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As It Was: Rancher Describes Cranking Model-Ts out of Creeks

Applegate Rancher Rupert Maddox recalled for an oral history project how versatile his 1914 Model T Ford was, especially when water flooded the carburetor while fording a swollen creek.

Ford built more than 15 million of the cars, also known as “Tin Lizzies” or “Flivvers,” between 1908 and 1927.

It took a hand crank to start them. Describing what he did when the motor died mid-stream, Maddox said, “All you had to do was just leave the key off, and leave (the car) … in low gear, then you would get out and you could crank yourself right out of the stream and up on the bank,” where “you would unscrew the bottom of the carburetor and drain the water out, and put the plug back in, crank up and then you would go again...

“It was surprising how easy it was, too, because the gear ratio was real low. You could take that crank and just wind it like this, and just … pull it right on the bank …”

You could do that with a $300 Model T. Don’t try it in today’s computer-driven cars.

Sources: Staff, History.com. "Model T." History.Com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/model-t; Atwood, Kay. Oral History Interviews. Vol. 1: Rogue River National Forest, 1980. Recollections: people and the forest. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. <http://soda.sou.edu/awdata/020829b1.pdf>.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.