BACK before foreign affairs bothered the United States automobile business, Clevie Bickford was the authorized Ford agent in our precinct, and at times he had to sit up nights thinking things out -- I shudder to imagine how Clevie might have handled any added problems such as Toyota, VW, and Saab. It was quite enough, I gathered, to have the Ford Motor Company on your back. True, for many years it was a profitable association, I happen to know, both for Ford and Clevie, but Clevie would moan and whimper no w and then in a manner denied the soulless corporation, and since he knew a good deal more about automobiles than Ford ever did, his sorrows were ironic. In those days, back in the 1930s, it was the duty of the local agent to accept whatever Ford sent him and make the best of it. A boxcar would arrive on the siding, and Mattie Dunbar, the railroad agent, would come to tell Clevie, bringing the way papers and bill of lading. Before Clevie could open the car to see what he had, he was obliged to put cash on the line. Accordingly, Clevie might have orders from townspeople for six new sedans, and open his car to find Ford had sent him half-ton trucks.
There had been, indeed, the infamous incident of the Fordson tractors. Ford, having put the country on wheels, meant to eliminate the horse from the farm as well, and came out with a farm tractor. The thing had a high torque reaction so it frequently r'ared up like an ambitious stallion, and on a sidehill it liked to roll. It was a big step in farm machinery, but farmers weren't all that ready to embrace it, and few of them had the funds.
So that had been a good year and all the workers in our local mills had been given pay increases and Christmas bonuses, and Clevie had a big run going on two-door sedans. Yes, indeed, and when the boxcar came and everybody was eager to drive home his beautiful new Christmas automobile, the carload of Fordson tractors seemed an unkind thing.
Clevie worked them off in time, but that winter he ran his sawmill overtime to, as he said, ``support Ford.''
The ``demonstrators'' that had two Scottie dogs painted on each side were a smart idea on the Ford end. Every authorized dealer got one or more, and while the stated purpose was to identify the local Ford dealer as he went about his territory, the salubrious effect was to move a considerable inventory of Detroit Fords that were otherwise carried as ``overproduction.'' Clevie got his, and it was a handsome vehicle. The two Scottie dogs were cute as buttons, and so labeled the car that Clevie had to keep it and couldn't offer it for sale without a paint job. Clevie needed a ``demonstrator'' somewhat as he needed a double-breasted seersucker suit to wear in his sawmill. Clevie gave his demonstrator some thought.
Then he said to Lulu, ``Why don't we make a trip in the demonstrator?'' That would be nice, and Clevie asked his mother if she would like to go along with them. She told Clevie he couldn't afford a trip, and she couldn't go anyway as she'd have to buy a new hat. Clevie and Lulu explained to her that they had this brand new car willy-nilly, and expense was accordingly relative, and as for a hat -- they'd stop at the first ``charnce'' and buy her a new one. After which, the three of them set out blithely to round the Gasp'e.
The Gasp'e, then, was largely untoured, with all dirt roads and no English. Truly a magnificent place to test a new Ford demonstrator. It was in Madawaska country, somewhere, that Clevie stopped to gas up and the attendant said, ``You moved in around here?''
``No -- passing through.''
``Well, you been coming and going a lot -- all I've seen all week is your two Scottie dogs.'' So it turned out that nearly all the Ford dealers in northeastern US had decided to see the Gasp'e in their new demonstrators. Clevie said every third car he saw on the whole trip had Scottie dogs.
They had a good time, and Clevie told me that when they got home his mother said, ``There, now -- we forgot to get me a hat!''