Thunder Butte

May 03, 2008

Wild Cars of Thunder Butte - Part III

One article I’ve read lists the Model T Ford as one of the fifty worst cars ever built. I guess the following disputes that assumption entirely.

I believe this picture is of a 1925 Model T Ford. You see, I was very familiar with this car. Sometime in the summer of 1939, I wandered into the Lemmon Auto Company, a garage at the north end of Main Street in Lemmon, South Dakota. I was chatting with the Manager, a Mr. Olien, when he said, "How would you like to buy a great car? We just got this Ford in and it has hardly been driven." He then proceeded to show me a Ford, exactly like the one in the above photo.

I could not believe my eyes. This car looked like it had just rolled out of the factory. Mr. Olien got in, turned on the key and the old Ford purred like a kitten—that’s right, it started running just as soon as he turned the ignition switch.

I told Mr. Olien that if I had any money I would buy this car in an instant. He said, "How much money do you have?" I said, "About two dollars." And, he said, "You just bought yourself a new car. You can pay me the remaining eight dollars at one dollar per week."

I got in and drove away in perhaps the best car I have ever owned. It took eight more weeks to pay for it, but I loved that car. What was so nice about this car? To begin with, it even had the new car smell after all those years. It had always been garaged. It had been serviced regularly since it was new by this same garage. This automobile was so finely tuned that it started when you turned on the ignition switch. The engine hardly made a sound.

One of the outstanding features of this model was the transmission. In addition to the standard three foot pedals, it also had a two speed Ruckstell rear end, which means that you could gear down two speeds and it would go anywhere, just like a tractor.

I often had to go out of town to play for dances, almost every weekend, in fact. On those occasions I always rented a modern car from Bob Rainey of Rainey’s garage. Mr. Rainey seemed to have a soft spot for young people. He had two adopted sons, twins, Bob and Dick, just a year or two older than I. Whenever I came back from a dance job, for some mysterious reason they were never able to find the bill for the car rental. Actually they never did find a bill and I must have rented dozens of times.

I distinctly remember driving my Model T coupe home when I graduated from high school, and the last time I left the ranch by Thunder Butte, that beautiful old Ford was sitting there by the house. The tires must be real flat by now!

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Saturday, May 03, 2008


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