Official Montana 500 Website

The Model T Garage Delivers

(a piece of fiction by Tom Carnegie)

The Laydon Garage is located in Baton Noir, Idaho. It is owned by Harry Laydon but operated by Joseph Vant. Joseph is a man of about 40. Some say Joseph is a bright fellow - some say that he is a know-it-all. One thing for sure is that you don't call him Joe. He'll correct you if you do. Baton Noir is a small to mid-sized town located near Pinto Bean Lake, on the Crawdad River. The "Baton" part of Baton Noir sounds like "batten" as in "batten the hatches". The "Noir" part sounds like "nor" as in "neither one nor the other". At least this is how the locals pronounce it. The Laydon Garage has no employees other than the manager. This is not unusual for a garage in a town this size in 1919. There are a few free agent mechanics that faithfully show up each day in the hopes that there will be some work for them to do. Usually there is. The Laydon Garage is known locally as the Model T Garage. This is because most of the work they do is on Model T Fords.

Hayes and Jesse Olson are two of the free lance mechanics. This morning Hayes is finishing a transmission job and Jesse is putting a new top on a 1917 touring car that they started working on yesterday. Most people think that Hayes and Jesse are identical twins. Actually, Hayes is 3 years older than Jesse. They both look as if they are in there mid-twenties. They both have blond hair and full beards. Butch Dunsel is a kid. He is about 20 years old, but he is a kid if ever there was one. Joseph likes Butch and gives him all the work he can. Butch fancies himself a mechanic. He is not too great with the technical stuff, but can push a broom and reline bands and tune up coils and that sort of stuff. Butch is on the bench this morning waiting for some work to come in for him to do. Joseph walks into the shop and says, "Gentlemen, I have a proposal for you. The way we work it now is that you are paid by the job as they come in. A whole day could go by and you could sit on the bench all day. Butch, I know this has happened to you a few times last month. What I have in mind is to pay you each for a nine-hour day. The Olsons I will pay sixty-five cents an hour. Butch, I will pay you forty cents an hour. You'll get here at 7:30 each morning and leave at 5:30 with an hour for lunch. There will be advantages and disadvantages to all of us, but it will allow us to do things that we haven't been able to do before, such as deliver parts to our customers. What say, gentlemen?" After a few moments of mentally figuring their income over the past few months, both the Olson boys announce that they are in. As soon as they make their announcement, Butch says that he's in too.

Around noontime most days, Jesse grabs his fiddle and Hayes his guitar and they play a few fiddle tunes. As they finish up a tune, Butch says, "That is a lively piece. What is the name of that song?" "It's called the 8th of January." Replies Jesse. "Oh man," says Butch, "it is so snappy that you'd think it would be a song about spring or summer, not winter." "It so happens" chimes in Joseph, "that it is a tune, not a song. It is about the Battle of New Orleans, which took place January 8th, 1815. Too bad that war was ended with the Treaty of Ghent, signed Christmas Eve the year before." Joseph's youngest and newest employee's face goes sort of blank, and he says "oh."

It is not uncommon for some of the town's people to stop by about this time of day to hear the music. Today, Bob and Ruby Ilks are there. Bob will soon be heading out on horseback to check on the "high irrigation ditch" north of town. It is not a ditch at all but rather an elevated wooden flume that is somewhat prone to leaks. Once a week Bob drives his T into town, borrows a horse and walks the "ditch" looking for leaks.

While his T is in the shop, the folks at the Model T Garage do minor adjustments on his car. Today though, things are different. For one, Ruby, Bob's pretty and very pregnant wife is there. After Bob walks the "ditch", they are heading out to Ruby's sister's place where Ruby is going to stay until the baby is born. The other thing is that Bob's T is going to have some major work done today. The hogshead is coming off and a new set of bands will be installed.

The music dies down and everyone drifts away except the crew and Ruby. "Jesse, could you pull the radiator from my car and solder up the lower strap, I noticed that it has started to leak." "Sure, Boss." Jesse grins from ear to ear as this is the first time he's called Joseph that. Ruby comments on the fine fiddle playing of Jesse, then adds, "I would like to be able to hear music all the time in my house. The Showalters have a Grafanola that plays disks. It is really quite wonderful." "It won't last." Says Joseph. "What won't last?" asks Ruby. Joseph explains, "What I mean is that people aren't going to continue to listen to canned music, and I'll tell you exactly why. Nobody is going to listen to the same songs over and over again. It will be like hearing the same concert night after night. Nobody could stand that. Mark my words. As soon as the novelty of canned music wears off, it will die a quick and well deserved death." "Oh!" says Ruby sharply. "You'll see I'm right." Responds Joseph. "Oh!... Oh!... I need to get out to my sister's place quickly. OH!" Suddenly it dawns on Joseph what is going on. "Hayes, grab my car and drive Ruby out to her sister's place." "Jesse just pulled your radiator off." Joseph clamps his head between his palms, spins around a couple of times then realizes that the only running rig on the place is Butch's 1911 Torpedo. "Butch," he says, "could you please take Ruby out to her sister's place?" "You bet, glad to, can do, you bet!" Hayes and Joseph help Ruby into the seat as Butch cranks up the motor. "She's easy to start since I put a storage battery on her." Butch is talking as they go down the road, but Ruby doesn't seem in the mood for small talk.

About a mile from Ruby's sister's place, Butch's T makes a couple of loud pops, then the engine slows and dies. "Oh man, my mag must have died - great timing." Butch flips it over to battery, runs around to the front and gives her a quarter pull. The T pops once, then nothing. Ruby is clearly uncomfortable as Butch tries to figure out what is going on. He runs around and checks the fuel tank. Nope, not that, plenty of gas. It clearly seems electrical to Butch. Slowly he pulls the crank. A coil starts buzzing. He pulls a screwdriver from his coveralls and shorts out a plug. It is number two that is buzzing. He pulls the crank until the next coil starts buzzing. It is number four. It has a good strong spark just as number two had. "This thing should run!" intones Butch to no one in particular. "It has gas - it has spark - it has compression - it should run!" In frustration he spins the motor over with the crank. It pops a few times, but won't catch. "It must be the timer." So he pulls off the timer. Sure enough - he sees exactly what the problem is. The timer roller spring is gone! The timer is not of Ford manufacture. It is a replacement roller type timer of supposed high quality. It has a Bakelite insulated ring instead of fiber. The oiler lid is not the flip type like Ford's design but rather a cover over a hole. This cover is held on by a spring much like the one that is missing on the roller. Butch installs the cover spring on the roller and replaces the timer. A quarter pull on the crank and the T fires up. On to Ruby's sister's!

The next morning Bob Ilks shows up to claim his car and pass out cigars with blue bands around them. "Robert junior is fine and so is Ruby" he beams. "Thanks to you folks at the Model T Garage." "I thought that we could deliver things from this garage," said Joseph, "I just didn't think we would start with babies!"

The Montana 500 is Sanctioned by The Montana Cross Country T Association.