The missus and I have long owned a little pied-à-terre a town or two away from the farm.
Somewhere we could actually get away to, but still be within easy reach in case of disaster.
Such as when one of the dopey kids mixed the wrong chemicals and then managed to also spray the wrong paddock.
In fact, the missus wanted to name at least two of the kids Pied, but that's another story — and certainly not for a family paper.
What's more, it has nothing to do with the shocking travesty I am about to reveal.
At our little getaway, there has been a distinct whiff of gas from time to time near the front gate.
It was only occasionally and only for a few years.
Well I reckon it's a few years, she reckons it's closer to 20 and says she has been nagging me for at least the past 15 to do something about it.
But I'm not here to quibble over the timeline.
No, my real problem is the mob we got out to fix the problem.
As you would be aware, a multi-talented individual such as old Col should be able to handle most things.
And you would be right.
But gas is something I have always been a little leery of.
Probably because if you get it wrong it blows you up and then, if you are in the right setting, cremates you as a finishing touch.
Electricity is no problem.
You would be amazed at the web of wiring I have strung up around the house and the sheds over the years.
The guy from the power company certainly was when he came to investigate unusual power surges on the local line.
Although my technical prowess is a given, let's move the spotlight back on the other expert.
We got our plumber-cum-gasfitter out of the local directory because, amazingly, I did not know anyone in that field in that town who could have done a cash job for me.
So this git turns up when just the missus and the mother-in-law (God bless her longevity and exceedingly rude health) were home.
He told them there was a definite leak but because the pipes were old, it could be anywhere.
He pulled an assortment of mystical thingummybobs out of his bag and told them his tests showed the entire piping from meter to house would have to be replaced — and he could not reconnect the gas as there was a real danger of explosion and/or fire.
And he could do it all for just $6000.
Well, that quote nearly did for the mother-in-law (but not quite) and left the missus a gibbering wreck.
But in a blind panic they agreed he and his mate should return at 8 am the next day and get the job done before there was a major disaster.
Of course, dear reader, you can imagine my reaction when I got back from another hard day in the field (the telly was on the blink in the tractor).
“$6000? $6000? Are you insane woman?,” I said. (I had to direct that to the missus, I already knew the answer for the mother-in-law.)
“That can't be right. It can't even be close to right. Crikey, I could just about buy another place for that,” I hammered on.
So now we have the mother-in-law and the mother of my children in tears, claiming they didn't know what to do, they were frightened and they just wanted it fixed.
Finally, we arrive at the nub of my story.
Here we have a friendly senior citizen and a seriously old citizen, naïve in the ways of the world and at the mercy of sharks like these guys.
I rang a mate at home and told him the quote and he burst out laughing.
“Col, old mate, I will do the whole job for you for $2200 — and that includes driving from here to your other place — which I never knew you had by the way, you sly old dog, you.”
Good as his word, my mate Muck was over the next morning and as it turned out he replaced about half a metre of pipe at the meter itself — and charged me $260.
But these other bastards would have pocketed a cheque for $6000 and happily gone on their way for doing little more.
They make their living preying on the elderly, the unwary and, without me wanting to be labelled sexist here (again), on a lot of women who don't have a lot of knowledge in these departments.
Which is why the Curmudgeon says it is so important for us to keep an eye on the trade-vulnerable in our communities, giving them someone they can turn to before the next charlatan lobs at their front door determined to lighten their financial load.
Despite me ringing their place and cancelling the job, these two smart alecs still fronted at 7.50 am the next day, probably thinking they could still con their way into the purse of the missus.
And got me instead.
By the time I had chased them to their ute, I reckon I had lightened their load.
Because when I pulled out the farm shotgun (don't mention this to the local copper and it wasn't loaded, anyway) their plumbing failed them.