Big Billy – No trades-ies, pardner

Remember years ago when Swap Shop was on the radio? Holy cripes, buddy, I was the king of Swap Shop. I was all business.

In case you’re too young to remember, every afternoon on the radio, they had this show Big BIllywhere ya could call in and tell everybody you were tryin’ to sell somethin’. It was like classifieds, but on the radio.

Of course, you’d get the same few people callin’ in every day, wastin’ everybody’s time with the same old stuff. If there was ever a show that went by without somebody callin’ in with a pair of boy’s skates, size 6, I never heard it.

Then you’d get somebody callin’ up with about fifty things they were tryin’ to sell – Yeah, Donnie, I got a set of 16” all-season tires, a pink baby carriage, a pair of size 34 jeans barely ever worn, three kittens to a good home, a dozen — Caller, we have to get to some others… — dozen lobster, just the tails, and on and on they’d go.

Now if ya weren’t very good at Swap Shop, you’d hear about somethin’ ya wanted to buy, you’d call the fella up and ask how much it was, and then you’d pay him.

But if ya knew what ya were doin’ – like ol’ Billy here – you’d call up and swap for it. The day I figured that out was the day I really got on a roll.

There’s sometimes I’d work out three or four swaps in the run of a week for all different kinds of stuff. At first, Minnie seemed OK with it because most of the stuff I was tradin’ away was only takin’ up space in the baby barn or some corner of the basement anyway. I’d trade away an old saw or somethin’ in exchange for a bunch of fishin’ gear and as long as what I got back didn’t take up more space than I gave away, Minnie didn’t really say much.

But then I brought home a set of saloon doors and she almost killed me.

Here’s how it happened. After I was at it a while, I started tryin’ to see how much I could trade up, just for sport. The first few times, it worked out great. I traded an old pair of skates for a little propane barbeque. I hooked up an empty d tank I had and then traded the barbeque for an eight-foot ladder.

Holy cripes! I said to myself. I mighta got $20 for that old pair of skates at a flea market or somethin’, and an eight-foot ladder cost a lot more than that, so I was pretty much on top of the world. I was like a business tycoon. Buy low, sell high, all that kinda stuff.

If ya ask me, I was well on my way to bein’ a rich fella. Because, think about it. If I took that ladder and traded up to somethin’ even better – say an old band saw – then I might be able to trade the band saw for somethin’ else, and then I could trade that for maybe a gold ring or somethin’ and before ya know it, I’m practically a millionaire because of an old pair of skates.

Anyway, I admit I got carried away with it. See, I started acceptin’ stuff on trade because it was a good trade, not because I needed it or wanted it. So after a few months of goin’ along like that, I had a transmission from a Volkswagen Bug on the grass in the backyard (even though we never had a Volkswagen), and I had ten lobster traps stacked against the baby barn (even though I never been on a lobster boat).

Finally, Minnie said enough’s enough, Billy! If you’re gonna trade for stuff, it gotta be stuff ya actually want. The backyard is startin’ to look like the dump!

So the day I traded a lawnmower for a set of saloon doors, I thought it was the perfect deal. I was tradin’ way up, because the rip-cord on the mower would only start it once of out of every ten or twelve tries. And who wouldn’t want a set of saloon doors in their house?

Well I found out pretty quick, the answer to that one is Minnie.

I couldn’t find my drill for the life of me (because this was right around the time my googly-eyed tool of a neighbour Dave borrowed my drill for three years), but I wanted to get the doors up, so I got whatever loose nails I could find in the barn and just nailed them up by the hinges up with a hammer, right in the doorway between the kitchen and livin’ room.

I stood back to admire them, expectin’ to feel like Clint Eastwood driftin’ in from the planes, lookin’ for a stiff drink.

But the doors were a lot bigger than the doorway, so rather than swing right past each other, they overlapped by about eight inches, and the springs in them made them kinda snap shut like a big wooden bear trap. It wasn’t perfect, but I figured I could live with that.

Of course, when Minnie got home, she blew up at me. We got into some row, I tell ya. The more she blasted me to take down the damn doors, the more I swore they were stayin’ up, because it’s my house too and I can have things I like in it, and on and on.

You told me to trade for stuff I wanted! I said. They’re not comin’ down!

It lasted for three days.

The kids were only little then, and one night while Little Rosie was goin’ to get a drink of water before bed, the doors sorta closed on her hair and kinda trapped her head a little bit.

I took them down that night.

(And traded them the next day, but don’t tell Minnie.)

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