My grandfather and a colleague were on a business trip in western Pennsylvania, driving across the state in a Studebaker with the windows rolled down. When they stopped for gas, my grandfather glanced at the map on the gas station wall, and noticed a 1,000-acre buffalo ranch about a hundred miles ahead. He got back in the car.
About twenty minutes later, he stuck his head out the window and sniffed. “Huh!” he said, puzzled. He sniffed again. “Huh!”
“What?” his friend asked him.
“I thought I smelled… no, it couldn’t be.”
“What? What is it?”
“Well, it’s funny. I thought I smelled… buffalo!”
His friend laughed at him, and again several times during the next three hours as my grandfather continued to stick his head out the window, sniff the air, and knit his brows. “It’s buffalo, I’m almost sure of it.”
Finally, they crested a hill, and my grandfather earned a legendary and unearned reputation as the keenest tracker and sharpest nose in Mar-Tile’s stable of floor covering salesman. Spread out below them across the coal-mining hills was a colossal herd of prarie buffalo, imported to Pennsylvania by a livestock speculator.
Cleverness is a virtue on my mom’s side of the family. Christmas presents are disguised using elaborately-devised countermeasures. So I always prized this story as an example of inspired Baldwin bullshit-ery, until I just realized: who puts brand new 1,000-acre buffalo ranches on the gas station map?