The Price of a Hill of Beans

All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days.

  • 1 Kings 10:21

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

  • Proverbs 10:20

The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.

  • Lamentations 2:14

First, the first two Scriptures seem to contradict each other.  In Solomon’s day, silver was not worth much, but the tongue of the righteous is choice silver.  I think the Scripture from 1 Kings and its duplicate in 2 Chronicles refers to relative worth in comparison to gold.  Both are valuable today, but gold is a lot more valuable, roughly ninety times more valuable than silver on the day this was written.

I have mixed two idioms in the title.  The old man says that something is not worth the price of beans.  The other old man says that something is not worth a hill of beans.  They are saying the same thing, that whatever they are talking about is of little value.  But in having a hill of beans, you can have a good meal, so that brings the relative value of the 1 Kings Scripture back into play.

But then, I thought about eating that hill of beans.  Eating a lot of beans gives you gas.  Gas is not cheap by anyone’s standards these days.

I bumped into one of the elders of our church at the eye doctor on the day of writing this.  In the conversation, he made the statement, “The price of gasoline is a racket.”

I was weaving a tale about our trip to Texas when he was called into the doctor’s office.  My tale remained unfinished, which got me to thinking about how the price of gasoline was being a racket.

When we drove to Tennessee and then Texas, I noticed a slight difference in the manner in which gas prices varied from previous trips.

Let’s take any year, most years from 1996 to 2019.  Over those years, I visited my parents in Mississippi or other relatives.  I had work to do at various steel mills from Alabama to Arkansas to Texas.  I knew the routes.  I knew the best places to refuel the truck that I drove, delivering the demonstration equipment and the textbooks that I had written and then teaching class before driving home.

The way it used to work is that Pennsylvania had the highest priced gasoline, about ten cents per gallon more than Ohio.  The price dropped another ten cents per gallon in Kentucky, and another ten cents per gallon in Tennessee.  So, if you are keeping track, Tennessee gasoline was generally thirty cents per gallon less than Pennsylvania.  Mississippi fuel taxes kept Mississippi from being much less than Tennessee.  We’ll say the same price.  Then Louisiana would be a little less and Texas even cheaper.  Generally, Texas gasoline was about fifty cents per gallon less than Pennsylvania.

This could partially be explained by the fact that a lot of gasoline is refined in Texas, and it costs money to transport the gasoline.  But why 10 cents per gallon more to transport to Pennsylvania versus Ohio?  There is no ten-cent difference there.  That is where state taxes make the difference.  As you follow that route, the transportation costs make some of the difference and the increasing taxes make up the rest of the difference.

But that was then.  What about our latest trip?  Pennsylvania gasoline was again the highest.  The price dropped about fifty cents per gallon getting to Ohio.  But the prices dropped across Ohio.  Near Wheeling, West Virginia and in Ohio (say St. Clairsville), the price per gallon was fifty cents less than in Pennsylvania, but the price, about four hours down the road in Cincinnati, Ohio, was forty cents per gallon less than near the West Virginia border.  It was the same transportation cost (roughly).  It was the same taxes due to being in the same state.  But near Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians were ecstatic in saving fifty cents per gallon by driving a few miles.  That is, while the fuel stations were making higher profits.

But what about Cincinnati gasoline?  They were afraid people would drive across the Ohio River into Kentucky and buy gasoline at a cheaper price, so they sold their gasoline with much less profit, just to be able to make ends meet.

Kentucky gasoline varied by 20-30 cents per gallon depending on where you stopped.  Tennessee gasoline was about ten cents per gallon less, just as in the old days, but it might vary 10-20 cents per gallon from one exit to another.  I skipped one inexpensive exit and stopped twenty miles further down the road and paid three cents per gallon more.  Note: We stopped at the less expensive gasoline place on the way back, and the restrooms were not well-maintained.  You get what you pay for.

But, in the greater Memphis, Tennessee area, the price of gasoline was 20 cents per gallon more than an hour to the east, near Jackson, TN.  I guess that the higher priced gasoline is punishment for living in a crime-prone, dirty city compared to the wide-open countryside.

But when we reached Texas, the gasoline prices varied even more.  At Buc-Ees in Baytown, Texas, we paid sixty cents per gallon less than in Tennessee about one dollar and sixty cents per gallon less than in Pennsylvania.  That is some massive taxes in Pennsylvania.

Or was the church elder that I talked to correct?

Let’s artificially promote transportation that does not use gasoline and cheat the American taxpayer by perpetrating a “racket.”  You cannot justify $1.60 more for each gallon with transportation costs and higher taxes.  But who is skimming the extra money off the top?  The money goes somewhere, into someone’s pocket.

Ephesians 6 says that our struggle is not with the principalities of this earth, but our struggle is with the darkness and its evil.  Who are the evil forces here?

But a little bit about Buc-Ee’s.  A group of Texas A&M alumnae were taking a trip.  They discussed how they had to wait to pump gas, the convenience store was not “convenient”, and the bathrooms had not been cleaned in a month or so it seemed.  One in the crowd, who had the money to do something about it, started Buc-Ee’s.  I filled up at pump number 228.  No, I do not think they started with pump number one, but you are talking about over one hundred gas pumps, easily.  The convenience store had computer screens so that you could order a variety of food, more menu items than any local fast-food restaurant, and if you knew which cooking station was cooking your order, you could watch them cook it.  The clothing area and souvenir area was better stocked than the local department store.  The candy and snack aisles are simply so well stocked, and with candy you never see anywhere else, it simply surpasses explanation.  But then the bathrooms are a must see, even if you do not have to go – marble floors, marble walls, and a cleaning crew charged with the duty to ensure it looks like no one had ever used the facility until you walked in.  All this and their gasoline price was at least five cents per gallon less than any other location in a twenty mile radius.  The photo is my insulated shopping bag that I used to transport some Texas food back home.

But getting back to that price of a hill of beans.  Forget what I said about eating beans giving us gas.  It is that logic that has led to some woke people in the world simply killing livestock, depriving us of our meats and cheeses, because the livestock is known for emitting “gas.”  I like my beans.  Please do not deprive us of that!  Without beef, where will we get our protein?  Or is that the goal, to rid the earth of us?

God created the heavens and the earth, and He called His creation very good.  It is us, the humans on this earth, that messed up everything.  By repenting of our sins and worshipping God, the Creator, we could rid ourselves of many ills.  As for our governments and the people who take advantage of weary travelers, they provide us no comfort, no peace, and no security.

We can only truly trust in God.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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