By ice rivers
At first, I was a "when are we gonna get there" type kid, like every kid on early journeys.
The monotony of every journey was interrupted by stops at service stations. Whenever we stopped into a station, my father would ask for "a dollars worth". My first memory of that request goes back to a time when gas was probably about a dime a gallon. My Dad' dollar's worth of gas bought us ten gallons.
I didn't understand what " a dollar's worth" meant until I was about 10. By the time I was 10, I had a brother to share the ride with so the trip wasn't so boring. He took over the "when are we gonna get there" duties while I was punching him in the shoulder.. He had no idea about the cost of gas.
Gas stations were on every corner. Occasionally, they would drop the price on one corner only for the purpose of luring the customers to that corner and away from the other three corners.
Eventually, they all drove each other out of business but that's another story.
I was12 when we took a trip and got caught in a gas war.
My Dad noticed the economic combat. He drove and drove looking for a station that was selling gas at 16 cents a gallon. He passed many a station selling at eighteen and a couple selling at 17 cents. Finally, on the verge of empty, with my 5 month pregnant mother making that condition VERY clear, my father spotted a sign that read "gas sixteen cents a gallon a mile ahead". My old man said "that's as low as it's gonna get."
We made the mile on fumes. We pulled into the station. Sure enough, the price was right. Dad said something that I'd never heard him say before. He said "Fill er up' and he did so with pride and a wink at Mom. We caught the wink in the backseat. Mom was looking out the window. She missed it. Intentionally.
The attendant filled the tank, wiped the windows, checked the oil and wished us all a good day. We felt like we were rich.
We pulled out of that station. We went down the road, not even half a mile when another sign appeared "absolute lowest price on gas.... 15 cents a gallon". We all noticed the sign but out of respect for my father we didn't say anything (although my mother turned and winked at us and we winked back).
When we reached the 15 cents a gallon station, my Dad immediately pulled off the road and up to the pump. For the second (and maybe last time) and the second time within five minutes, he said "Fill er up".
The attendant agreed to do just that and he had a grin on his face as he realized that for this car, for this family, on this trip, his price had won the gas war with the morons down the road.
He stuck the nozzle in the tank and began pumping. The price on the pump read 2 cents when the overflow began. The attendant stopped pumping, rubbed his eyes in astonishment and said two words...two words that live today in cherished memory as we think of journeys, times and lives passed.
The attendant said "It's full."
My dad handed the kid a dime and told him to not bother with the windhsiled and keep the change.
For the rest of our lives, as we tried to figure out our father, at those moments when his wisdom, common sense, sense of humor, cheapness and courage was beyond our reckoning, my brother and I would look at each other and simply say "it's full".
When his life journey ended. When I held his urn before passing it to my Mom who would put it into the ground, I whispered to my brother "it's full".