Towing a silver behemoth is welcome news for the oil industry. With an average 10 mpg, I have become gasoline’s new best friend. With an extended range fuel tank capacity of 36 gallons, Leah and I have agreed to limit our truck trips to one fill-up per day when moving from one location to another. It keeps down the daily expense, and caps our driving time to approximately 6 hours.
After a day of unfulfilled scenery following the plumes of coal exhaust along the highway to White Sulphur Springs, WV, we stopped at a Shell station that was refreshing its reservoirs by a fellow who operated a Reliant Oil tanker. Given that it takes a while for both of us to fill empty tanks, we had a chance to chat. He greeted me and shook my hand.
“I just want to thank you for helping me help keep my job by you helping to buy gas here, and I really do appreciate it.”
With his Santa-esque appearance, he would make a welcome addition to the C & O Train Depot-turned-Christmas Store operated by the Greenbrier Resort down the road.
His day was almost over, with one more stop to make at an Exxon station.
“You mean to say that Shell and Exxon share the same gas?” I asked.
“That’s about right, since it’s cheaper to hire me than have both companies service their own pumps.”
“But look at the signs,” I protest. “Shell claims they sell nitrogen-enriched gas while Exxon, across the street claims they sell Synergy gas. How can that be if it comes from the same truck?”
He looked at me as if the answer was obvious. “You ever eat your grandma’s cake, an’ it’s so good. An’ then you eat your mom’s cake, an’ it tastes just as good? Well, cake is cake an’ gas is gas.”
“By the way, you’re not allowed to call us hillbillies anymore,” he continued. He lived local, about 50 miles from Lewisburg—named “The Coolest City in America” in 2011—and advised me that his kind preferred to be called “Appalachian proud”.
I asked him about the area’s high unemployment and the many unfriendly reports of poverty-level living with so many coal mines shut down.
“Don’t let these people fool ya. All them shacks with mud floors along the road without heat and electricity? They live that way ‘cause they want to. This way they ain’t beholden to no government.”
“I’ll bet the still behind the house helps to make them forget,” I added.
“Shhh…,” he whispered, pulling a grease-stained finger to his lips. “That’ll be our little secret.”