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Irons in the fire: The Walmart parking lot

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 27 February 2019

I wish I had just a dime or two for every gallon of fuel I’ve used on wasted or superfluous trips to town. If I did, my healthy retirement fund might actually exist somewhere besides that spot in my consciousness which houses all my wildest dreams.

Although we treat a trip to town with ho-hum nonchalance, it really does entail much more than most urbanites would understand. It’s a minimum 50-mile round trip unless you want to go the back way, on Pole Line Road, which reduces the miles by about 10 but includes several miles of fair-to-middling gravel road – and by gravel I mean mud in the springtime or dust and rocks the rest of the year. Pick your poison: Do you want to pay for diesel or tires?

A few years back, I had to make one such run to town. I don’t recall the full purpose of the excursion, but I know I somehow ended up at the Burley Walmart. I’d just as soon touch my fillings with a fork as go inside Walmart, but it is pretty handy, and since you’re already in town …. Anyway, I ran in the store and grabbed a couple bags of dog food – the cheap stuff in the red bag. I threw the dog food in the back and walked around the pickup to get in the cab and head for home. That’s when I realized the keys were in the ignition, and the doors were locked.

That’s one thing about going to town; it always seems like a good idea to lock the doors, especially at Walmart. After the obligatory profanity-laced semi-meltdown, I called home to beckon my wife to grab the extra set of keys and drive to town to rescue me. She, in turn, appointed the task to my 16-year-old son who, unlike the sensible and frugal adults, relished the chance to go to town regardless of the season or the reason.

I told him to meet me at the Arby’s across the road from the aforementioned retail behemoth. Since I had what I figured would be around a half-hour wait, I’d just as well get me some supper. As is often the case in such predicaments, the half-hour turned into nearly two hours. I’m still not sure what took him so long. He said something about homework and chores, but we somehow still had to feed the horses when we got home.

Of course, since we were at Arby’s anyway, he decided he needed a second or third supper too – typical of my sons and their endless appetites. Why not? This day seemed to be all about throwing time and money down the rat hole.

After we tamed the savage beast of a teenager’s hunger, we made our way back to the Walmart parking lot and my pickup, with the keys in the ignition and its precious cargo of red bag dog food. I was grateful the dog food was still there. Someone could have decided it was a buy-none-get-two-free sale on red bag dog food.

As we approached the pickup, my son, ever the resourceful one, leapt into the bed, slid open the sliding back window of the cab, climbed to the front seat and opened the driver’s side door as I stood there, spare key at the ready. I was in awe. I was equal parts ticked off, embarrassed and amazed.

“You know, the latch on that window’s been busted for six months,” he casually stated.

Well, that was good to know. I certainly wouldn’t want to leave anything of value, like – oh, I don’t know – the keys, in the cab.

When I calmly (and without profanity, mind you) asked him why he didn’t divulge that information a couple of hours and 30 miles earlier, he just shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t think of it until he was 5 miles from home. By that time, he figured he was “halfway to town” anyway.

My failure to teach my son anything about economics and math notwithstanding, my Walmart parking lot experience has served me well in the years that have followed. I learned a valuable lesson, to be sure. I never latch the sliding back window of the pickup. end mark

Paul Marchant
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