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Posted by Admin on February 13, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Sad day for a tractor salesman


The way it looked to me, Tip Holder was a horse trader by calling, if a calling is doing what a body enjoys and does best. Old Tip always seemed to have a few horses or mules about, and they changed from tome to time. I remember a fine little black Morgan mare named Dixie that J.T. used to ride. There was a fat little pinto that they rode too. They also had a big, skinny pinto with a backbone like a razor blade. That was the horse I always ended up with when I went riding with J.T.

Old Tip had never plowed with anything other than a horse or a mule. That’s how he liked it. He had no intentions of farming more than forty acres, and he could handle that much with a couple of mules, no problem. He understood mules and horses, and they understood him. He enjoyed fooling with them.

One fine summer day a big truck with a lowboy trailer behind slowed and pulled up on the side of the road in front of Thompsy’s house. Tied down to the trailer sat a brand spanking new bright orange Allis Chalmers tractor. The driver’s door opened on the truck and a well-fed citified dude in a tan field jacket and a grey felt country gentleman hat got out and strolled over to where old Tip sat on the ground, leaning back against a tree, resting in the shade. The dude tipped his hat, revealing thick brown hair, parted in the middle and plastered down. A wide, toothy grin split his square face.

“Mister Holder,” he began, consulting a three-by-five index card he held in his hand, “I am a tractor salesman.” He gave his name and reached to shake old Tip’s hand. Tip wrinkled his nose at the smell of the guy’s aftershave. “I have come all the way out here from Henderson to sell you this fine tractor,” the man continued, with a theatrical sweep of his hat in the direction of the machine on the trailer.

Tip rolled his eyes sideways at the tractor, sitting there so shiny in the sun, looking like a Christmas ornament.

“No thankee, mister,” he said. “She’s purty as a picture, but I ain’t got no use for a tractor. Got me a mule.” He pulled his mumble-peg knife out of the ground and began gouging at the dirt under one horny toenail. Realizing that after finishing that toe he still had nine to go, he let out a defeated sigh and gave it up. He folded the knife and dropped it into a hip pocket.

But the salesman was not one to take no for an answer. He had a new Buick that wasn’t paid for, and he needed to make a sale. He launched enthusiastically into a rehearsed spiel about how tractors don’t eat corn like mules do, and how they could cover so much more ground in a day, etc. He rattled on and on until Tip was about ready to decide he was going to have to promise to buy the blamed thing just to get the dude to leave.

“Tell you what, Mister Holder,” the salesman said, “I’ll just unload her and you can take her for a trial run!” He was talking over his shoulder as he walked away, not giving Tip a chance to refuse. “Can’t hurt to just drive it, you know.”

The dude didn’t know how wrong he was.

“Don’t know how to drive no machinery,” Tip objected, standing up. The mumble-peg knife fell through the hole in his back pocket. He scratched his head, inspecting the tractor more closely. “That thing ain’t even got no plowlines to guide ‘er with!”

Ignoring him, the salesman concentrated on backing the tractor off the trailer. He wheeled pop-pop-popping over to where Tip stood. “You just use this here steering wheel to guide her with,” he said, jumping down from the seat. He patted a metal step. “Come on and climb up here, Mister Holder, and I’ll show you how she works.”

With a shrug, old Tip reluctantly climbed up and took a seat. The eager salesman ran through all the instructions, showed Tip how to work the gas, and then old Tip was off and rolling. He eased the big orange tractor out into last year’s cotton patch and was going along pretty smooth and fairly straight. Confidence building, Tip reached over and pushed the gas lever all the way down. The popping got faster and louder, and the wind got cool in his face. Hot dang, old Tip was thinking, if this ain’t fun!

Then he spied the fence at the end of the row.

Leaning back in the seat, Tip pulled back on the steering wheel. “Whoa!” he yelled. Nothing happened. That fence kept on coming at him pretty fast. The adrenaline rush lent strength to him as he braced his bare feet up against the dashboard and pulled back on the steering wheel with all his might. Eyes popping out of his head, veins bulging in his neck, ol’ Tip went through four strands of barbed wire screaming, “Whoaback, you jughead, WHOA!”

Old Tip, tractor and fence disappeared over in the gulley in a cloud of red dust. Clanking and popping sounds, mixed in with a lot of cussing wafted back to the stricken salesman, whose white knuckles clutched at the bark of a sturdy oak tree for support.

Presently the grimy, limping figure of old Tip emerged from the hanging cloud of dust, and stalked over to the gawking salesman. His overalls hung in rags from his skinny body, and his arms and face were crisscrossed with numerous scratches. “Eye-gonnies, mister,” he snarled, “you git you and that ornery piece of junk offen my place.” As short as he was, old Tip was looking pretty mean. “Anything that don’t understand ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ and ‘whoaback’ just ain’t no use to me!”

Later that afternoon neighbors along the road saw the truck and trailer go by, headed for town. They wondered who had traded in the dilapidated tractor that was piled on the trailer. That salesman must have needed a sale mighty bad to have taken a beatup old pile of junk like that in trade…all dusty and snarled in bobwire, with the steering wheel bent all doubled back toward the seat like that.

Just no accounting for them town salesmen.






First written December 11, 1981


Revised December 12, 2009


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