A Gift Horse in the Mouth

My Grandmother always said ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’. I think this stems from her childhood when horses were still a viable mode of transportation. Part of buying a horse is examining it’s teeth to help determine it’s health, and thus value. This I learned from my grandfather who owned a sheep farm. Today, no one born after 1970 would probably understand the reference, except people raised on horse ranches.

Essentially, the old euphemism means that if someone is giving you something for free, you don’t ask too many questions. You just accept it. A free horse was something to be valued – no matter what his teeth looked like. The old truck in our garage is the Gift Horse in this case. I’m sure if I raised the hood and looked at the engine – it wouldn’t pass anyone’s dental exam.

Jeff acquired this hunk of metal when I relocated to Phoenix for work and he was still in Snoqualmie, WA closing up our old house. He needed be able to take things to the local land fill and he was struggling with a renting truck to do the job. It was expensive on a one off basis, so he decided to buy something to make it easier.

‘I’ll just sell it afterwards.’ he assured me.

But he never sold it, he and drove it down from Seattle to Phoenix in June of that year, in 125 degree heat with no A/C, towing his beloved motorcycle behind him.  It took him twice as long to make the 1700 mile trip, as he overheated quite frequently. He finally showed up at our house in the middle of the night because he had to wait for the sun to go down from just north of Las Vegas. I had little sympathy for him. And when I saw the truck? I had even less.

To say I disliked this truck is an understatement. Our neighbors like it even less when it’s parked in the driveway. Jeff bought a new truck bed ‘So it wouldn’t look as bad’ and was going to fix it up to teach our daughter how to drive. It would be her first car, he announced. I did wonder if he knew her at all – she would rather walk for the rest of her life than drive that thing – but I let it go.

Now, I have to admit, I’m developing a fondness for that rusty bucket, during our march to close up this house. The truck is coming in handy. We can make dump runs to get rid of stuff. We can make large donation runs so that I don’t have to take 20 trips to Goodwill in my car.

‘It even has a CD player.’ he proudly pointed out on one of our first adventures in it.

‘Wow. It’s living in the 90’s already.’ I quipped sarcastically.

It has just one CD in the player. Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits. ‘Free Fallin” and “Last Dance with Mary Jane’ playing over and over. So I’ve taken to calling the truck ‘Mary Jane’.  Mary Jane is a 1986 Toyota – with windows you hand crank. Emilie didn’t know what they were when she rode in it the first time.

Jeff had coveted it in high school. He was raised incredibly poor and I think his thoughts of ‘Someday, I’ll have a truck just like that’ finally being realized, was too much for him to resist. And, ironically, we already have a buyer for it when we leave. Jeff smiled when he told me he would be selling it for more than he paid for it. Wait for it – $200 more. The look on his face was no less triumphant than a Wall Street hedge fund manager who had beat the market for a billon dollar gain. Money is money, I guess. But I’m a believer now. Our gift horse is pulling her own weight, so no need to look under the hood.