil and tires and pump your gas. Green stamps were given. Nobody had heard of self service.

The point of this rambling bit of typing is to point out that there are other fuels that can get us around town and to soccer practice that don't require massive investments in counterproductive bio fuels. The central states of the US are floating on a sea of natural gas (methane) that can be converted to butane without a lot of bother. It would be a stopgap on the road to an electric car fleet, but it is doable. Fueling with propane is trickier than with gasoline, and would take some educating drivers or even a return to gas station attendants. It's a blast from the past that deserves a second look.