By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
As a man who is often compared to the back end of a horse – which a reliable source does not endorse because it would force remorse for the horse, of course – I am proud to announce that I have come up with the solution to America’s gas crisis.
I am not suggesting that we stop eating baked beans, although that might help. Instead, I think we should all ditch our fuel-guzzling automobiles and, as the old saying goes, get a horse.
That’s what I did last weekend when I got in my SUV and drove all the way out to Montauk, N.Y., home of Deep Hollow Ranch, which not only is billed as "America’s Oldest Cattle Ranch (est. 1658)," but also is eastern Long Island’s only horse dealership.
"What make and model are you looking for?" asked Rusty Leaver, who runs Deep Hollow Ranch and is the firm’s top salesman.
"Nothing fancy," I said. "Something that gets good mileage and doesn’t cost a lot to run."
Rusty (all salesmen like to be called by their first names) sat me down to crunch numbers.
"Would you like to buy or lease?" he asked.
"What’s the better deal?" I replied.
"Leasing is an option," Rusty said, "but it’s more economical to buy. You can get a good horse – not a 2008 model and not with a full warranty, but something very reliable – for $2,000 to $3,000."
I was almost sold right there because a good car costs 10 times that much. I was even more enthusiastic when Rusty told me that it costs only $150 a month to feed a horse.
"I spend about $80 a week on gas," I said.
"So you’d be cutting your fuel outlay by more than half," Rusty pointed out.
Considering that gas is $4.29 a gallon for regular where I live on Long Island, I could save thousands of dollars a year. I could save even more, Rusty said, if I didn’t board my horse, which costs about $500 a month.
"I have a garage, so the horse could stay in there," I said. "Or it could stay in the back yard. In fact, the horse could cut my grass."
"That way," Rusty said, "you’d save on gas for your power mower."
I could also save on service costs because the annual veterinary bill for a horse is about $500. With tuneups, inspections and other regular maintenance, I spend more than that on my car.
Insurance is another saving. According to Rusty, it costs only $200 a year to insure a horse. Insurance on my car is more than $1,500 annually.
True, it costs about $50 a month (or $600 a year) to shoe a horse, which is more than I pay for tires, but I’d still be way ahead if I made the switch.
As for going to work, a horse is much slower than a car, even though, of course, it has more horsepower. But a commuter can make the ride easier, Rusty said, by getting a carriage. "Here," he added, "is where the Amish are way ahead of us."
Rusty’s sales pitch was great, but I wanted to go out for a test drive, so I went to the showroom to look over the inventory. Rusty’s wife, Diane, whose family has owned Deep Hollow Ranch for six generations (more info at deephollowranch.com), said I could take Junior for a spin.
Junior, "a pre-owned vehicle with a lot of mileage," according to Diane, is 15 years old, but he is in "excellent condition." Then she added, "And he starts right up."
Junior was everything a middle-age guy could want: a convertible with bucket seating and, with a mere flick of the reins, power steering. Granted, he couldn’t go from 0 to 60 in three seconds, but he offered a smooth, comfortable ride. A driver’s-side hair bag, which makes use of his mane in case of a collision, is standard equipment.
Accompanying me on the test drive was trail guide Kalila Fahey, 14, who was riding Zip, 8, one of about 120 horses at Deep Hollow Ranch. Kalila, who doesn’t have her driver’s license yet, said, "You don’t need a license to ride a horse."
Half an hour later, we were back in the showroom.
"How did you like Junior?" Diane asked.
"I’ll take him," I said.
Now all I have to do is go to the bank for a horse loan.
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima