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Crow-Elkhart…My Pop’s First Car

Story ID:8991
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Crow-Elkhart…My Pop’s First Car…
By Chuck Dishno

As many of you know from my past writings, my Pop was born in 1884 in the Big Hole Valley, Montana. His father and grandfather were early day cattle ranchers so it was only natural for Pop to follow into the ranching business.

By 1910, Pop had his own cattle ranch and was growing his own hay…He was well on his way to a successful life. He had married the preverbal “Schoolmarm”. Cattle and hay prices were at an all time high and Pop was doing well.

Up until that time Pop’s only mode of transportation was by horseback or buggy. The rage in the mid-teens was the automobile and Pop decided he wanted and could afford one.

One of the popular new cars at the time was a Crow-Elkhart, manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana. By today’s standards it wasn’t much but Pop had seen pictures of one and the nearest dealer was in Anaconda, Montana, about 50 miles away.

Pop contacted the dealer and within a few days a salesman drove the latest model over for Pop's approval. Pop said the automobile was just what he was looking for. It was a touring model with a 20 horsepower motor. Pop said the salesman drove him all around and taught him how to drive and shift this magnificent machine. The deal was struck and Pop paid him cash. He didn’t say how much it was or how the salesman got back to Anaconda but he just left the 20 horsepower beast idling in the yard. Pop then took his wife and brother for a joy ride and upon returning home he realized that the salesman hadn’t told him how to shut off the engine. Pop said he knew how to start it by giving the crank a few turns but had no idea how to kill the engine. He said that they all tried and finally decided to turn the steering wheel in a circle and let it run around and around until it ran out of gas.

The next morning Pop put in some gas then took his first trip – to the dealer and get instructions on how to shut the dang thing off.

As this was one of the first automobiles in the Big Hole, Pop became a much sought after authority, especially in the art shutting one of them off.

Pop told me this story many years ago and would brag about what a great invention the auto was. He said he especially liked the way the exhaust came out the back and not under your nose when you were taking your best girl for a ride in a horse drawn buggy.

All went well for Pop for the next few years until his wife left him and the Great Depression took away his ranch. Pop was never to one to mull over the past and the only thing that would make him tear-up was when he spoke of the bank leading away his faithful old saddle horse, Whiz Bang.

All these things worked out best for Pop and shortly after losing his ranch he met my mom and my life began a few years later.

I loved this old man and the many values in life he taught me. The most important one was never to dwell over the past and always stare adversity in the eye and say, “I am better than you.”