The View from Faraway Farm: Want to trade for that?

I think the first thing I ever made a trade on was a playground transaction for marbles. That's where I learned how to trade. I remember the first trade I did for something other than marbles was with Tim Lewis, the former WCAX-TV Montpelier reporter. That was when Tim and I were kids growing up in Chester, and the deal was for an old bicycle he had. I remember hauling it home, painting it and reselling it. My parents did not ever approve of any trades I did as a kid. They were very critical when I sold something, as well. I recall doing a door-to-door sales blitz with greeting cards that I got from some mail-order house in a magazine. I did very well on that project and it helped me to gain confidence in buying and selling items. My mother called it begging. I called BS on her opinion and kept right on trading, buying, and selling.

As a teenager, some of my trade deals were great, some not so great. I did a few deals for guitars with Jimmie Packard, a well-known musician who lived in Wilder. Jimmie always treated young musicians well, and we all liked hanging out at his house, so trading, buying, and selling also expanded my social and musical circle. I remember trading a bass guitar for a snowmobile (a machine that I didn't want and never used) with a High School buddy only to turn around and trade the sled for a motorcycle. I rode that bike quite a bit. I remember storing it in my folk's barn after I had left home and married. I never saw it again. I think I know what happened to it, but I can't prove anything. You win some and lose some.

Local folks knew that I was always up for a vehicle or a motorized toy and one of my Dad's co-workers gave me a rusted-out Austin Mini from the early '60s. I drove it around our yard a lot, had some fun with it, and then a couple of years later met a guy from Lyme, N.H., who had Minis. I ended up cutting off the front end, selling it to him for $350 (which was probably the equivalent of a thousand bucks today) and junking the rest. The Mini's drive wheels, engine, transmission, and instruments were all crammed into the front of the vehicle, so the guy got a complete drive train in a very compact package.

One of my best-trading partners was WCFR Springfield's air personality Bill Salati. We traded for interesting stuff a number of times, and I always felt that Bill had a good eye for mutually beneficial trades. My last trade with Bill was one of those real coincidental things. He saw a post I had in a local trading publication and called my house. Because we had worked together and hung out for years the minute he spoke, I knew it was him. He needed a gas water heater I was offering after a house renovation, and he had some tools and a nice rolling tool cabinet that I wanted. I still have it and use it all the time. The water heater helped him prepare a house for sale, and then he moved to Florida.

When I worked in radio, we were authorized to trade airtime for gas and auto repairs. I had a 1976 Chevy Chevette I used for work and virtually had rebuilt on trades over the years that I owned it. That was how I kept it going, and it helped me support my family for a number of years. Everyone looked at the Chevette as a real piece of junk, but it turned out to be a rugged and useful work tool that never let me down once I learned how to change out the ever-failing timing belts on the side of the road. With a Chevette, it always paid to carry a spare belt.

Over the years I've traded labor for labor. I once did a business logo design for the installation of a big casement window. The fellow I traded with still uses that logo on his trucks and in his advertising to this day, and that was well over twenty years ago. Whenever I see that logo in the newspaper, it gives me a good feeling that we both got something of value for our work.

I don't believe that it has ever been easy to create a good standard of living in Vermont, but trading and other entrepreneurial endeavors have certainly enhanced it over the years. So regardless of how my parents felt about my bartering or other entrepreneurial activities, the transactions improved my quality of life.

My folks were children of the Great Depression, and you would have thought that wheeling and dealing would be second nature, but they looked askance at it because they hated seeing their parents having to become so resourceful just to survive. They saw those activities as undignified. I'm glad that I ignored them and went ahead and did what came very naturally to me. So in case you haven't gotten the message, I'm open to trades.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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