Barter and Trade

House painting for auto mechanic work, art for medical services, and homemade cheddar cheese for nearly everything are a few of the barter and trade arrangements MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers reported working out with neighbors and acquaintances.

| July/August 1980

Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas — barter and trade — and offered up an interesting suggestion: "I'd like to see a continuing feature on barter agreements and skill-and-labor exchanges," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.  

Paint for Pistons

This past summer while on vacation in upper Michigan I made a lifesaving swap. My 1988 Volkswagen bus had chugged its way up one last hill and sputtered to a halt ... and—upon close inspection—I saw that nothing short of a rebuilt engine would get the old clunker rolling again.

I had no choice but to leave the broken-down vehicle where it had collapsed and hitch a ride to the nearest village. Inquiring at the first open gas station, I was directed three blocks down the street to the only VW mechanic in town.

Few folks would smile in such dire circumstances ... but as I traipsed toward the shop, my grin became wider than the wing span of an Andean Condor. I'm a professional house painter, you see, and I observed that the man's dwelling was badly in need of a fresh overcoat. (In fact, someone was beginning to scrape off the last fragments of chipped paint before my very eyes!)

Needless to say, it was too good a trade for either the auto doc or me to pass up. We swapped our skills. My disabled bus received a well-deserved rebuilding, while the mechanic's abode was dressed up in a new overcoat.

Since then, I've bartered any number of times, but no other exchange has been quite as opportune as that trade for a reinvigorated VW!

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