Qualified buyer

Those fellows trying to sell automobiles sound hungry to me, and I was wondering if I might be a ``qualified buyer.'' I kept hearing these frantic offers on my radio until it seemed I was missing life's finer things by sticking around the garden to weed carrots. All I had to do was pop in and readily acquire a new vehicle priced at ``ONLY'' about three times what it cost to get Richard of the Lion's Heart back from the Austrians. I stayed reluctant, however, because these fellows kept assuring me the be nefits were reserved for qualified buyers. Maybe I am, at that.

After my ``tin Lizzie'' days, I expressed interest in a Model A ``coop'' that Clevie Bickford had at his garage. The speedometer had turned over and the thing was up to 30,000 on its second 100,000 miles. Clevie told me I couldn't afford it. He'd taken it on a bad debt, and there was no way he could let it go for less than a hundred dollars. A farmer over at ``The Bend'' couldn't keep up his payments on a tractor, and as Clevie didn't want the tractor back, he did the best he could. He got a cow about t o freshen, a manure spreader, three hundredweight of yellow-eye beans, a Westfalia cream separator, and this Model A coop. He'd turned the beans over at 4 cents a pound and Ringle-Dingle Potter had taken the cow for $35, but everything else was dubious unless he could get a hundred for the coop. ``Don't mean to discourage you,'' Clevie said, ``but I got to find my way out. Besides, the thing needs new rubber all around.'' So Clevie moaned and groaned a good deal about the sorrows of being an au tomobile dealer, but he later decided I was a ``qualified buyer'' and I gave him $60 and drove the coop home.

Does anybody remember how those coops had rumble seats? There was no trunk, but the rear section opened and a seat unfolded. Clevie didn't have a key to the coop, because the original ignition switch had been replaced by a push-pull, so it was a year or so before I found a key that would open the rumble. I had found new rubber and added another hundred thousand miles by that time, and when we opened the rumble we found a hen's nest full of eggs. That coop rode so comfortably the eggs were as good as new , almost. Anyway, with the rumble available, my wife and I prevailed on another couple to ride with us up to Quebec City for a week. We gentlemen rode in front and I drove, so the two ladies had the rumble to themselves, which wasn't a bad way to travel. The only way they could communicate with us was to thump on the rear glass. Shouting was no good at all. We ignored or acknowledged thumps as we chose, thus contributing a lively complexion to the vacation. In the days of rumble seats a double room at the Ch^ateau Frontenac cost $6, but that was for the high-priced ones up in the tower. We didn't feel we required such luxury, so we found lesser accommodations at $2, and the lady didn't ask if we were qualified buyers but took our money anyway.

I bought my wife a fur coat on that trip. It was a lovely September day and we were strolling Quebec City. We came to the Holt, Renfrew store, where the window was rich with silver-black fox items, and to one side was an invitation to come in and inquire about hunting and fishing privileges on the vast company holdings in northern Quebec. The clerk was not taken in by our inquiry, and was not amused, but he was a good judge of qualified buyers and he proposed that we forget about a fishing trip and buy our wives good warm coats. The one he deftly fitted to my wife was karakul, and in those days of rumble seats it could be had for $32. I could pay a little ``down,'' and as soon as I mailed him the rest he would forward the coat to our address in Maine. So I gave him $2.

It was eight months later that I finished paying for the coat, and it arrived just as June began to warm up. She wore the thing for years, it was beautiful -- and afterward a furrier cut it down to a stylish cape which, in turn, she wore for years. The furrier said the value of karakul had greatly appreciated, but I think 'twas really that our money wasn't worth so much. Even so, as Clevie made me realize so long ago, you wave money around, and you'll find out what makes a qualified buyer.

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