71-year-old Carlsbad man not ready to quit working

Veteran never saw a Cushman he didn't like

Though Ben Sargent celebrated his 71st birthday Aug. 12, he’s not ready to call it quits and take it easy.

He’s a Mason, a trustee in the Baptist Church, a part-time worker at area post offices, a volunteer who delivers meals to the elderly.

He “fixes things around town for people,” and he’s president of the town’s water board.

He regularly runs a route for the Meals for the Elderly group, driving 55 to 60 miles on round-trips.

“They weren’t delivering out this way,” he said, but in February of 2000 he and other Masons volunteered to help.

Ben’s been helping ever since.

How long will he continue it?

“Long as I’m here,” he said.

He’s also a part-time employee for the U.S. Postal Service and works wherever he’s needed in the area.

How did he get the job?

“I was up at the Carlsbad post office one day and the lady postmaster was having trouble with her help,” he said. “I told her, ‘I’ll help you.’”

“She said, ‘You want to work here? Fill this out.’ And I got the job.”

He works part-time in small-town post offices across the Concho Valley, working in places like Vancourt, Knickerbocker, Sonora, and at Carlsbad, where he and his wife live.

Ben’s led an interesting life. He quit high school his senior year and joined the Navy.

“I was 17 and thought I knew everything,” he said.

In the Navy he worked as a diesel mechanic, and after 10 years he got out. Later, he started thinking that he needed to go back into the service to finish his 20-year stretch.

“I wanted a retirement,” he said, laughing, “but they didn’t want me back.”

Not one to take no for an answer, Ben checked around and found the Coast Guard.

He worked his way up to chief on river boats in areas from Mississippi to Kentucky, to Maryland, then, for a year, to an isolated duty station in the Pacific.

“I got to see sights most poor folks don’t get to see,” he said.

When he’s not working in the post office or carrying food to older neighbors, he enjoys his hobby.

Ben, who is president of the Texas Cushman Club, says he’s been a member of the club since 1988, but his love of the small scooters goes way back.

“I had one when I was a kid,” he said. “My dad bought me a new one that Sears sold.”

When his family finally sold the scooter, they bought a Model A Ford.

“I was a teenage boy and I didn’t think anymore about Cushmans,” he said.

At least, not until 1986 when he “bought one and have been playing with them ever since.”

Ben figures he owns several of the scooters that are ridable and a large collection of Cushman spare parts.

“I have 10 to 12 in different stages of completion or just sitting around,” he said. “Some I’m working on and some I should be working on.”

He still rides the small machines. The weekend before his recent birthday he and friends rode Cushmans 150 miles.

“We just ride a while, get off and talk for a while, and then go again,” he said.

Ben and his wife, Eugenia, who goes by the name Gene, live in a house Ben’s parents built in Carlsbad.

“I left home when I was 17 and came back when I retired to be with them. I just came back and stayed here.”

He said his wife is from Mississippi and he once told her if something happens to him she should go back home to Mississippi.

“No,” she told him. “My gills have dried.”

Would he retire again?

“Can’t afford it,” he said, laughing. “I like to play too much.”

Ben paused a minute then got serious.

“I’m not quitting as long as I’m able to get around,” he said.

“I like doing and going, and as long as I’m able to do that, I’m going to do what I’m doing.” n

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