Man Singin Engine

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana

Joe Fahnestock

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Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

'Joe, come along and listen to the cutest thing I've heard on the grounds,' said 'the Missus' at the '68 Tri-State Gas & Tractor Reunion, Portland, Indiana. 'There's only one little old gas engine running and it sounds just like some little old man humming a tune while he works.'

Grabbing camera and recorder I trekked along and sure enough, there under a spreading chestnut tree (not unlike the legendary village smithy) stood the li'l ol' 'Singing Man Engine' -- chugging away and 'humming' his solitary tune as he worked, while Spark Plug, Carl Rismiller, fawned proudly at the sudden sensation his newly-discovered 'prize' was creating on the sprawling Tri-State grounds.

'Turn, turn, dee, dum, dum' hummed the 'li'l ol' Singing Engine' as he chugged away - the only engine popping that early in the morning - like some little old hillbilly humming a tune through a kazoo while whittling away on a walkin' stick.

When he was singing 'turn, turn it was always on the same pitch of the scale and when he'd progress to 'dee' and 'dum, dum' he'd ascend from 'doh' to 'mi' then 'so' and onward up the diatonic musical ladder, as if the li'l ol'-timer had one day learned the notes of the scale at his Mommy's knee. Sometimes he sings up the scale, sometimes down the scale, depending on how happy he be.

O1' Man Singin' Engine- displayed by Spark Plug Carl Rismiller at Tri-State '68 in Portland, Indiana. It became quite an attraction, after my wife happened to hear some old man humming a tune on the grounds early one morning and discovered it to be this two-horse Fairbanks-Morse. Unusual 'singing effect' was caused by pits in carb. intake diaphragm and not especially planned by the jokester, Spark Plug Rismiller. Diaphragm protrudes like a loud speaker at bottom front of engine base. And it sang like a loud speaker.

For Spark Plug Carl Rismiller it was a big day - fidgeting with his little Fairbanks-Morse carburetor to keep the 'li'l ol man engine' humming for those who'd heard the unusual news about a singing-man engine and dropped by to listen - almost to the point that he plum forgot to even start his other Fairbanks-Morse, the Jaegar, the Stover and various May tags he'd fetched along.

In fact it was the 'talk of Tri-State' reunion grounds - that li'l ol' Singin' Man Engine of Carl's among the menfolk as well as the women and kiddies.

'Never heard anything like it,' mused Iron Man, Percy Sherman who'd come all the way from Palmyra, Michigan, to listen to the popping engines and otherwise help cement the brotherhood be-twixt Spark Plugs and Iron Men. 'Never heard a gas engine singin' a tune before.' But although Spark Plug Carl Rismiller didn't exactly plan it that way, his little singing Fairbanks-Morse fit nicely in among the other reunion jokes he slyly pulls on the boys around the association grounds.

Like the little red tin one-gallon gas can he filled with lead -- ninety pounds of it poured molten into the innards and allowed to solidify, making such a 'fooler' that when one of his perennial 'gas-borrowing' buddies came along to borrow some fire-juice, instead of 'h'isting''' the can up and running away as he usually did, 'Mr. Can' stayed put on the ground, the impact of which sent 'Mr. Gas-Borrower' head-first right smack into the trunk of a tree.

'That 'learnt' him a lesson to come borrowing' my gasoline,' mused Spark Plug Rismiller as he watched his panhandling friend rubbing his sore noggin.

It all became so amusing that folks began asking just what Spark Plug Carl did to such inanimate things as gas engines to make 'em sing tunes - and gas cans to cure 'borrowers'of stealing gasoline.

'Well, I did do something about the gas can to teach lessons about stealing my gasoline supply empty, but I didn't do a thing to make my gas engine sing, chuckled Carl. 'The humming tune that comes from my little Fairbanks-Morse engine is caused by rust pits in the carburetor intake diaphram. At first 1 thought I'd try to remove those rust pits but now that everyone enjoys hearing it - I may even put some pits in my other engine intakes so they can sing (along with Mitch?).

But then, since li'l ol Singin' Man's 'voice' came rather 'naturally' as gas engines and their like go - that is by rust and the invasions of moisture and fuel acids - it's a fair guess that Rismiller will just leave well enough alone by leaving all the 'opera singing' to the little fellow while the others just pop along like all gas engines should.

For to a Spark Plugger like Rismiller, the sound of gas engines popping is the sweetest of music even though others may like the 'vocalizing' thrown in.

It's like a visit to 'gas engine heaven' - stopping by Carl Rismiller's at the northern environs of the village of Pleasant Hill.

'Don't try to locate us by mail,' laughs Mrs. Rismiller - Joyce to those who know her first name. 'Although we live at 1505 North State Route 48, there's no mail route here at P. Hill. So, though we reside here at P. Hill, and many send our mail to P. Hill, our real mail address is Route one, Ludlow Falls, Ohio.'

It's rather a perennial mix-up - the juggling of our Spark Plug's official address. The deed to the Rismiller property reads, 'Route one, Pleasant Hill'. But there being no (rural) route one there, (Carl living just the next house beyond the village mail carrier route), and having to have his official mail delivered from another village several miles up the pike, well, one can see how folks can get mixed up by searching out the lair of ye Spark Plug at the Wrong town.

'We just tell everyone we live at both Pleasant Hill and Ludlow Falls,' is the way Joyce Rismiller puts it, letting others figure out the goof-up.

With such a mailing-address SNAFU, one soon realizes that it's not only spark plugs that get fouled up at Spark Plug Carl Rismillers'!

Not only that, but unlike most Spark Plugs who have but one engine shop, Spark Plug Rismiller has four shops, located in sheds, lean-to's and extensions dotted here and there over his little plot of around at the edge of P. Hill.

Spark Plug 'C' - Carl Rismiller Jr., the eldest of the alphabetical foursome, vents his fertile imagination on an old one-horse furrowing-out plow in Dad's stockpile beside the engine shop.

'Carl is real proud of his newest shop, which he built by extending the north end of the barn,' says Mrs. Rismiller.

Thus if Spark Plug Carl happens to be hunting a certain part to a certain carburetor for a certain gas engine -- well he must often times rummage through the four shops before finding the needed part. You know it's always the 'last place' you paw through where you find the long-lost and much-sought item (if you're like me, Carl.)

And as if mailing addresses and work shops can't get Carl Rismiller all mixed up, then his four growing lads can.

'We have four boys,' says Mrs. Rismiller. 'So as not to get them mixed up, we called them 'A', 'B', 'C', and 'D' (Al, Barry, Carl Jr., and Darrin). Although all four seem to be taking a growing interest in their father's engines, Carl Jr., the oldest, of course take the most.'

Looks like Spark Plug 'C' (Carl Rismiller, Jr.) suspicions that Spark Plug Sr. might be thinking of dirtying his hands on coal smoke and cylinder oil (awful thought for a Spark plug). Old upright half-size steam boiler sits beside family rennovated bus used to take family of Spark Plugs to Gas Engine reunions

For Carl Jr. (Spark Plug 'C', to be exact), whenever school bells aren't beckoning, there's always the nice old gas engines sitting in Dad's four shops, as well as outside the shops, for a young lad to look at and dream about the future when he can have some engines of his own. And of course there's Dad's big junk heap stockpile outside the shops which is a good focal point for a growing lad's fertile imagination to build things of his own. Like that old one-horse furrowing-out plow with wooden handles that some day he dreams about hitching to a homemade tractor powered by that big 8 Hp Stover Engine sitting just outside the barn.

And the large converted family bus sitting just in front of the barn. Doesn't it have the memories for young lads who went along with Daddy to the many Darke County Threshing reunions, and later to Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor gatherings? Too, there's that half-sized upright steam boiler sitting alongside, that looks mighty like Spark Plug Carl Rismiller Sr. is dreaming himself of someday dirtying his hands with coal smoke and cylinder oil (awful thought for a Spark Plug.)

Thanks Spark Plug, Carl Rismiller of Ludlow Falls -- er I mean Pleasant Hill, for giving us four growing Spark Plugs (A, B, C, and D) and for the little garden tractor you always parade in the threshing circles, powered by your nine-horse one-lung Wisconsin verticle. Thanks, too, for your ever-loving' jokes, the lead-filled gas can that clobbers gas-stealers' heads into tree trunks teaching them a lesson and especially for that musical wonder, 'Li'l ol' Singing-Man Engine' that has turned the antique gas engine society upside down.

And thank you, Missus Spark Plug, Joyce Rismiller, for straightening out (or trying to) your mixed-up mailing addresses, and keeping 'hep' with the names of your budding alphabetical Spark Plugs. We know Carl made a good choice, coming home from the army and discovering you before he did his engines - that the both of you, along with 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D', may be Spark Plugs together. Now jump up in your niche in the Spark Plug Hall O' Fame.

Spark Plug 'C', Carl Rismiller, Jr. steals a look at Dad's big 8 Hp. Stover Engine that's sitting out (or leaning out) from the Senior Spark Plug's main engine shop. Spark Plug 'C' is all decked out in his Brownie Scout uniform for the occasion of having his 'pitcher took'.

As you can see in this one, the Grey is running and Peanut is happy.

NOTICE: In one of your issues an old 'sparker' suggested making valves over for various engines. Now, I don't know how dangerous they are, but some valves are filled with sodium and could hurt someone. When these sodium cooled valves first came out, the companies suggested we bury them to dispose of them. Mr. Andrew L. Michels, Plentywood, Montana 59254. - (This is the second letter of warning we have had and thought we should make it prominent - as an aid to safety. - Anna Mae)