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Model A

Allan Heard

Between 1908 and 1927, Henry Ford put over 15 million Model T’s on the road. In late 1927, falling behind in sales, he introduced his Model A. It sported a boxy-shaped passenger compartment, an electric starter, "three on the floor" manual transmission, improved brakes, and, if memory serves me, a horn that went euguh.

There were still some pretty decent Model A’s hanging around by 1950. One could be had for about $75 to $250.

It was about that time that my brother, Bill, got a job with the PMA measuring cotton fields to see that farmers did not exceed their allotted acreage. He needed wheels, and a fine looking dull gray and black A-model ( as they were usually called) was the answer to his need. Besides its work utility, the A-model provided transport for hunting and fishing. It was a chariot from heaven for Robert Davis, our main advisor on hunting and fishing (and most else we needed to know), since he now rode to a lot places he’d formerly walked to.

By 1950 I was beginning to think longingly of having a driver’s license. Once in a great while I was allowed to run the family car up and down the driveway, but that was controlled by ownership of the keys. The key was no problem with the A-model, since it had long been lost. The ignition was "on" when three wires were touching one another and "off" when they were not. Thus, when the A-model was sitting idle in the driveway, it was vulnerable to my driving practice. I have to say that this practice got suspended once, when I backed her up into our fairly spacious back yard and decided to drive all the way around backing up. It was not quite as easy as I believed. I backed into a wonderfully soft flower bed and stuck her. Thar she sot, as the saying goes in those whereabouts. Actually, Bill didn’t have any trouble getting the car out, because he was willing to step on the gas pedal. I never did–just let out the clutch and let her put-put-put along.

One fishing trip in the A-model particularly sticks in my memory. It was to the Rainey estate, up around Cotton Plant. Robert, Bill, and I were the only ones on this particular trip.

Rainey Lake and the whole estate were undoubtedly a hunting paradise in their prime. Some of my fondest memories of fishing relate to trips I took there with my father before school time on spring mornings. Daddy and I were bluegill fishermen, but Robert and Bill stalked the bass. Robert would paddle the boat most of the time and Bill would cast or fly fish. Robert liked it that way. Bill caught lots of fish, which meant meat on the table for Robert’s house full of hungry children.

On the day I am remembering, the fishing was pretty slow. I was pole fishing along the shore. Bill and Robert were working along the shore line and among some snags, casting from an old, leaky sheet metal boat. Robert was nearly asleep from boredom. It was getting dusky and I was beginning to worry about snakes, since they are able to effectively use their heat-sensing ability to find game after the sun’s heat is gone. They also can sneak up on shallow boats and slither in undetected when the light is gone. This was drifting around in my mind. Suddenly, Robert screamed–and screamed–and screamed. "Mr. Billy! Mr. Billy! It’s a snake. It’s a snake!" He jumped up and started flailing the water beside the boat with his paddle. It wasn’t a snake. Not a reptile at all. Robert had killed Bill’s "Jitterbug" fishing lure that was blub-blub-blubbing along in the water. On that count–that it was not a snake–Robert was pretty lucky, because he fell headlong into the water–screaming as he went under and still screaming when he came up. He got out of the water about as quickly as he got in.

The trip home in the A-model was as ill-fated as our fishing. About ten minutes into the trip, we started smelling smoke, and the headlights abruptly went out. We stopped and fogged out of the car like angry wasps. When somebody pulled open the engine cowling, fire licked out at us. It was only a small fire, so we all emptied our God-given fire extinguishers on it--to no avail. Thick petroleum residue on the firewall had been ignited when the three bare ignition wires, in the "on" position, remained in contact with the fire wall and heated the goop till it flamed. Luckily, the dirt and gravel road had a layer of dust three or four inches thick. We filled hats with dust and dumped it on the fire,which made short work of it.

Now there was a matter of no headlights, but I got elected to solve that. I rode the rest of the way home standing on the running board, holding a large flashlight so that Bill could see the edge of the road and keep her out of the ditch.

I dreamed of owning the A-model when I got old enough to have a car. It would have been a perfect match for me–-slow but dependable–-but that was not to be. About the time Bill went off to college, an uncle made Bill an offer he couldn’t refuse. The uncle planned to make a nice profit on the antique aspect of the car. I don’t know how that came out.

I still dream of backing her around the back yard and missing the flower bed.