A Special Friend

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Rt 2, Box 295-A, Kearney, Nebraska 68847

The first time I met my Special Friend was at a hobby and craft show in Wilcox, Nebraska. He was running a little ? scale Case steam engine, which I fell in love with immediately. Having grown up in Kearney, Nebraska, I had my first encounter with little ? scale Case steam engines when I was about eight. One was owned by Ed Jacobs of Smith Center, Kansas and one belonged to Emil Baden hoop. I was entranced by these little engines, but after a few years my interests changed and contact with these engines disappeared. Therefore at the age of 25, to meet this Special Friend running a ? scale engine, it was only natural that a wonderful friendship of 17 years would begin.

A year later this little community had another show and again my Special Friend was there with his little Case. This time I asked more questions. He answered willingly our bond was growing! The show was over and as I was ready to leave. He said, 'Come see me sometime.' (Are your kidding? I could hardly wait!) The day came (what joy!). I met his wife and she jokingly said, 'Oh, you're another one of those crazy engine guys.' Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I guess I am. We drove out to his farm, he opened the door to a little garage and there sat the little Case and about half a dozen gas engines. We talked, my interest level grew to new highs, then I asked the big question? Will you sell it ? He said, 'No, no, not yet, but maybe someday.' My heart began pumping normal. We visited more, then it was time to go. I said goodbye and hope to see you soon.

As I drove home, I knew that I just had to have a steam engine. When I got home that evening, I opened up my Iron Men Album and began to read the 'for sale' section. There were no scale models, but wait the ad said 'for sale one 60 HP Case steam engine.' Then I thought, why not make a call to the owner? Yes, why not? I might just as well learn with a full size. I called my Special Friend, and asked him. He replied, 'You're interested in what? Sure, I'd love to ride along.' Victory at last! An engine was mine, and our bond grew!

That fall my Special Friend approached me with an idea, 'Would you still be interested in the little ? scale? I would like to buy one of Ternings scale Case's so I'll sell you the ? scale, if you're still interested.' I said okay!

The next summer brought the estate sale of Roy Kite's engines. I didn't need another engine, but I called my Special Friend and said, 'Let's go, we can always eat some pie.' The pie sold well, but not all of the engines. I bought the 65 Case, why not? We needed something to talk about on the way home.

I sold the 60 Case and we attended more shows, each time my Special Friend was there. I had a growing interest in owning a scale. I found one in Manitoba, Canada. Again I asked my Special Friend to ride along, our friendship growing.

That summer proved to be somewhat scary. My Special Friend and I had taken our engines to a parade and threshing bee at Gothenberg, Nebraska, hosted by Miles Butterbaugh and his wife. The next day, my Special Friend's wife called and told me that he'd had a heart attack. He had surgery and after about six to seven months he was back on his feet. The doctor told him he needed to stay away from the heat and smoke, so engine running came to a halt for my Special Friend. Meanwhile, I had sold the 65 Case and had purchased a 50 HP Case from the 1880 train museum in southern South Dakota. The following spring and summer, my Special Friend found that running the half scale was more than he wanted to do and the doctor had told him not to. I sold the ? scale and bought the scale. We continued our show going and my Special Friend rekindled his interest with some scale model gas engines. He continued to enjoy these engines up until his death just a few short weeks ago.

By now, many of you readers know who my Special Friend was. He was John Sanger of Franklin, Nebraska. As I write these lines, the tears seem to keep coming. It was extremely hard to lose him, but I feel deeply blessed in having 17 years with my Special Friend. He was not only kind and loving to me and my family, but to everyone he knew and met. He touched the lives of so many, possibly never knowing how so many felt. I believe this love and tenderness came from his early years in life having served in the Army Air Force and seeing so many of his own special friends lose their lives defending our country.

John, We Love You, We Miss You, May God Bless...