A horse is of course a car of course ...

“Have you heard about “hypermiling?”

“No, I haven’t,” said Nick. “But anything with the word hyper in it must be good – hyperactive, hyperlink, hyperbaric, hyperbolic, hyperventilate, hyperdrive, hyperspace, hyperbola, hypergamy, hypertension.”

“I don’t know what hypergamy is, but I know that hypertension is not good for you.”

Nick held up a palm. “Don’t argue with me, I’ve got high blood pressure.”

“Why do I bother talking to you?”

“Because I’m a good listener. I may be the best listener you know. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, ‘Nick knows how to listen.’ When you speak, you have my total and complete attention. I don’t butt in, I don’t go off on tangents, I don’t crack my knuckles, I don’t...”

“I am begging you to shut up.”

“Your wish is my command. I’m hanging on your every word, I’m...”

“Hypermilers try to see how far they can get their cars to go on each gallon of gas by using every trick they can come up with to save gas. They’ll turn off the car’s engine and coast down hill, they keep their car’s windows up to reduce drag; they draft behind 18 wheelers, stuff like that.”

“I think I have heard about that. Some guys are getting, like, 50 and 60 miles to the gallon in regular, non suped-up cars.”

“These are the guys who never step on their brakes, they coast up to stop lights, they drive on the white lines when it rains so the water puddles won’t slow their cars down.”

“What about ‘em?”

“Well, it can’t be safe. Drafting behind an 18 wheeler has got to be dangerous. Hypermilers in traffic? I’m glad they’re saving gas, but me, I’m trying to get somewhere.”

“Got a better idea to save gas?” Nick seemed to think I wouldn’t. Nick pooh-poohs most of my brilliant ideas. A Broadway musical of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” “Matlock on Ice.” Tasers for teachers. No, no and no. He’s so negative.

But I do have a good idea to save gas. Instead of driving your kids to and from soccer practice, instead of dreading teaching them how to drive when they turn 16, instead of buying them a second car and paying outrageous insurance payments, buy them a horse.

What 10-year-old kid wouldn’t want to ride a horse to school? They’d never be late, they couldn’t wait to go. And they don’t have to wait to be 16 to get a driver’s license for a horse. Kids could ride horses to school, to the mall, to soccer practice.

Some say that one way to cut our dependence on oil is to grow a renewable crop like switch grass, ferment it and turn it into ethanol. Guess what horses eat? Grass. No fermenting plant necessary. No trucking to gas stations.

Oh, I can hear the naysayers now. “Where would we put a horse?” Gee, maybe the same place you were going to put the second car. “Will it be safe for kids to ride their horses on the street?” Is it safe for them now? Our city has laws about large animals inside the city limits. Hello, you are the city. Change the laws. “Aren’t horses messy?” Like cars aren’t. Horses produce fertilizer, cars produce pollution.

You can buy a good horse for much less than a used car and ride it for 20 years. Call me when you find a car like that. The cost to feed a horse each year is much less than the cost of insuring a teenage driver. Talk about hypermiling – horses get thousands of miles to the gallon. And they can get through the worst traffic. That’s why New York City uses mounted police. You can use your cell phone while riding a horse and listen to your iPod. But would you want to? You’re not even buying gas for your lawn mower any more because Trigger is eating all your grass.

“I can’t see myself riding a horse down to the grocery store to pick up a frozen pizza,” said Nick.

“But can’t you see the paperboy using one? Or the meter readers? Or neighborhood school kids? Horses aren’t practical for a lot of things. But neither are cars.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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