I’ve always felt that some of the smartest people in America call South Dakota home. Maybe all that time waiting for it to warm up is spent watching Jeopardy marathons.
What got me to thinking about smart people was a letter I got from one, my friend Russell in South Dakota. Russell told me about an appraisal he did on a 20 degree below day that was 18 miles off the paved highway with six foot snow drifts on both sides of the road. In other words, it was your typical beautiful South Dakota day. When Russell finally reached civilization he noticed the requisite row of old trucks, tractors and other rusty antiques parked in a long line that you’d find on any South Dakota ranch. All except one vehicle, that is. A late model, black limousine.
Russell was in the process of saying goodbye but there was something bothering him and he couldn’t leave without asking, “What’s with the limo?”
It seems the ranch owner had a real dilemma about a wedding. (Don’t all men?) His was a problem known to all who live out beyond the boonies: a lack of services. His son was getting married and the bride had her heart set on riding in style. And a 1895 Studebaker Coach pulled by a pair of matched Percherons, the same ones used for feeding the cows, wasn’t it. No, she wanted a real limo… the longer, the blacker, the better.
The problem is if you’re in the area and you Google the word “limousine” the first ten responses will direct you to a breed of cattle. Still, his son didn’t want to disappoint his new wife right out of the gate. If she had her heart set on a limo, a limo she would have.
The nearest limo operator they could find had a standard $300 rate, which sounded high but beggars can’t be choosers. But that was before all the add-ons: there was a motel charge, a fuel charge and a special $1,500 charge. That was because the wedding coincided with prom night. And because the old limo hadn’t been serviced lately there’d likely be extra charges for parts, like an oil filter, new set of plugs, oh, and one tire looked kinda “iffy”. Did I mention that the limo driver also owned the local auto parts store?
After a bit of penciling on the back of a napkin the father figured he could buy a limo for almost as much as the rented limo was going to cost, so that’s exactly what he did. Now he rents it out locally for proms, graduations, marriages, etc.
It’s the “etc” part of that last sentence that sent my mind into overdrive. My small town has a similar problem. If you want to hitch a ride for getting married in my town you have to call Uber. But what we do have is my buddy Fred who just happens to own an old school bus he’s been trying to justify to his wife ever since he bought it by mistake at an equipment auction for $15. I told Fred about the South Dakota solution and Fred immediately latched on to the idea like a Border Collie on the lip of a crossbred cow. So he bolted down a couple luxuriously red couches he picked up that were laying by the road, wired up some old Christmas tree lights, tinted the windows and pinned up a business card on the community bulletin board for “Fred’s Limousine Service.”
I ran into Fred after he’d been a part-time limo driver for a couple months and the results so far have been mixed. “It differs on the party you’re renting to,” said Fred. “The mood lights and red Valentine decor have gone over great for weddings, conveyance to cruise ships, anniversaries and cow tours, but not so much if I rent the limo to George, the local embalmer, when he needs an extra car for a funeral.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” I said. “You don’t want a grieving widow smelling chardonnay or sitting on a champagne cork.”
“We had one party who refused to pay,” said Fred, “because from in between the seats the distraught widow pulled a handful of sparkly red grafitti cut-outs that read, “Celebrate like there’s no tomorrow,” and, “Bon voyage.”