In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Brilliant Disguise.”

When was the last time I was hoodwinked?

Everyone has an angle, it seems. Especially when you’re a kid. Cash money was a serious issue when I was a youngster. I was in high school and living on a farm. Opportunities for earning spending money were spotty. There was no paper routes, no afternoon bagging groceries, delivery jobs for drug stores, no Western Union jobs, or even lawns to mow. Usually I earned money helping with the harvest of summer crops, and most often that was storing bailed hay in farmer’s barns.

The first job was putting up hay for Joker, a neighbor farmer. The evening before we started my cousin’s dad gave us some advice.

I’ve known Joker for 40 years. He’s going to try to set the pace and make a hard day of for you. Don’t let him do that. You set the pace. Run as much as you can and he’ll head for the house before an hour has passed.”

We followed his advice and it wasn’t long before Joker told me he’d forgotten to feed a calf. We never saw him again until it was time to collect our pay.

We were strong, and filled with stamina. I could jog and buck baled hay all day in hundred degree temperatures (I could say without breaking a sweat, but I sweated like a pig). Clifford Moody, a fellow who baled hay for hire, usually got us hired where he had a job. He kept us busy. In fact, the last summer before I enlisted in the air force his bale counter indicated the two of us had put 135,000 bales in farmer’s barns.

The year was 1956, and our pay was almost a joking matter – five dollars a day, or fifty cents per hour, which ever the farmer would agree to. Five dollars a day was the best deal for us, because we’d pick up the pace and get it done.

Things weren’t so expensive in those days. Gasoline cost 25 cents per gallon. A new rayon tire could be bought for $20. For a Saturday date night I took my girl out for a movie, bought us each a hamburger, enough gasoline to get fifty miles down the road, and get back home by 0200 hours with change from a five-spot. Still, we had to account for every penny.

One Sunday we took our girls to the Missouri State Fair. The trip was one hundred miles each way, then there was admission fee, plus the midway games and the rides. It cost us a bundle. We had to plan for all those expenses.

That Sunday we came across this fellow hawking a black device about the size of a large aspirin bottle that fit between the distributor cap and coil wire. Of course he had a car there with the hood open and every time he switched in his aspirin bottle that contained some secret circuitry the engine sped up by about 500 hundred revolutions. We thought it was a trick, but with some fancy math we couldn’t follow, he proved to us that we could improve our mileage by no less than 30 miles per gallon. Hell, we weren’t getting that kind of mileage to start with! Obviously, we could use something like that. The only catch was they cost five dollars per copy. We complained about the price, so he pointed to a half-empty carton of these things that was setting near the front tire of his car, and assured us that when that box was empty he would have to close up shop. We needed to get it NOW.

That was a day’s pay for crying out loud, and we balked on him. But he kept the heat on, reminding us of the urgency of the matter, and the price of gasoline. We finally counted out ten dollars between us.

Following the instructions printed on a sheet of paper we plugged them in, and started our cars. Something was amiss. We didn’t achieve the results we saw at the fair. There were no results at all! There was no difference, plugged in or not!


After some serious consideration I used a hacksaw and proceeded to open mine up, thinking maybe something wasn’t properly soldered. I could always fix it and then tape it shut. No harm done.

However, when I got inside I found nothing but a length of copper wire connecting the two ends.

By this time fair was over and the hawker had left the territory. We’d been had big time.

We’d been hoodwinked.

We can laugh about it now, but it certainly wasn’t funny then.

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