Strange Status Symbols

kubota in snow










Okay…  Be prepared to repeat the following letters “W T F” about a dozen times in this article, reach for your psychic barf bag, really, I’m being serious now, and then wonder how we, as people on this planet can even call ourselves a single species.  The subject is STATUS SYMBOLS and I’m going to give you a little test:  The only rule:  don’t fudge, like one of my relatives does, by just adding zeros to the answer. Really TRY to guess what you think, for example, the most expensive bicycle should cost:

If you’re like me and you know what the inside of a Target or Sears store looks like, you’ll probably say, Well, now expensive…probably a few grand, so I’ll guess ten grandand even that seems pretty stupid.   Those gussied-up road bikers who look like they just pedaled out of the Tour de France will chuckle and shake their heads.  “More like $20 to 25 thousand dollars.”  Keep in mind, this is for a bicycle.  No motor, just a frame, wheels, and you pedal it to make it go.  Dip your toe a little deeper and you hit the shallows of bicycle status.  Thirty thousand?  Sixty thousand?  Eighty thousand?  Those bicycles (of which there are many) are plebeian by comparison to the Damien Hirst “Butterfly” Madone which costs a cool $500,000.  I gotta have one!  Just have to sell the house first.

Moving right along, how does a $62,000 golf cart by Garia LSV strike you?  Better yet, BMW is coming out with one for a bit over $85,000.   Oh, I can hear you whispering, “Bet it goes fast, though.”  It does, indeed, for your $85K you can blow away the competition at a monster-fast 23 mph.  It’s pretty though, and you can throw your clubs in the back…or just drive around and give people the finger.  Believe me, they’ll be returning the favor.

“Wine…expensive wine,” a personal sore point with me.  I’ve never quite known what “It’s a bit unprepossessing,” means with regard to something I put in my mouth and swallow.  Frankly, down in my gut, I don’t even have a handle on what the words mean.  A bit unprepossessing?  WTF?  And since you’re probably getting used to the extra bunch of zeros to these answers, I won’t keep you in suspense.  The world’s most expensive wine (to date) is made, not in France, but in Auatralia by wine producer Penfolds.  It costs $168,000 a bottle.  And keep in mind, this is a wine you can drive up…somewhere…and actually buy.  There are some old dusty bottles lying around that go for over half a million.

Baby carriages?  I won’t even jar your nerves anymore, it’s just gross.  And guess what, in a year or so young Chadsford has outgrown it and it’ll have to go on Ebay.  Good luck with that.  Last but not least:  A car you just gotta have:  It’s the Buggati Veyron.  It goes 253 mph and costs 1.6 million before you add the options. I’m trying to remember where in Bucks County, PA, I can actually drive 253 mph…

Having said that, let’s flip over to some of the other kinds of status symbols.  They vary, you know.  Unlike what some people would lead you to believe, that bottle of Penfolds would make a decent doorstop in our house.  I’m a single kind of malt guy…but don’t get me started…and I already know I’m crazy.

Did you know that in some (thankfully small) cultures the big status symbol is having…a big FAT, and I mean FAT wife.  Once the marriage proposal is made, the nubile young piglet is placed in a small room and fed a whole lot more food… all the time.  She’s not encouraged to move about…just sit there and fatten up.  And, if all goes well, in nine or ten months there’s a wedding.

In some countries status is measured in goats, which sorta makes sense if you don’t have a Wegmans or Shop Rite close at hand.   In parts of the midwest it’s: who has the biggest combine?  In Hollywood, little gold Oscars on the mantel.  Drag one of those Oscars over to the country with the goats, however, and see how it goes over.   Florida?  That’s a slam dunk.  How long is your yacht?  It’s an only slightly more abstract symbol of “how long is your you-know-what?”  Only 80 feet?  Go moor your dingy with the rowboats.  It’s bullet-in-the-head time.

In other places, say, Bucks County. PA, (and notice how cleverly I’ve steered the conversation to something I actually have)  it’s a little different.  Where?  What county?  Ever hear of  The Devil and Daniel Webster?  Pearl S. Buck?  Oscar Hammerstein, Margaret Meade?  George S. Kaufman?   George Nakashima? James Michener? Dorothy Parker?  Alecia Moore (Pink)?  Yeah, we have our cool status symbols, too.

Many moons ago, when we moved from Arizona to Bucks County, PA, (no culture shock at all), it was a quaint, sleepy, farming area, as well as host to an inordinately large number of famous writers, playwrights,  and painters.  But the operative word was still, sleepy.  We bought ten acres in the woods for a reasonable sum of money and then watched as the Merck execs moved in, and then it became The Place for New Yorkers to have a second getaway home.  Home prices rocketed ( a good thing only if you’re already there) and then everything else rocketed to match…including status cars.

Let me give you a little clue as to where I’m going. It is IMPOSSIBLE to impress anyone with anything automotive in Bucks County.  The commonest car here is either a 3 or 5-series BMW, followed by Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche in no particular order.  And, there’s a really decent smattering of exotic cars, Bentleys, Lambos, Ferraris, sooo…the bottom line is, you ain’t gonna make it here on the automotive scene with much of anything if you’re into cars.  That’s a gimmie.

Having said that, a wondrous thing is happening, or actually has been happening for about a decade now, and I’m deliriously happy.  What is the status symbol?  You’re not going to believe it.   Kubota Tractors, and the bigger the better.  Why?  Because to need a Kubota, you have to have land, and land here, in what should be called New Bucks County, you need  Big Bucks.  This county is becoming eponymous.  Bucks County = $$$$$ County.

You go to a cocktail party, particularly in the winter and the stories that are swapped are often of the,  “That blizzard last week?  I dragged three cars out of a snow bank” or “Hurricane Sandy?  Know how many trees fell on our property?  Twenty Three! five of ’em across the driveway.”  It’s not how fast your Carrera goes  0-100 mph.  That’s sooo… 1900s.

On our small  half-mile private road which disappears into the forest and stops at our house, there are a total of six houses.  Four of us are packin’ Kubotas and… there are different rules for tractors than for sports cars.  Hint:  It’s not how shiny you keep it, it’s how much mud and gunk and debris is clinging to it.  Scrapes?  Bravo!  Shiny tractor?  Rookie!   Another measure sorta parallel to the whose is longer? question  is: How many hours ya got on it?   No odometers on tractors.  Expertise is measured in hundreds of hours.  You don’t have a 100 hours on your tractor?  Shut up and sit in the corner.  500 hours?  Okay, you can sit at the table.  1000 hours and they give you the secret handshake.

Unlike expensive sports cars ( did you ever come across a good Porsche driver?) it isn’t what you bought, it’s: what can you do with it?

Two winters ago we had the Godzilla Blizzard from Hell.  Every one of the four of us on the road prepared in his own way.  My Kubota was parked nose-out in front of my garage, snowblades pre-sprayed with WD-40 to make the snow slide off faster.  Threw a tarp over, set the sharpest angle to the blade…and waited.  Realize now that this is a competition, four guys, each determined to “save” the families from a snowy disaster.

In order to do that, I set my alarm for 4:30 am, got up, gulped down a cup, warmed up the tractor and dressed for the cold war.    Being ex-military, I was well-prepared, I had wired up additional spotlights on the roof of the Kubota so that when I throw the switch a hundred by 200-foot patch of glowing surreal light surrounds me.  It’s a sight to see in the middle of a blizzard.  Started out, saved the first house (my own,) then the next…my neighbor, simply because I got up earlier, and the next after that.  I got about three-quarters of the way, out…I was winning!  But then, I saw the old farmer who lives toward the end of the street had already beaten me to the punch…at least for his 200 yards.  It was pristine and scraped all the way down to the black top.  Damn…  I almost had a home run.

I gotta tell ya, it’s just great swapping Kubota stories at a party.  Of all the cool fast sports cars I’ve owned, and I’ve owned some memorable ones, strangely this one comes closest to the feeling of flying a jet…really  Here’s why:  In a jet, you have to prepare your machine, and do a serious walk-around.  You don’t just hop in.  Second, and this is the cool macho part that only we knuckle-dragging guys understand,  if you make a mistake in the woods, or on a hill with a tractor, you can be very dead, very fast, or at least banged-up bad.  It takes practice, a certain coordination over time, and complete concentration. Let your mind wander an instant, and you’re potentially toast.

The very odd corollary to all this is: the second biggest bragging rights for tractor owners (and this is usually only whispered within the cognoscente) is what’s the biggest, most massive foul-up you’ve had?  This spring, I won, hands-down!  I think I beat the entire Kubota population of Bucks County!  My neighbor had dropped a very large tree and it had fallen wrong.  His Kubota wasn’t large enough,  (heh, heh…shadenfreude), and so I trundled down to save the day.  BIG tree, Thick Chain, Winched-up, Low-low gear and lever depressed so all wheels would yank simultaneously.  Rev the engine… release clutch…nothing.  Repeat process…nothing.  Repeat process third time only rev engine even higher.  ROOARR!!! followed by CRINK and I went down.  I’d managed to sheer all six stainless-steel lugs on the huge BACK wheel.  The guys over at Histand’s where I bought it didn’t believe it.  “That’s impossible,” Mike, my buddy over there said.  “Oh, no it isn’t!” I replied.  Mike nodded.  “Okay, that seals it.  You da man…”  Realize, of course, that I can only share this with people who understand.

To close, I leave you with this searching question:  “What’s the status symbol where YOU live?”



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