as told to: David Sullenberger P.O. Box 1628 Las Cruces, New Mexico 88004
Winter in New Mexico can be really boring. Blue skys, comfortably warm light jacket days and no rattlesnakes (a factor guaranteed to vanquish boredom instantly!). Perfect Quest weather for poking around old scrap piles and farm machinery storage areas.
February 1986 was just such a winter month and Time Warrior was suffering from a variety of mechano-historical ailment known as Lack of New Information Syndrome. This particular variety of the Ailment is characterized by having last year's notes catalogued and in the data base, last year's photos all captioned and safely in frames and albums.
Time Warrior was restless. Peeking outside at the clear blue sky he turned to lady Margaret and said, 'Let's go for a drive.'
Lady M has lived with the Time Warrior a long time and she knew if she was invited this wasn't an Acquisition Quest and they wouldn't be messing with the trailer and hitch and all that stuff. She also knew this wouldn't be an afternoon drive. 'How many days?' she asked. 'Two-three at most. Are we packed?' said he. 'Yes,' she said, 'let's go.'
For those of you who don't know, New Mexico is a big state. Not as big as Texas.. . but big enough to keep Texans from having a Pacific coast to brag about. New Mexico is divided more or less into half, east and west, by the Rio Grande. It is a young state, but a very old land. In ancient times explorers and settlers tended to follow natural routes like rivers. So roads like I-25 and U.S. 85 tend to run North and South along the old trails.
Interstates are great for 'getting there' but terrible for curing Lack of New Information Syndrome. Thus, Time Warrior, Lady M and Pinto turned North on old U.S. 85.
As you may have suspected, Lady M is a great note-taker and her considerable talents in this area are legendary in curing Lack of New Information Syndrome. Time Warrior guides Pinto, dictates mileage markers, junk piles, and interesting looking storage yards on his side of the road while Lady M watches her side for the same and writes it all down. By the time they had arrived in Albuquerque, several new, or at least not before noted, possible resting places of Old Iron had been identified.
Feeling much relieved with a pile of new notes, Time Warrior and Lady M spent a quiet evening in Albuquerque and headed South the next day. As there was no rush to return home, and numerous side roads beckoned their mysterious call, Time Warrior succumbed.
Lo and Behold! After a while they found themselves following posters that said Auction Yard. Surely this must be a sign! They ran the posters to ground at a place called Country Corner in Belen, New Mexico, but it was after 5 and the proprietor had closed for the day. Naturally this didn't stop the Time Warrior from looking at the merchandise through the fence. Such an interesting assortment! Old freight and farm wagons, several McCormick Deering tractors, a Deere or two, cream separator, and a wringer type washing machine with a little upright engine at its feet.
Time Warrior had zeroed in on the washing machine first, and sticking his head and shoulders through the corral fence bars he had managed to use up a roll of film on the washing machine. Back to Pinto to reload, he then scampered over to the wagons and used up another roll.
To say he gets excited is like saying 'The Refrigerator' is Big!
By now, however, he had calmed enough to talk reasonably coherently and he and Lady M began to amble back to Pinto.
Suddenly, as if by magic, a spoked flywheel appeared! Two spoked fly wheels! An open crank case, a hopper. 'Look, look, it has two fly wheels! Two, a real oldie! What do you suppose it is?' he fairly shouted, dragging Lady M by the hand the last ten yards.
Yep, it had two flywheels all right. He really wanted to know what it was, but there was no way Time Warrior was going to cross that fencethat's a good way to get into more trouble than a cat on a hot tin roof.
Obviously the only thing they could do was find a motel and WAIT until 9:00 Monday morning. Time Warrior does not wait well. He worries: maybe it's for the next auction and he might not be able to attend. Maybe it's too expensive and he can't afford it, maybe it's stuck and just a pile of junk. Maybe someone else already bought it. Maybe... He really is worse than a little kid waiting for Grandfather to arrive.
They were up at 6:00 Monday morning and in the Cafe near the auction yard by 7:00. Time Warrior kept getting up from the table, walking the 100 yards or so to 'check on it.'
'You afraid it will sprout wings?' Lady M asked on his return.
'Might,' he said.
'Maybe it will grow feet,' she said.
More time passed.
'Suppose the Iron Beetles will get it?'
'I didn't see any,' he said, looking at his watch.
'It's Time! Let's go!'
Lady M glanced at the clock on the cafe wall: 8:32.
Fortunately the store's owner had decided to open early that day and had arrived when Time Warrior and Lady M drove up.
'That engine out there with the two flywheels, it for sale?'
'Sure is,' the owner said.
'Can I take a look?' Time Warrior asked.
It was a Stover. Time Warrior had wanted a Stover since he had first seen a restored KE at his very first engine show. It was free and had compression. Best of all, as if it were the final cure for the Lack of New Information Syndrome, the brass dealer tag riveted on the hopper just under the Stover Mfg. tag read: Krakaukeur, Zork & Moye, Successors Agents El Paso & Chichuahua Mexico.
A TRUE SIGN! This was a local engine! (In New Mexico 200 miles is local.) Yes, sir, this little jewel had been peddled by the antecedents of modern day Zork Hardware of El Paso, Texas, in the days when Pancho Villa had ridden the border and gun-slingers, rustlers and horse thieves were hanged weekly in the plaza.
Truly the Holy Grail of engines to the Historian in Time Warrior. He bought it. Missing governor and all.
How to get it home. You will recall this had not started as an Acquisition Quest. The trailer was in Las Cruces. Pinto was jammed with cameras, luggage and people.
Would the proprietor store it until Time Warrior could pick it up? Yes he would. It would be a month; Time Warrior had a board meeting in Albuquerque in a month. That would be o.k.
Having made the difficult decision to leave the engine for a whole month, Time Warrior expended another roll of film on the Stover. Trying to get better light for a detail, he decided to push, slide or wrangle it into a different position. It was surprisingly light. He hefted it and found he could lift it. The Stover didn't weigh nearly as much as he did (he hoped) and he had often stood on Pinto's roof to take pictures.
The Stover went on the roof.
Such a sight! There were stares from school children when they stopped for lunch. Lady M reported one fellow who was staring and walking at the same time and tripped over something. People in cars and vans passing Pinto on the road would point, shake their heads and the passengers would look back for a last glance, wide grins on their faces.
Pinto, being the good little pack machine he is, just toodled on down the road at 45 mph, ignoring the fact he looked pretty silly. Service station attendants got so involved in looking at the Stovewr, they let his favorite gasoline run on the ground.
Pinto was very glad when Las Cruces came into view and even happier when Time Warrior's friend with the winch truck lifted his funny little cousin off his roof. Pinto's roof promptly popped back into its original shape, none the worse for the experience.
The Stover? Well, it needs a gas tank and some means of ignition and a governor, and probably some other parts Time Warrior doesn't even know about yet... does anyone have a head gasket for a 1 HP Stover K?
An earlier adventure of Time Warrior is recorded in the April, 1986 issue of GEM. In addition to being an avid engine collector, in 'real life', David Sullenberger is a professional photographer who enjoys applying his craft to old engines.