Menachem's Writings

A generation living next to a Used Tractor Salesman

I live on a laneway at the end of a cul-de-sac (a dead-end street, no thru road). The laneway is a pedestrian mall, shaded by fruit and pretty smelling trees. It is idyllic when you have little children who can wander around without fear of being trampled by garbage trucks, tractors or automobiles, but is problematic in getting from your car to your house during inclement weather (rain, snow, sleet and hot sun). We all like to park as close as possible to our residences. The street (and laneways leading off it) are occupied by people from many different countries: Australia, Slovakia, Poland, England, South Africa, Hungary and even Americans. We even have a professor that was born in Persia to German carpet salesmen and was educated in New York City. So you see it's quite multicultural, a real melting pot. You can hear different languages and the blend of smells from the local cooking can vary from tantilizing to foul.

Nearly all of our group is quite intelligent/academic: a professor of statistics, a paediatrician (he's from South Africa, so he is not a pediatrician), a retired doctor who spends his day trading stocks, a couple of dentists, an architect, a tour guide, a futures trader, an optometrist, a builder, a computer scientist and . . . a used tractor salesman. Quite a colorful, colourful neighborhood.

And the most colorful (is matted black hair also a color?) of all is the slightly used tractor salesman. (I told you in my introduction that I will be writing about some strange, imagined people.) For the last twenty-three years I have had the great and painful misfortune of living in his proximity, near the end of the cul-de-sac. Bentley (as in the poor man's Rolls Royce -- he, or his mother perhaps, wish, in their wildest dreams) is not your usual tractor salesman. He is originally from New York's lower East Side (arriving here following a stint in Brooklyn, a place really far from South Dakota, and not just in miles) and has a real foul mouth.

Now don't get me wrong -- I don't have a problem with tractors (John Deere is actually someone to admire and John Froelich's model preceded the first automobile) but used tractor salesmen are another story. Remember the famous poster featuring Trickie Dickie (U.S. President, Richard Nixon) with the caption, "Would you buy a used car from this man?". Well Bentley (also known as Big Ears as will become apparent later in the story) doesn't enhance the reputation of his profession. (Speaking of politicians selling cars, former Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, actually did appear in a car commercial after leaving office, though that advertisement was for new cars, which are covered by warrantee and not the second-hand variety.)

Years ago, Bentley owned a used tractor lot in town. (Albuquerque isn't actually blanketed with used tractor lots.) He then had two business names, CIA (See Inside, All is there) Motors and MI5 (Motor Included but only 5 spark plugs) Tractors. But why pay for expensive real estate when you can park in the street outside your neighbours' houses and outside the local church, where morning parking is at a premium? Bentley moves his tractors around between the two locations as well as up and down the street, so people think (well he must think they do) they belong to visitors or maybe little green people who occasionally drop by. He takes up half the street with his old tractors. They leak oil all over the place. The street is covered in it! You can't talk to Bentley about it. It's like water off a duck's back. "Dis is a public street you know!". Very observant, Bentley!

The motto for our town's jubilee this week is, "Our town is great, and what makes it great is you, neighbor".

We get lucky once a year. Bentley goes back to the slums of Mexico City (to ingest enough Mexican Jumping Beans to keep him going -- now you know the source of his temper) where he grew up, for two months to sharpen his "sales skills" (for some reason he usually travels via Budapest or Slovakia). "His" tractors usually inhabit our area for a couple of weeks following his departure. Ater that the police come in and tow them away. You see, we report them as stolen, and Bentley doesn't have legal title to these vehicles. Apart from not paying rent and rates for his used tractor "private" parking lot, he also leaves the implements registered in the original farmer's name, thus saving the transfer fee and another generation of owners. But the downside for him is that he can't prove they belong to him. Be warned if you are thinking of selling him your crankshaft. It will stay registered in your name until he finds another sucker. And I see it everyday here out in the street.

Sometimes a tractor may disappear. The neighborhood gets excited (we used to throw a block party), but the excitement is misplaced, at least usually a little premature. After a few weeks, up to two months, the old yellow tractor returns. I guess he rents them out to farmers for the ploughing and harvest seasons. Our friend Elijah's tractor has made a return from the dead at least eight times in the past year. At least old Elijah got some money for his vehicle from Bentley (or so he tells us). That old tractor was in a bad way, but it's been painted in a new shny, bright yellow now. Elijah walked straight past it without recognising it.

Bentley makes cameo visits to our swimming pool. Swimming isn't his fort´e; -- lectures in the Turkish bath are (and a few tractor sales perhaps -- no, not any more -- except for Nick -- he keeps buying tractors which break down coninuously -- Nick has a good heart and blames the mechanics, but . . . we know better). Bentley may as well be talking Turkish because no one in the facility does and that's about the extent of the audience, but with the hiss of all the steam, I don't think he really notices. No-one talks to him in the street, so why in the steam room?

But in the locker room, there is only din of happy voices and political discussion. Bentley has a sixth sense -- it's uncanny. He knows when people are going to discuss him and his merchandise. He is first to leave the room, but we know that he stands just outside the door, listening to his "comrades". If his name or merchadise are mentioned, he suddenly appears back in the change room, casting his piecing black eyes in the direction of the offending voice.

Pierce all you want Big Ears; in our part of the world, where we can't afford Jaguars or Cadillacs, you're famous!