DU has bought and sold three boats since we've been together. That's three boats in two years. Three. That is a pretty big number of vessels for a master duck hunter who currently rents his house and struggles to pay his bills. If you are currently envisioning a grand boat house, stocked to the gills with every amenity known to man, each boat lovingly waxed thrice weekly and read a book to nightly, you obviously do not know any duck hunters, as their vessels are generally beat to hell all season long. In addition, you would be quite incorrect.
The first time DU brought a boat home, it looked like it would sink as soon as it touched water. It was rusted, sad, and multicolored in a haphazard way, as if its previous owner took the remnants of every spray paint can in his garage and went to town on the poor thing. I looked at DU like I generally do when I feel that he has done something stupid, a hybrid glare, a mix of pity and concern. We sold our awesome Jon boat for this? I thought, We'll never be able to hunt surrounded by water again! However, mere months after DU bought the thing, it was the perfect duck boat, a vessel we were proud to glide across the liquid calm. Imagine my surprise then, dear reader, when after just one season with the reinvented spray-paint-boat, DU changed his mind, again.
Bartering, or the practice of trading one service or product for another has been documented throughout history as being a great way for those with nothing to acquire what they need. I need some bacon for dinner but it's 1870 and Wegman's hasn't been invented yet. So, I, happy that Utah finally made it legal for women to vote, practically skip the mile down the dusty road to my nearest neighbor, a cranky old pig farmer who gives his swine names like Beatrice, Benedict, and Ophelia as an homage to the late, great, William Pigspeare. His one good eye, the left one, peers at me through a slit in the door, the yellow iris pulsating in the heat. I hold up the fat tomatoes, bursting with gold goo, and motion towards his kitchen, a shrine to all things pig. The farmer, long past his expiration date, no longer speaks so we're forced to pantomime the figures for which we'll trade our goods. In the end, I trudge home hours later, he's quite the ornery barterer but I guess that's what you get when you live alone with 26 obese pigs, with the products of a girl lovingly called Lavinia. Because of bartering, I can now go back to my weather-beaten shack and enjoy a bacon-tomato sandwich. Delicious.
I figured the practice long dead once things like currency had come into the picture. However, DU has taught me that not only do we eat our food differently but we also barter like it's 1870. I found out that many of the objects I had figured he had bought were actually traded. It all started when he began coming home with an array of guns only to be the proud owner of a completely different gun days later. The process would continue indefinitely, until DU found a gun he could live with forever, which, by the way, hasn't happened yet.
Our old boat, DU stated, wasn't long enough. Our Beaver-tail mud motor was too slow for these North Carolina waters. So, without any real thought to the contrary, he began working out a plan, a plan that seemed so strange in my mind that I just let it play out. The mud motor would be traded for an outboard motor that would propel our new boat more efficiently than the old one had. The old boat would be traded for a new boat, and just like that, we'd have a whole new setup for DU to fix. However, this is not what occurred.
DU sold the mud motor. The proceeds from the mud motor bought our new boat. For two weeks we had two boats in the garage, but no motor. DU then acquired a Mercury motor for a gaggle of duck gear he no longer used. DU then disappeared for a while with the old boat, only to come back with a 1980 Toyota truck. (I initially scoffed at this, but held my tongue, for the most part, because DU's plans always work out.) He then traded his over-and-under shotgun for a barnfull of old Toyota parts, all of which we needed to bring the blue monster back to life. Start to finish, DU did not spend a dime on the transaction. This will come in handy if, in the future, we can't afford our rent given our current job situations, DU will simply sell his current truck and use the 25-mile to the gallon, indestructible, Toyota.
When we were venturing to pick up the Toyota pieces, I asked him how he began bartering. The conversation turned into an interview of sorts which is covered below. Please note DU's way of thinking, how he, and other country handymen before him, reinvigorated the old practice, thus continuing an age-old tradition and rendering store-shopping ineffective.
Me: How did you begin bartering?
DU: Early enough, whenever I realized I had something someone else wanted and they had what I wanted.
Me: This guy, the one with the Toyota graveyard, how did you meet him?
DU: On the internet.
Me: That doesn't sound creepy at all.
DU: I find guys on Craigslist.
Me: That sounds even worse.
DU: (Heavy sigh) I search Craigslist and NC forums for things I may need and then I contact people for things I need.
Me: Like mail-order brides from Russia, Cold-War era machine guns and penguins?
Me: Are these people looking to trade or do you just propose it?
DU: I ask 'em if they're willing to trade and then we figure out what they may want.
Me: This happens through e-mail? Phone calls?
DU: Always starts on e-mail unless they have a phone number. Usually goes into texts, at least that's what happened with this guy.
Me: And you trust these people, you're not concerned that we may show up here and get our legs eaten by a crazy cannibal who has lured us here under the false pretense of Toyota parts?
DU: Nope.. I can tell if I can trust 'em.
Me: Why do you like bartering?
DU: Because it's easier than buying stuff and I'd rather work on something than buy it new.. no reason to buy things new if I can make it my own.
Me: What kind of people are more apt to trading, in your professional bartering experience?
DU: Honestly? It's a bunch of country folk, backwoods guys who'd rather put in a days work than buying stuff new and never work on it. Good guys, country guys, guys like me I guess.
Whether it's pink slime, Toyota parts, Beaver-tails or shotguns, it's easy to see that bartering is far from dead. After studying DU's habits, it seems that trading is making a comeback amongst country folk and hunters alike. Soon enough, I can foresee our lives closely resembling that of our predecessors; living off the land, hunting what we eat, trading what we need and ridding ourselves of what we don't. As for now, however, we'll settle for our venison burgers and rusted pickups.