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Report From Them That's Doin: Bartering

Here is a letter from one of our readers about bartering and its benefits.

| January/February 1976

    Chopping wood for someone else can get you  wood of your own or even a hair cut. Bartering is a simple system that creates bonds between people, not money.


I was driving home yesterday when I spotted a guy unloading big, unsplit rounds of white pine from a pickup. Well, I had firewood on my mind anyway because I'd just buck sawed some small stuff for a friend in exchange for a haircut. And I knew she'd need better stove wood than the pitiful crooked sticks I'd cut. "Maybe," I thought, "I can trade this fellow some labor for a little wood."

So I pulled my van over to the curb and walked back to the pickup for some palaver. When I got there the man with the wood was standing on top of the load, tossing chunks of pine over the fence and into his yard. A yard that already contained, maybe, 20 cords of freshly cut firewood!

"Say, that's mighty impressive work," I said and my new found friend sat down, glad for the chance to rest and rap a spell. Well we talked about the coming winter — it looked to be a long and a cold one, but then we say that every fall out here in western Nevada — and we commiserated a bit over the Sierra Pacific Power Company's sure-to-come increases for the price of gas and we exchanged some thoughts about the cord and a half of wood my new acquaintance had already cut, carried, and trucked that day.

Before long I was allowing that the other fellow had invested considerable labor, emotional energy, and determination in his winter's fuel supply and I outlined a modest proposition: I'd help unload what was left on the truck in exchange for a single two foot section of tree trunk that I'd later present to my lady friend for a chopping block.

The man with the wood agreed and I was soon helping him manhandle big rounds — some of them weighed 100 pounds or more — from the pickup and into his yard. It was good to work together that way and we quickly established a special bond with each other.

Once we'd finished, we loaded my "pay" — a single, straight-cut block of pine — into my van and I started on home. And as I drove along, I realized just how much I've been operating lately on a barter-and-swap basis.

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