When I retired from the Sheriff's Department in 1997, it took me about a year to regain my health after having worked 80-90 hours a week with very little sleep for many years, and then I began teaching full-time again at Clinton Prairie High School. My little sister, Sarah, was an English teacher there, and it was great little school . . . plus it was just a ten minute drive from my home. At that time, I also worked as the director at the Darlington library and was responsible for all of the administrative duties, so I could work hours of my own choosing.
With only the one youngest of our four kids still at home, I felt pretty good about our finances, especially since I had paid off our house and land. We had a good "family" car, and I drove a little Toyota pickup . . . but I started thinking about perhaps trading the truck on a nice used Corvette. I had actually owned several Vettes in the past when they did not cost an arm and a leg . . . a 1969 ($3,200), a 1967 ($2,500), a 1964 ($1,500), a 1978 ($4,500) . . . which I bought for my daughter when she got her license . . . and yes, she was VERY HAPPY . . . and a 1976 ($7,500) which only had 1,000 miles on it....but it had been several years since I had owned one.
I located a nice low mileage 1991 Corvette at a dealership in Monticello, and I drove my Toyota truck up there one afternoon to take a look. The price was $12,000. I was on the verge of buying it, when I noticed a NEW 1999 Corvette being backed out of the service bay. The salesman said it had just arrived, had been prepped and was going to be parked on the showroom floor. I walked over there to have a look. It was red hardtop, had a six-speed manual transmission, and was loaded with options, including a Borla exhaust and custom wheels which cost $750 each. The speedometer went up to 220 mph. It was beautiful! I looked at the sticker price . . . over $47,000 suggested retail . . . Holy Cow!
We headed back inside and he calculated the payments for the 1991 used Corvette. OK . . . no problem . . . but just out of curiosity, I inquired as to how much the payments would be for the new 1999 model. After a few minutes of punching the calculator, the answer . . . $865 a month for 6 1/2 years. Hmmmm . . . several thoughts went through my mind . . . OK . . . I really don't need a new Corvette . . . BUT I do work two jobs . . . I still have three kids to send through college . . . BUT my house is paid off and my wife has a nice car to drive . . . That is a lot of money for a car . . . BUT I have worked hard all of my life and I DESERVE a nice car for myself . . . What would my wife think? . . . BUT I am almost 50 years old and that car is really NICE!
I looked at the car again and looked at the salesman, "Oh, what the heck, I'll take it!" He was somewhat stunned and replied, "Mr. Dale, are you sure you can afford it?"
"Yep, no problem . . . check my credit score and bank account." He did, and the papers were signed, with financing through a Lafayette credit union.
As I drove my new Corvette home that evening, I could hardly believe I was the owner. It was mine, and it was a dream to drive . . . and yes, it was fast! When I pulled in our lane, my wife happened to be standing in the door that leads to the porch.
"Why are you test-driving a Corvette?"
"Well, I'm not really test-driving it."
Then she started to give me THAT LOOK. "You didn't buy it, did you?"
"Yep, sure did!"
Then she asked the important question, "Well, how much was it?"
"Oh, it wasn't too bad . . . I can afford it . . . come on, get in . . . let's go for a ride."
Well, of course, she liked the car, and it was a pleasure to drive to school each morning . . . and of course, all four of our kids and my students at Clinton Prairie loved the car. But I could see a problem when the first payment was due in a month. If I write a check, my wife will find out how much it is . . . Hmmmm.
I thought about this for a few days as I lay in bed at night, and then it hit me . . . I will drive to Lafayette each month and make the payment in CASH . . . problem solved! Well, I LOVED the Corvette, but after a year, I came to my senses, and traded it on a 4-wheel drive Chevy pickup. I came out pretty good on the trade, as someone in Indiana wanted a hardtop, and this was the only one . . . and my dream Vette headed to newer pastures.
When I think back on this grand purchase . . . no, I really didn't need that car, but I am glad I bought it, and I DID finally tell her how much it cost. She was glad I bought it, too, although she wondered if I was having a mid-life crisis at that time. Maybe the devil made me do it . . . who knows? But if the devil DID make me buy that new Corvette, I would like to say thanks! I just bought my wife a new $43,000 Toyota 4-Runner this past February. She drives it to work. I drive a 2005 Mercury and a 1996 Ford pickup . . . See, honey, now we're even.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.