Barter Agreements for Wooden Spools, Custom Clothing, and Other Items

In this installment of a continuing feature on barter agreements, readers describe the trades they've made for empty wooden spools, custom clothing, and bear meat.

| January/February 1983

  • barter agreements - big wooden spool
    A cable installer found people on his route were eager to make barter agreements for his wooden spools after he'd emptied them.
    Photo by Fotolia/Alberto Masnovo

  • barter agreements - big wooden spool

Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas — barter — 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.

Wooden Spools for Coffee

I'm a lineman (more specifically, a cable television lineman), which means that I spend my working hours hanging cables on utility poles. Of course, those wires have to be stored and transported somehow, and once or twice a day I end up with an empty wooden spool on my trailer. That's my signal for bartering.

Most of the contractors I work for, you see, consider the big spools junk, and they're glad to get rid of the clunky rounds.

It takes two to make a trade, of course, but I've found that while I'm working, I can almost always spot someone watching my progress from a backyard porch or a front stoop. In my experience, these folks are usually eager to have a reel (to use, for instance, as a summertime picnic table).

My swaps are dictated by the time of year; one day I'll trade one of the oversized bobbins for a glass of lemonade or a draft of iced tea, while on other afternoons I'll take a mug of hot chocolate or a cup of coffee as payment. Regardless of the beverage, though, the barter always includes a few minutes of pleasant conversation with a new acquaintance. And that, after all, is part of what swapping is all about, isn't it?


Custom Clothing for Birth Consulting

When my husband and I were eagerly anticipating the birth of our first child, we decided that we'd like to arrange to have the delivery at home, assisted by a midwife. And after a bit of hunting, we found a qualified person whose terms included the option of swapping for part of her fee. So in exchange for my prenatal visits, we gave the knowledgeable woman a 25-pound pail of our homegrown honey and an afternoon of babysitting. Then, after the arrival of our son, we negotiated again, this time for a half-cash, half-barter payment plan.

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