Doctors Turned Automobilists
'After having used horses in my medical practice for ten years, I became interested in the automobile as doing away with the great expense of keeping teams, the bother and disagreeable features of drivers, etc. I subscribed for the three leading automobile journals, sent for a catalogue of every vehicle I saw advertised, attended every automobile show I could get to, and finally pinned my faith to steam as the best power for my business.
'The first of April finally saw me in possession of a steam carriage of the latest construction. Ready for anything, and on the point of selling my teams---so sure was I that the automobile was the proper means of locomotion for a doctor. My experience with steam had all been on paper, my knowledge of it being derived entirely from catalogues and journals. So after fixing up after a fashion I started out and ran quite a distance very successfully.
'Then wishing to appear before my family as a full-blown chauffeur, I started for my residence, just in front of which I began to smell gasoline for five minutes. Without stopping to think, I pulled out a match and attempted to relight the fire. Piff! Bang! And the whole thing was ablaze. I retained presence of mind enough to turn off the main gasoline supply and to throw out the cushions and throw mud and dirty water from the street at it until I had subdued the flames, but my $800 auto looked like a bad case of delirium tremens: the paint was scorched and soiled and my reputation as an expert shattered the first day among all the neighbors, who, as usual, witnessed the accident.
'This first experience rather put a damper on my enthusiasm, at least for two or three days, but when the machine had been washed up it looked somewhat better, and after much persuasion I induced my wife to accompany me on a short spin. After we had ridden out about a mile I suddenly missed the water. The fusible plug blew out and my boiler burned. Now I was simply going to shine! I explained how this could easily be overcome, for (according to the catalogue) all that is necessary is to insert a key where the fusible plug was, pump up the water by hand, and go rejoicing on your way. Spreading a robe on the ground I proceeded to put my printed instructions into practice; but, alas! I found the key would not fit in the opening, as the babbitt metal stuck to the sides and the tubes were leaking badly. So with fingers burned and clothes soiled and disordered I was again towed home in disgrace, and here I learned my first two lessons in automobiling: First, don't believe over one-half you read in the printed catalogue; second, never wear a silk hat, frock coat and white linen on an auto trip; they don't look well after an accident.'
'Many object to the steam type of machine on the ground that there are so many important matters to keep in mind. I personally think this is one of the advantages, for it gives one a great deal of personal satisfaction to master a beautiful piece of mechanism and keeps his faculties alert while utilizing the same.
'We do not go fishing for pleasure with a net, and spirited horses are still in demand. As I have never had two machines at one time I cannot really decide on my preference for use. I intend to have both styles next year and shall be curious to find out which one I really get the most use out of. I am sure the beginner will usually have more luck with the steam machine, for its main points can be appreciated in fifteen minutes' time. I have seen an expert work on a gasoline machine all day, and then after it got to running be unable to tell which of his various adjustments had accomplished the end in view.
'There is no question that the gasoline machine is far ahead as to economy of fuel, though the repairs of batteries and cost of oil used are somewhat amazing. The usual repair shop would hardly care to tackle the mechanism of a gasoline engine, and if the carriage is purchased from a manufacturer some hundreds of miles away the element of time and expense involved is rather appalling. Another trouble with the heavy gasoline machines is the very weight which enables them to obtain the high speeds and be properly steered. Many of them cannot be pulled by a single horse and offer a severe strain to the ordinary harness. If one gets down into a ditch it is practically impossible to do anything without the assistance of quite a gang of men.'