The chap who sells the plough [short story by Jack Moses]

[Editor: This is a short story from Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse (1923) by Jack Moses.]

The chap who sells the plough

We have chanted the song of the man behind the plough, who justly merits the tribute, but rarely do we warble paeans to the chap who sells the implement.

He must be a salesman, the man who places the reaper-and-binder, and puts on his dungarees to inaugurate the good and easy working of the harvesting plant, so that it successfully takes off the crop.

I touch my hat to the Machinery Traveller, for I know him as a man who played a big part in breaking up this country and transforming it into golden fields of wheat in the early days.

He exhibited his machinery wherever a crowd assembled, either at Wattle Flat Show or Wattle Flat Ploughing Matches and Carnival. He was a seller of the right type; not only one who could talk his manufacture, but who could work it and was practical enough to keep in touch with his purchaser, by the follow-up system. It would be hard to estimate the worth of service rendered by the chap who sells the plough to the farmer in his early quest of wealth, the advice given in connection with a certain class of harvester; how to get the best out of the implement, and the explanation of such matters as fitting up and repairing the machine. He was, in fact, the man who held the light to show the way in regards to sowing and reaping.

I shall always cherish an admiration for the man who sells the plough, for his great work in preaching the gospel of scientific farming.

I have always found him sunny and merry, with a fund of anecdote.

George East was typical of this class.

I remember when cheery old George first took to the roads with Agricultural Machinery. It is many seasons back now, and George has long since ploughed his last furrow.

Sid Lason became associated with an American Binder that offered a fair margin of commission, which rather tickled the desire of George, who, as the binder was popular, could see a bigger opportunity of getting through its medium a bit of cash much more quickly than he was doing through the agency of selling Sewing Machines.

It doesn’t matter now how George and Lason got together; sufficient to note that they did it. Lason being a head of the enterprising firm of Lason Ltd., and also possessing a long experience and intimate knowledge of the road, recognised in happy East, a man who would make good and make good quick and lively, selling agricultural machinery. He engaged him there and then.

“Your Binder is on the truck at Junee, and Burrowa Show is next week,” was the final injunction given jolly George, after arrangements had been completed. A few days later George and his new charge were on the showground at Burrowa.

This was the first occasion on which East had charge of this particular line of machinery, and its handling and the explanation of its intricacies demanded the experience of a practical man. Such experience could hardly be gained in a day, and, in the circumstances, George was rather at sea in respect to the complexity of chains, wheels, rollers, and knotters. I am a layman, but I might be called on to offer explanation at this point. Well, the “knotter,” or the needle, is always a puzzle for any man not wholly initiated in respect to the details of a new machine. George had pursued the even tenor of his way until the “knotter” loomed up, and the necessity of threading the needle arose. At this stage deep lines of consternation crept into the happy face of George, and he started thinking.

Believe me, George could think some when he started.

George was, in truth, perturbed, but every cloud has a silver lining, and George’s silver lining came in the form of a quartette of sturdy blokes from Burrowa, who knew the binder backward.

“Hullo! the same machine as my old man’s,” said one, as the four stopped to view the implement.

East scented his game. The blue was creeping slightly through his clouds.

“Excuse me, my dear sir, but your father has not got a machine similar to this.”

“’Struth! it’s the same machine; isn’t it, Bill?” The Burrowa chap turned to a cobber, then placed his hand on the trigger bar.

“Oh, no!” returned East, emphatically; “I can assure you that it is not.”

“Look here, mate,” was the rejoinder; “I’ll bet you a quid that it is.”

“Oh, no, no!” returned East; “I don’t want to take your money. Maybe your Dad has an old type of the machine, but this is up-to-date.”

There were signs of incredulity hovering around the Burrowa chap, but he ventured:

“What’s new about it?”

“Why, the knotter, for instance,” East remarked.

“Oh, the knotter? Let’s have a screw at the blanky knotter, then.” And he proceeded to inspect.

After handling the contrivance a minute or so, he
was quite satisfied, and exclaimed with disdain: “Just the
same old knotter. No difference.”

“Well,” said George with determination; “I don’t want to take your money, but to convince you that you are mistaken, I’ll bet you four drinks that you can’t thread the needle and fix up the knot.”

“It’s a wager. Easy money, boys! Here. Bill, hold me coat. Give us the knotter.” So, taking hold of the portion of the machine that had promised to be the undoing of cheery George, he set to work, and, without any apparent difficulty, threaded the needle.

George eyed him intently; no detail of the operation was missed.

“By Jove!” he remarked, as the thing was done — and he had been fully educated and carried over the obstacle that faced him a few minutes before. “You’re quite right, your old Dad must be up-to-date. Come and have a drink.”

That’s how cheery George untied the first knot of difficulty he met, and that’s how he was assisted to become one of the most successful of our machinery experts, perhaps the most resourceful on the road — Old George, who is known far and wide as “the man to sell the plough.”

Jack Moses, Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse, Sydney: Austral Publishing Co., 1923, pages 58-61

Editor’s notes:
blanky = substitution for a swear word (such as “bloody”)

Jove = an alternate name for Jupiter; in Roman mythology, Jupiter was king of the gods, as well as the god of sky and thunder (“by Jove” is an exclamatory phrase, denoting excitement or surprise; the phrase was a way of saying “by God” without blaspheming)

paean = a poem, hymn, or song of joy, praise, thanksgiving, or triumph; a piece of artwork, film, song, or written work that gives great praise

’struth = an oath, a contraction of “God’s truth”, also rendered as “Gawstruth” or “Gorstruth”

traveller = a commercial traveller, a travelling salesman

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
me (my)

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