Letting the Cat Out

I bought a pig in a poke last week.  Okay…really it was a pickup truck.   But the idea is the same.  The local university, where the Lovely Lady goes each day to spend time with her friends, was offering the truck in a sealed bid auction.  What’s that?  Oh yeah…She actually is employed by the university library, but my take on it is that she has entirely too much fun there to call it work.  A few weeks ago, she showed me an email about this truck, with high miles and not running.  The university department which owned the vehicle had decided not to put any more time or money into it and was offering it to the highest bidder.  I decided to take a chance on it and submitted a bid.  My theory was that if I couldn’t get it to run, at least I could sell it to the scrap yard in town for pretty close to what I paid.  The pig in the poke was towed home last week and it was running by the end of that day.

By now, I’m guessing some of you are wondering about that “pig in a poke” thing.  Word nerd that I am, I wondered about it too, so I did a little research.  I’ve heard the phrase all my life to describe buying something that might turn out to be a good thing or not.  As my friend, Andy says, “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”  At least, I think he means about the same thing.  (Andy’s brain operates on a much higher plane than mine.)  In my research, I find that the phrase dates back to medieval England, when you might be wandering along the roadside toward the marketplace and find a farmer carrying a cloth bag, which was called a “poke” (hence our modern word pocket, from poke-ette, or little bag).  Asking him what he has in the bag, he would reply, “A suckling pig, fattened up just right for roasting.”  You could see the squirming, wiggling mass in the bag, so the price would be agreed upon and you would head for home with supper “in the bag”, so to speak.  Arriving home, the bag would be handed to the lady of the house and it would be opened to reveal…a large cat!  You’ve been taken!  The false farmer (probably just a tramp who grabbed a stray along the road) would be miles away with your money before you let the cat out of the bag.  Yep!  That’s also where that saying originates.  Anyway, the secret is revealed and you have an inedible cat, with nary a sign of the pig for which you bargained.

I hope the word nerds are satisfied, because there is still a bit more of this story to tell and I’m already running out of space.  I told you the truck was running by the end of the day.  I did not say it was running well.  Overall, I was pleased with my purchase, but the motor ran roughly, with a strong gasoline smell being emitted as it ran.  The optimist in me wanted to believe that a little injector cleaner would take care of the problem, so I took a trip to Wally-world to buy this elixir of youth for old engines.  The additive in the tank and a few gallons of gas later, I took a test drive.  About four miles down the road, I looked in the mirror to see sparks flying behind me.  This is not a good sign.  Onto the shoulder the truck was pulled and, moving around to the grass verge, I knelt down and looked under the truck.  Somehow, the catalytic converter is the only thing I could see in the dim light.  Of course, this might have been because it was glowing red-hot!  In my memory, it was just like the molten steel you see in the movies of the old factories in Pittsburgh, but that also might be an exaggeration produced by my astonishment at seeing such a thing within a foot of the gasoline tank on the underside of the truck.  You see, I was sitting right above the tank, so I had a vested interest in it not being ignited by the hot converter.  I took the truck directly home and called a mechanic to schedule a consultation with the expert.

Within a day or two, we should know if the cat’s out of the bag, or if I really did get a good pig for my money.  I’m hoping for the latter.  That said, I’m keeping the phone number of the salvage yard handy, just in case they need an old stray cat.

The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry, and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy.  The transliteration of the quote from Robert Burns’ sad ode “To a Mouse”, while seemingly a bit depressing, actually helps me to put things in perspective.  We can’t see the whole picture, but just have pieces to the puzzle.  It doesn’t stop us from trying different pieces, from turning them around and checking to see if the fit is right.  We just need to know that not everything is going to come to a happy conclusion without some flexibility along the way.  I’m starting to see that pretty much everything we attempt in life is like “buying a pig in a poke”.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t attempt to make good choices, but it becomes clearer day by day, that even the best researched moves we make don’t always produce the results we have planned for.

I’ll keep working at fitting my pieces together one by one and will have faith that the great Puzzle Maker knows His craft.  It’s a good thing He does, since it’s a cinch that neither my puzzle assembly skills, nor my mechanical ability are going to get the job done without help.

“If I had more skill in what I’m attempting, I wouldn’t need so much courage.”
(Ashleigh Brilliant~American cartoonist)

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
(John Lennon~English singer/songwriter~1940-1980)

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