Who is Alexander Botts?

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This fall, Octane Press published the first installment of Alexander Botts and the Earthworm Tractor, a series of humorous short stories about a bumbling salesman's trial and tribulations selling crawler tractors. His unusual sales tactics send the machines through seemingly impervious swamps, murky lakes, and high snowbanks. His schemes consistently backfire but, in the end, he never fails to close a deal! In the first book, Botts Begins, he talks his way into a job selling Earthworm Tractors for The Farmers' Friend Tractor Company. 

Who is this larger than live character? Botts is based off the author's, William Hazlett Upson, brief career as a mechanic for Caterpillar Tractor Company. But they have more in common than we knew!

The Botts stories were published in the Saturday Evening Post from 1927-1975. Though wildly popular decades ago, not many people know of them today. There are over 100 hilarious stories and Octane Press will publish the series in its entirety including several stories that did not appear in the Post. Get to know Botts with this short excerpt and join our mailing list to be the first to hear about future publications!

In this excerpt from the short story "I'm a Natural-Born Salesman," you meet Alexander Botts on his first sales job with the Farmers' Friend Tractor Company. In a letter to his boss, he explains his unusual sales tactics and an unfortunate encounter with a potential buyer.

After paying the freight I hired several guys from the town garage to put gas and oil in the tractor, and then I started them bolting the little cleats onto the tracks. You see I am right up on my toes all the time. I think of everything. And I figured that if we were going through the mud we would need these cleats to prevent slipping. While they were being put on, I stepped over to the office of Mr. Johnson, the lumberman.
As soon as I had explained my errand to this Mr. Johnson—who is a very large, hard-boiled bozo—he gave me what you might call a horse laugh.
“You are wasting your time,” he said. “I told that fool salesman who was here before that tractors would be no good to me. All my timber is four miles away on the other side of the Great Gumbo Swamp, which means that it would have to be brought through mud that is deeper and stickier than anything you ever seen, young feller.”

“You would like to get it out, wouldn’t you?” I asked.
“I sure would,” he said, “but it’s impossible. You don’t understand conditions down here. Right on the roads the mules and horses sink in up to their bellies; and when you get off the roads, even ducks and turtles can hardly navigate.”
“The Earthworm tractor,” I said,” has more power than any duck or turtle. And if you’ll come out with me, I’ll show you that I can pull your logs through that swamp.”
“I can’t afford to waste my time with such crazy ideas,” he said. “I’ve tried motor equipment. I have a motor truck now that is stuck three feet deep right on the main road at the edge of town.”
“All right,” I said, always quick to grasp an opportunity, “how about coming along with me while I pull out your truck?”
“Well,” said Mr. Johnson, “I can spare about an hour this morning. If you’ll go right now, I’ll go with you, although I doubt if you can even pull out the truck. And even if you do, I won’t buy your tractor.”
“How about going this afternoon?” I asked.
“I’ll be busy every minute of this afternoon. It’s now or never.”
“Come on!” I said.
We walked over together to the freight platform, and as the cleats were now all bolted on we both climbed into the cab.
Note: I will explain that I was sorry that Mr. Johnson had been unable to wait until afternoon, as I had intended to use the morning in practicing up on driving the machine. It is true, as I said in my letter, that I became familiar with Earthworm tractors when I was a member of a motorized artillery outfit in France, but as my job in the artillery was that of cook, and as I had never before sat in the seat of one of these tractors, I was not as familiar with the details of driving as I might have wished. However, I was pleased to see that the tractor seemed to have a clutch and gear shift like the automobiles I have often driven.
I sat down on the driver’s seat with reasonable confidence, Mr. Johnson sat down beside me, and one of the garage men cranked up the motor. It started at once, and when I heard the splendid roar of the powerful exhaust, and saw that thirty or forty of the inhabitants, were standing around with wondering and admiring faces, I can tell you I felt proud of myself. I put the gear in low, opened the throttle and let in the clutch.
Note: I would suggest that you tell your chief engineer, or whoever it is that designs your tractors, that he ought to put in a standard gear shift. You can understand that it is very annoying, after you have pulled the gearshift lever to the left and then back, to find that instead of being in low you are really in reverse.
As I said, I opened the throttle, let in the clutch, and started forward. But I found that when I started forward, I was really—on account of the funny gear shift—moving backward. And instead of going down the gentle slope of the ramp in front, the whole works backed off the rear edge of the platform, dropping at least four feet into a pile of crates with such a sickening crash that I thought the machine was wrecked and both of us killed.
But it soon appeared that, although we were both very much shaken up, we were still alive—especially Mr. Johnson, who began talking so loud and vigorously that I saw I need have no worry about his health. After I had got Mr. Johnson quieted down a bit, I inspected the machine and found that it was not hurt at all. As I am always alert to seize an opportunity, I told Mr. Johnson that I had run off the platform on purpose to show him how strongly built the tractor was. Then after I had promised I would not make any more of these jumps, he consented to remain in the tractor, and we started off again.
Note: Kindly tell your chief engineer that Alexander Botts congratulates him on producing a practically unbreakable tractor. But tell him that I wish he would design some thicker and softer seat cushions. If the base of the chief engineer’s spine was as sore as mine still is, he would realize that there are times when good thick seat cushions are highly desirable.

See what happens next.....Alexander Botts and the Earthworm Tractor: Botts Begins