It Ran Over Rabbits
by Ellis Parker Butler
Now, there's a car -- said Bill Phipps -- I'll let you have for $400 and you can take all the time you want to pay for it. Look it over, and if you don't say it is worth $900 of anybody's money, I'll eat it, tires and all. There it stands, a 1930 Complex, not a scratch on it, driven only 3000 miles and as perfect as the day it left the factory. If that's not the biggest bargain ever offered in a car I'm a ring-tailed monkey.
What's the matter with it? Nothing is the matter with it. Get in it and drive it around. Try it on the hills. Try it on Becker's hill. Start it up Becker's hill at four miles an hour and if it don't pick up to forty by the top of the hill I'll put it in a glass of gas and drink it. That's some car, friend! I'll tell you what -- you can have it for $350. A car like that for $350!
No, I didn't steal it, either. A fellow turned it in. A man named Messick turned it in -- Henry P. Messick. He -- well, he didn't want it any more. He got tired of it. He turned it in on another car -- same year, same model, same color, same everything. He just didn't like this car. It sort of got on his nerves. Him and it didn't get along together. Friend -- I'll tell you. I'm going to be perfectly frank with you and tell you about this car. The reason this man Messick didn't like this car was like this -- it ran over rabbits. Yes, I said "rabbits" -- it ran over them when he drove out in the country. Them little hoppy animals that go hoppety-hop, like squirrels, only they ain't. Cotton-tails. Sure you know what they are. Rabbits. Oh, sure! Sure, anybody is liable to run over a rabbit now or then, or a cat, or a chicken, the way they scoot across the road when you ain't expecting them to. At night, when the lights glare in their eyes. The trouble with this Henry P. Messick was too many rabbits. This car ran over too many rabbits.
Now, listen friend -- what I'm telling you is that because this car ran over too many rabbits for Henry P. Messick is no reason it is going to run over too many rabbits for you. It might run over a million rabbits for Henry P. Messick and not run over a single rabbit for you. No, I didn't say it ran over a million rabbits. I said "if." I said, even if it did happen to run over a million rabbits when Henry P. Messick was driving it that's no reason why it should run over even one rabbit when you are driving it. I never said it ran over a million rabbits for Henry P. Messick. It never ran over even a hundred thousand rabbits. I bet it didn't run over even a thousand rabbits. This Henry P. Messick was just exaggerating-like. He got rabbits on the brain.
Well, now listen! Wait a minute! Don't go off till I tell you. You don't want to throw down a chance to pick up a job like this for $350, do you? I ain't stringing you, friend -- I'm telling you the truth. You can go and ask Henry P. Messick and he'll tell you just what I'm telling you -- rabbits was all that he objected to about this car. Well, say rabbits and turtles -- rabbits and turtles and, maybe, toads -- animals like that. He got a notion this car was animal-hoodooed for him. Yeah!
That's no sign it would be animal-hoodooed for anybody else, is it? It's no sign it would be animal-jinxed for you, friend. Not at all! To the contrary!
I know -- and every dealer knows -- that once in a while a man sells a job to a man and for that man it is a hoodoo car. In comes a shipment of six-cylinder Complexes, 1930 model sedans, moss green paint job, and every car absolutely like every other car. You get four hundred Complex Sixes that year and three hundred and ninety-nine of them are whiz-bangs. Three hundred and ninety-nine of them roll out of the garage and not one of them ever gives anybody any trouble at all. They're sweet. And this other car you sell to a guy named Yopps, say, for instance.
All right! You take this man Yopps' check and he gets in the car and drives out onto the street and the bumper falls off. The next day the windshield jams and won't go up or down. The next day the brake lining burns out when the car is standing still, almost, and two spring leaves snap when he is running practically on the level. In a week you've had to put in a new radiator, give him a new battery, make over his ignition system, adjust his carburetor, and put in five gaskets. No accidents, no carelessness, the car just makes up its mind to fall apart and crack up and be mean. And three hundred and ninety-nine of the same model Complex Six all running as sweet as pie!
In the ten years that you've been handling the Complex you've never had any rear end trouble but the next week this man Yopps' Complex rips its rear end all to pieces. In two weeks the crankshaft twists right in two. One cylinder cracks. A door falls off the hinges. The fan comes loose. You never had any of these things happen to a Complex but they all happen to this XT768509842 when this man Yopps owns it.
I'm telling you that every dealer knows this is so. We run up against a Mr. Yopps and his hoodoo car. It's not because he don't drive right, because he does drive right. So we go ahead replacing parts for Mr. Yopps and we go ahead quieting him down and telling him everything will be all right now -- and the paint peels off the car, the first paint that ever did peel off a Complex since the year One. And the generator flops. And two spokes in the front left wheel drop out. Mr. Yopps has nothing but trouble with that car. You know by this time that it is a hoodoo car for Mr. Yopps. It will never be thing but trouble for Mr. Yopps.
All right! You take it up with the factory and
write them about it and they send a man from the nearest headquarters, and you dicker with Mr. Yopps and come to an agreement and Mr. Yopps gets a new car. And what happens? You sell the hoodoo car to Mr. Flensky or Mr. Buskin or Mr. Gampur -- and you never hear a word of trouble about that car again. Nothing goes wrong. It runs like a dream. The new owner comes in and shakes your hand and tells you he is getting thirty-six miles out of a gallon of gas, and that all the car has to do is smell oil once a week. He says it is a perfect car. And Mr. Yopps has no trouble with his new Complex Six. It never whimpers. It breezes along like a lark.
Every dealer knows of cases like that, my friend. Some cars are hoodoos for some people; some people are hoodoos for some cars. A man gets a serial number XG4538790 and he has trouble with it day and night; he gets a serial number XG4538791 and they get along like man and wife -- better even.
And that is why I can offer you this beautiful turn-in job for $350. To Mr. Henry P. Messick this particular Complex Six was a rabbit hoodoo. It killed rabbits for him. Whenever he took it out on the road -- day or night -- it killed rabbits. Rabbits and turtles and such little animals. Chipmunks. Squirrels.
I will tell you frankly, my friend, that Mr. Henry P. Messick drove that car into this garage day before yesterday and said, "Take this car -- I will not drive it another day for love nor money!"
"Why not?" I asked him. "What is the matter with the car?"
"It kills rabbits," he said. Every time I have taken it out on the road for the last two weeks it has killed rabbits. It has run over one or more rabbits every time I have taken it out on the road. No matter how I steer it to avoid rabbits, it runs over rabbits."
"Well," I said, for I knew that Mr. Henry P. Messick said, "but I am afraid this is a hoodoo car for me. The very day I bought this car from you it began running over toads. You know how toads hop across roads at night. I did my best to avoid running over toads that were crossing the road, but this car ran over them. Hundred of toads."
"But that was not the worst," he said. "It began to run over chipmunks and squirrels. It kept on running over toads, but it also ran over chipmunks and squirrels. It ran over hundred of chipmunks and squirrels. It ran over toads by night and it ran over chipmunks and squirrels by day, and I think this car is a hoodoo for me when it comes to running over animals."
When you get a man like that you have to jolly him along. A lot of these automobile owners are funny. They don't know what they are talking about. They come in and say, "My car is not doing well on hills and I think it is that rattle that is the matter," and the rattle is a loose license plate. You have to jolly them along.
"Every car runs over a few animals," I told Mr. Henry P. Messick, "and you don't want to worry about that. If the car was running over cows and horses you might begin to worry, but what are a few toads and squirrels?"
"It has been running over rabbits," he said. "It has not run over a toad or a chipmunk or a squirrel for two weeks, but it has been running over rabbits lately. Hundred of rabbits. Five weeks ago it ran over toads, and four weeks ago it ran over chipmunks and squirrels, and three weeks ago it ran over turtles, and two weeks ago -- and ever since -- it has been running over rabbits, and I have stood all that as long as I could, without complaint, but I want to get rid of this car now. Toads I can stand, and chipmunks and squirrels I can stand, and turtles I can stand, and rabbits and chickens and cats I can stand running over, fair to middling well, but now I want to get rid of this car for whatever you will give me for it. I do not want to drive it any more."
"Why not?" I asked him. "What is the matter now?"
"I am afraid it has got past rabbits," he said, shaking his head. "I am afraid it has got past toads and chipmunks and squirrels and turtles and rabbits and has begun a new series."
"What new series. Pigs?" I asked him.
"No, Mr. Phipps," he said, "but I will tell you the facts. Last night I drove out in the country and I drove carefully so that I would not drive over any rabbits. I drove slowly and kept my eye on the road, and by and by I saw two small black and white animals crossing the road in front of me. They were like cats but they were not cats. Bend down and I will whisper their name in your ear."
"Oh!" I said, when he had whispered the name in my ear.
"So I slowed my car even more," said Henry P. Messick, "but one of the small black and white animals got immediately in front of the car. So I stopped the car. No man wants to run over that kind of small black and white animal."
"You bet he don't!" I said. "But your car don't smell as if --"
"No," said Mr. Messick. "When I stopped my car one of those animals went and laid down behind my rear right wheel, so I got out of my car and walked back to town. And that is why I want to get rid of this car -- if it is going to run over hundreds of those little black and white animals, I want to get rid of it. It is a hoodoo car for me when it comes to animals, as you can see."
So, my friend, that is why I can offer you this fine bargain at only $350, and you had better take it. One man's jinx is another man's mascot; one man's hoodoo is another man's luck (said Bill Phipps, the dealer).