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Botts and the jet-propelled tractor.




Earthworm Sales Manager

AsPEN FALLS, ONTARIO Date: Monday, April 19, 1948

regret to inform you, Henderson,

that it has become necessary for me to interfere slightly with some of your plans. But I know you will not object when I explain the circumstances.

While swinging around the circle visiting our dealers and customers, I stopped off here today to see my old Army friend George Humber, who, incidentally, owns one of our tractors. George met me at the door of his home and at once burst into a song of joy: "Good old Botts! You're just in time! I've got a man in here who is trying to get away. And you're just the guy to help me hang on to him."

"Always glad to help an old friend," I said.

George steered me into his living room and introduced me to a very important-looking gentleman. "Mr. Botts, " he said, " I want you to meet Mr. Hamilton Hawkesbury, chairman of the board of the International Mineral Development Company, Incorporated. Mr. Hawkesbury, I want you to meet Mr. Alexander Botts, sales manager of the Earthworm Tractor Company."

We shook hands.

George explained, "Mr. Hawkesbury is on an inspection tour of his Canadian properties. He is traveling in his own plane, which he pilots himself. He stopped off this morning at our Aspen Falls airport for fuel and some minor repairs. When I heard he was in town I invited him to discuss the financing of a mine which I own, and which contains large deposits of an unusual combination of rare and valuable minerals. It's a wonderful proposition."

"The location is pretty remote," said Mr. Hawkesbury. "And so far, you haven't done much development work. "

"It's only a hundred miles out in the bush," said George. "I'll admit there is no road, and you can't get across the muskeg except when it is frozen. But I drove out there a year ago last winter with an Earthworm tractor. I took along a wheel scraper, a portable drill rig, and a lot of supplies. I built a cabin. I stayed through the summer. I smoothed off a landing strip for planes. I did a lot of core drilling. I scraped the overburden off part of the mineral deposits. And I got all ready for open-pit mining. All I need now is a hundred thousand dollars' worth of Earthworm equipment to build a road out there and to excavate the ore, another hundred thousand for a mill, and fifty thousand for working capital. Only a quarter of a million dollars altogether. What do you say, Mr. Hawkesbury?"

"It's an interesting proposition, but I can't decide till I see it. One of the fundamental principles on which my entire success in life has been based is personal investigation. I never invest one cent of my money in any project until I have seen it with my own two eyes."

"That's a splendid rule, Mr. Hawkesbury," said George. "You have your plane here. We can fly out this afternoon. There are plenty of provisions in the cabin. We can stay as long as you want. "

"I told you before that I must leave this afternoon. I have an appointment tomorrow in Earthworm City, Illinois, to meet Gilbert Henderson, the president of the Earthworm Tractor Company. This is the organization of which you are sales manager, Mr. Botts?"

I bowed.

"Couldn't you postpone your appointment?" ed George.

"Certainly not. One of the fundamental principles on which my entire success in life has been based is personal integrity. To me, an appointment is a sacred obligation. If I make a promise, I keep it."

George gave me an inconspicuous nudge. Apparently he thought it was time for me to take over. I did.

"Mr. Hawkesbury," I began. "I think Mr. Henderson told me he had made you a proposition whereby the Earthworm Company would redesign and manufacture for use with our tractors certain types of mining machinery on which you hold the patents. Is that right?"

It is, Mr. Botts. I have in my pocket duplicate copies of a contract signed by Mr. Henderson. I also have a letter in which he asks me to add my signature and close the deal. But, in the meantime, I have had a slightly better offer from the Behemoth Tractor Company." "You would prefer dealing with Earthworm, wouldn't you?" "Yes-but I want to discuss the terms further. That is why I made this appointment to meet Mr. Henderson. So far, we have negotiated by mail. I now want to meet Mr. Henderson personally. " "If I were you, Mr. Hawkesbury," I said nonchalantly, "I wouldn't worry about this appointment too much. When you know Mr. Henderson as well as I do, you will realize that he pays very little attention to business engagements. He would not expect you to keep an appointment with him any more than he would expect you to expect him to keep an appointment with you."

"I'm afraid I don't understand," said Mr. Hawkesbury.

"It's just that Mr. Henderson is getting old-doddering-senile. He is always making appointments and then forgetting about them. "

"You mean he would actually forget an appointment with anybody as important as I am?"

"As a matter of fact, Mr. Hawkesbury, he has already forgotten his appointment with you. When I left the factory a couple of day I r. Henderson was just leaving for two weeks' vacation in Mexico. The poor old duffer was babbling cheerfully about what a restful time he was going to have-with never a thought about business. So there is no reason why you should not go out to George's mine for a few days. You can see Mr. Henderson later."

" All right, " said Mr. Hawkesbury, I will go out to the mine. And, as far as I am concerned, Mr. Henderson can wait forever."

"Don't take this so seriously, Mr. Hawkesbury," I said, slapping him cordially on the back. "It is true that Mr. Henderson is careless, but he is a splendid fellow, and I am sure you are going to enjoy meeting him."

Having smoothed the old guy down in this way, I said that I would like to go along on the trip to the mine. Mr. Hawkesbury and George Humber made no objections, so we all drove out to the airport.

The repairs to Mr. Hawkesbury's plane had not yet been completed, so I have been spending the past hour writing this report to you. We are now about ready to take off, so I will close by assuring you that you do not have to worry about the successful outcome of my present venture. Now that I have managed things so that I can spend several days with old man Hawkesbury, I know that I can work on him so effectively that he is certain to finance George's mine. The sale of the hundred thousand dollars' worth of Earthworm equipment is thus assured. And I will also sell him on the advantages of dealing with the Earthworm Company so that he will be in the proper frame of mind when he finally gets to Earthworm City to discuss the contract with you. If you wish to communicate with me while I am at the mine, you may address me at the Aspen Falls Airport. Mr. Hawkesbury's plane has a short-range two-way radio, so we can relay messages back and forth.

Cordially yours,


Sales Manager





HUMBER MINE, ONTARIO. Wednesday evening, April 21, 1948 DEAR HENDERSON: Your telegram was read to me this afternoon over the short-range radio from the Aspen Falls Airport. As I was listening through earphones, neither George nor Mr. Hawkesbury heard any of it-which is just as well, as your message might have impaired their confidence in me at the very time when it is highly essential for them to have complete faith in my ability. In view of the very difficult and delicate situation in which I find myself involved here, I would have appreciated a message of encouragement from you rather than the blast of purely destructive criticism which you saw fit to send me. Under the circumstances, I have decided not to follow any of your suggestions. Mr. Hawkesbury is in such a state of insane rage that he is incapable of listening to reason. Any attempt to apologize would only give him the idea that I had deceived him in the first place, and thus stir him up worse than ever. At the present time, therefore, I will make no attempt to correct any erroneous impression which he may have formed regarding your character, Henderson.

As I told you in my previous letter, George Humber, Mr. Hawkesbury, and I left the Aspen Falls Airport day before yesterday-Monday-afternoon in Mr. Hawkesbury's private plane. Mr. Hawkesbury piloted the machine. George, who is also a licensed pilot, acted as navigator. We landed safely about sunset on the airstrip at the Humber mine, and spent the night in George's comfortable little cabin.

We spent all day yesterday inspecting the property. The weather was fair and warm. At this season in these northern regions the frost is just coming out of the ground. Here and there we found patches of ice and snow. In other places the mud was deep. George showed us the holes where he had done his core drilling, and he explained the extent of the mineral deposits. We inspected the small area where he had removed the overburden with his tractor and wheel scraper, and we looked over the site where he planned to erect his mill.

Mr. Hawkesbury seemed favorably impressed.

"One of the fundamental principles," he said, "on which my entire success in life has been based is initiative and ingenuity. Being richly endowed with these qualities myself, I always like to deal with men who are similarly endowed-which means you, Mr. Humber. The initiative and ingenuity you have shown in locating this mine and planning its development are very remarkable."

Things were indeed going well. I was much encouraged. But that was yesterday.

Last night we had a terrific rainstorm-a veritable cloudburst. We were snug enough in the cabin, but when we looked around this morning we found that a deep gully had been washed out right across the middle of the airstrip.

Mr. Hawkesbury and George were filled with consternation. We had planned an early departure. But both of them agreed that it would be impossible for the plane to take off with only half of the runway available. My two friends were in a quandary. I, however, was much pleased.

I drew George aside and whispered in his ear: "Watch me give this bird a sales talk." I then walked up to Mr. Hawkesbury, threw out my chest, and spoke in clear and confident tones.

Sir," I said, "under certain circumstances our predicament might be serious. We are in the midst of an uninhabited wilderness a hundred miles from civilization. Between us and the nearest settlement, there are no roads or other means of communication nothing but mile after dreary mile of rocks, bush, and muskeg. Our plane cannot take off-nor can any other plane land to rescue us-until we have filled up that gully in the middle of our airstrip."

Mr. Hawkesbury interrupted me, "Don't waste my time telling me what I know already."

"Just give me a chance to explain," I said. "If the three of us tried to fill this gully with dirt, using picks and shovels and wheelbarrows, it would take us many weeks-even months--"

Mr. Hawkesbury interrupted me again, "If you've got a sensible plan of action, let's hear it. Otherwise, shut up. "

Note: At this point, my quick mind recognized the fact that Mr. Hawkesbury has the slow and unimaginative type of mind which is not impressed by the more artistic and oratorical aspects of a sales talk. I therefore came directly to the point.

Sir," I said, "you need have no further worries. In yonder shed Mr. Humber has an Earthworm tractor equipped with a bulldozer and a 15-yard wheel scraper. With this machinery we will fill that gully and smooth off the airstrip in half a day or less. When you see how rapidly and effectively the job is done, you will have no further doubts as to the advisability of using Earthworms and Earthworms only-in constructing the road out here and in the excavating operations for the mine. Furthermore, when you make the final decision as to what tractor you are going to use in connection with your mining machinery 11

Once again Mr. Hawkesbury interrupted. "Holy cow," he said, "if you're going to fix that airstrip, why don't you go ahead and fix it?"

I said, "I am on my way."

George and I opened the doors of the shed. We started the motor and drove the beautiful tractor out into the open, dragging the big 15-yard scraper behind us. I insisted on driving myself, because there is a certain style and distinction to my way of handling a machine. I went roaring across one end of the airstrip with the throttle wide open, plunging down a steep bank on the far side to the edge of a swamp. Here I swung around and scooped up a full load of 15 cubic yards of moist, newly thawed earth. Then, with the good old tractor pulling its hardest, I circled around and headed back for the airstrip across a small patch of frozen muskeg.

This, as it turned out, was a mistake. There was a sudden, hideous jerk. The tractor stopped. I looked back. The wheel scraper, with its tremendous 15yard load, had practically disappeared. And it was all too plain what had happened. The muskeg was frozen only on top. The scraper had broken through the crust and was now resting on the solid bottom about six or eight feet below the surface.

Naturally, I was surprised. I was, in fact, dumbfounded. Muskeg, in this region, normally freezes deep enough to support any kind of a load. And when it thaws in the spring it thaws from the top down. In this case, there was apparently some hidden spring or watercourse which had kept the lower layers from freezing.

What had happened was, of course, no fault of mine. But I found myself in a rather embarrassing position. After all my impressive sales talk, it made a very bad impression on Mr. Hawkesbury. The bad impression worsened when I failed to get out of the hole.

Good old George rallied around like the loyal friend that he is. For the rest of the day we both worked frantically. We shoveled the muskeg away from the front of the scraper and unhitched the tractor. We drove the tractor forward. it was 50 feet to the edge of the muskeg. Then there was 25 feet more of clear solid ice. Beyond that the ground was a little higher, dry, and solid. After we had placed the tractor on this solid footing, we got 100 feet of heavy wire rope from the portable-drill rig and connected the drawbar of the tractor to the front end of the tongue of the wheel scraper. We put the gears in low. We gave the engine everything she had. But it did no good. The scraper was too heavy and it was mired too deep.

We decided to lighten the load. As there was no way to dump the earth out of the scraper we had to do it by ma n strength-using old-fashioned WPA-modet hand shovels. We shoveled all the rest of the day. By suppertime we had removed about I'/2 yards of the total load of 15 cubic yards. I was discouraged. I was sore all over, both physically and mentally. And the attitude of Mr. Hawkesbury did not help. The big bum flatly refused to help us in any way, his only contribution being a series of derogatory remarks.

After supper, he began rubbing it in on us in a really large way. "At the rate you two are going," he said, "it will take you over a week to

nd even then you may not be able to pull it out of the mud. Such being the case, I have decided to fly my plane out of here without waiting for you to repair the airstrip." "How can you take off," I asked, with only half the strip available'7" "I am a resourceful man, Mr. Botts. While you and your friend were wasting your time out in the mud this afternoon, I sent off a radio message ordering some JATO equipment for my plane. It will be flown out here and dropped, by parachute, within two or three days."

"What do you mean by JAT0?"

"Jet-assisted take-off. It is a technique by which the plane is given enough added thrust to get off the ground in about half the normal distance. As soon as the stuff arrives, I shall be flying back to civilization. You two may come along with me or not, as you please." "But we don't want you to hurry away, Mr. Hawkesbury. We want you to wait around till we get the scraper out of the mud so you can see the wonderful work we can do with the Earthworm tractor." "I have seen enough already," said Mr. Hawkesbury. "And I have learned enough. I have learned that the Earthworm tractor is no good in rough country. I have learned that the president of the company is a doddering incompetent and that the sales manager never was any good. And I have learned that you, Mr. George Humber; are as useless in a crisis as Mr. Botts.'

I started to protest: "Wait a minute, Mr. Hawkesbury-" "I do not care to discuss the matter, Mr. Botts. One of the fundamental principles on which my entire success in life has been based is to employ only the best in men and machinery. The pathetic performance of the Earthworm tractor in the present emergency, and the puny efforts of you two men, added to your previous information about Mr. Gilbert Henderson, have convinced me that I want nothing more to do with either the Earthworm Tractor Company or the Humber mine. When I get away from here I will proceed at once to the main office of the Behemoth Tractor Company to sign a contract with them."

As Mr. Hawkesbury seemed to be in such a hostile state of mind, I gave up all attempts to argue with him-for the time being. However, I am not yet licked. Tomorrow, George and I will continue our efforts to rescue that scraper. which is the only piece of equipment around here that can transport enough dirt to fill in that gully. it will thus be a race against time. If we can get going before the JATO stuff arrives, we may be able to put on a demonstration that will cause Mr. Hawkesbury to change his mind. That, at least, is what I am hoping for.

I will now read this report over the short-range radio to the stenographer at the Aspen Falls Airport who has kindly agreed to transcribe it and send it by air mail to you. I have given you this very full account of my activities here so that you may realize that the present unfortunate situation is in no way my fault. Furthermore, I want you to know that I am working with real intelligence to bring matters to a successful conclusion.

if you send me another telegram please restrain your language. Remember that Mr. Hawkesbury may be listening in when it is relayed by radio.

Your ever hopeful sales


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Title Annotation:short story; part 1
Author:Upson, William Hazlett
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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