In the 1930s, when International Harvester salesman John Russell made his rounds on the back roads of rural Indiana, he was accompanied by a young apprentice … his son, Clint. For a farm boy, it was the next best thing to heaven.
“I developed a love of machinery,” Clint recalls. “We had a new tractor every six months, as my dad would try out new models and demonstrate them for local farmers. My earliest recollections are of riding around with him. He worked out of a toolbox as much as he did out of a briefcase. He’d sell the equipment, and then do the set-up. Like binders: They were very complicated pieces of machinery. An ordinary truck driver making a delivery couldn’t set them up. That know-how was what separated a successful salesman from an unsuccessful salesman.”
The salesman’s young son got involved at an early age. “The bolts International sent would be in a bag of burlap that had been dipped in paint at the factory until the burlap was saturated,” Clint recalls. “The paint would make the threads on the bolts almost unusable, plus they were stuck together. That was my job, to break bolts apart. At 5, that was about all I could do!”
A few years later he was promoted to more challenging work. “When I was about 7, my dad sold a combine, one of the first big combines I’d ever seen. It had rods and wires that were inserted in the straw rack. They were going to have to take that thing half apart to do that. My dad started looking at the compartment, and looking at me, and finally he asked ‘Do you think you could fit in there?’ I said I guessed I could, so they put me inside and I spent a couple of hours inserting the rods.”
At age 12, Clint began milking cows with a McCormick-Deering milking machine. He stayed in dairy work until his mid-30s, when he sold out. Then he did what came naturally: Following his father’s lead, he built a career selling farm machinery. FC