Teenage Boys, by John R. Erickson

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | By John R. Erickson

Exploding pickup

Originally posted on August 27, 2012, we thought this would be a fun post to revive! 


    Our son Mark and his friend Christopher were teenagers. Each by himself was intelligent, courteous, and resourceful. Each by himself was a good worker on the ranch. But when they got together, something happened.

    Simple jobs that should have taken an hour took three hours. Five hours. A day. Sometimes they never got finished. Sometimes they degenerated into something between comedy and catastrophe.

    We had theories, of course. They were listening to the radio or playing with the dogs. They were joking, poking, wrestling, laughing. They might have even been talking about girls. Bizarre behavior in young males can often be traced to perfume and long eyelashes.

    I told Chris and Mark to drive the Jeep Cherokee down to the fuel tanks and fill it with gasoline. It was a simple job, one that Mark had been doing since he was ten years old, and it should have taken about ten minutes.

    Minutes passed. Half an hour. I began to worry. When I saw them walking up the road, I knew we had a problem.

    I met them at the front door. Mark said, “The Jeep won’t start.” I said, “Do you have any idea what the problem is?” He said, “Well, we filled it with diesel. It ran for a minute and then died.” I said...

    We don’t need to repeat what I said. My eyes bulged, smoke and molten lava poured out of my nostrils, and I bellowed something about bonehead, brain-dead teenage boys. The Jeep, you see, was designed to run on unleaded gasoline, not diesel. That’s an important difference.

    But after roaring for half an hour, I had to admit that putting diesel into the Jeep wasn’t as monstrous a mistake as it had first appeared to be. The gas tank and the diesel tank sat side-by-side. All our vehicles were diesels except the Jeep. One got accustomed to stopping at the diesel tank, and if one’s mind happened to be on music, girls, dogs, rabbits, or butterflies, one might make the mistake. It wasn’t necessarily a sign of neurological problems.

    But correcting the mistake was a mess. The Jeep sat crippled, lonely, and abandoned for two weeks. I made calls and experimented with siphons. At last I bought a small pump that attached to an electric drill. I pumped out the diesel, replaced it with gasoline, and hoped that would settle it. It didn’t, of course, and Mark and I had to tow it 40 miles into town to a mechanic.

    I tried not to be overbearing about the incident, but I did use it as an excuse to deliver an important lecture to Mark and Chris on “Life’s Lessons.” There the matter dropped.

    Three months later I roared up to the gas tanks to fill up the Jeep. I was in a hurry. My mind was occupied with matters of great importance. I stuffed the nozzle into the gas tank and tapped my fingers, wishing to get on to more pressing business.

    Suddenly my eyes popped open. You guessed it.

    I had to revise one of my speeches on “Life’s Lessons.”


Ever been in a position like that? Let us know below!

Tags: Ranching, Cattle, Panhandle, Perryton
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