My Husband's Last Engine Show

For Larry Reed

Content Tools

3611 S. LaChance Road Lake City, Michigan 49651

Because of his love for antique tractors and engines, as well as the fellowship of the people, my husband's dying request was to have me write an article for GEM about his last engine show.

Larry had quadruple bypass surgery in July of 1990. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure during the winter of 1990-91. He died on September 10, 1993, 2 weeks after his last engine and tractor show in Buckley, Michigan.

After Larry was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and could no longer handle the large tractors, he decided to restore gas engines. Larry had already restored a United Type F 4 HP engine. This engine had been used for buzzing wood for many years in the Cadillac, Michigan, area.

In August of 1992, Larry bought a 6 HP United on a cart at the Buckley show. The engine needed to be restored, stripped, and repainted. The 6 HP was bought at an auction prior to Larry acquiring it, and a lot of work was put into it then. The engine came from six miles northeast of Tawas City in the Wilber area. It was used in the woods to run a buzz saw rig.

The restoring and the engine shows took on more of an urgency for Larry because he did not know how much more time he had left to live. The doctors had given him a year to a year and half after he went into congestive heart failure in 1990. He felt he was living on borrowed time.

In the summer of 1991 I took Larry out west because he wanted to see the mountains and do some fishing. Above all, he wanted to see Oscar's Dreamland. We saw the mountains, fished the lakes and streams, and saw the collection of Oscar's antique engines and tractors. Much of the time was also spent deep in conversation with Oscar. Oscar had a lot of different types of engines and tractors, and a lot of knowledge on restoration. With the knowledge gleaned from an oldtimer, Larry knew what he wanted to do with the 6 HP United engine. In 1992 his goal was to restore it and return to Buckley with it and the 4 HP, in the summer of 1993. During the winter of 1992, as the weather and his health permitted, Larry began tearing the 6 HP engine down. By spring he had it ready to be stripped.

Larry worked extremely hard to reach his goal, despite the fact that his physical strength was nearly gone. During this period in his life the perfection in his handiwork never wavered, even though it became increasingly more difficult to accomplish. Everything he did had to be just so. It all had to look good, and run well.

Although I had little interest in his hobby, I worked with him as a gopher, spray painting, restoring, and whatever I could, to see him reach his goal. After the 6 HP was restored, put on the engine cart with the 4 HP, and installed on the trailer, there was one other job to be done. Both engines needed lettering and pin striping. We took a few days and went to St. Ignace in the upper peninsula. There a lifelong friend, Randy Becker, did the detail painting on both engines and the engine cart.

By this time, Larry was beginning to retain fluid from the long days, the time he spent on his feet, and the work involved in getting the engines completed. The engines, except for some carburetor adjustments, were now ready for the shows.

Larry was able to get to the Scottville, Michigan, show and the guys there helped him with the adjustments that were needed. He was tired and not feeling very well when he returned home from that show. The Buckley Show was only two weeks away. For the next two weeks, he rested as much as he could. As his health permitted, he puttered a little with the engines, repositioned them on the trailer, and got them ready for Buckley.

Because of his health, I went with Larry to Buckley. On the second day there, he came down with a bronchial infection, and was sick throughout the show. He still ran the engines, with the help of friends and myself. He was tired, and at times frustrated because of the things he was physically unable to do. Yet he was proud that he had reached his goal. Although it was unheard of for Larry to leave a show early, we came home from Buckley on Saturday instead of Sunday, because of his health.

On the following Monday, Larry was admitted to the hospital, and was there for 2 weeks. The day before he was to be released from the hospital, the doctor took him off the I.V. drips that were helping his heart and kidneys to function. Over the next 24 hours, his heart began to fail and without the I.V. support, both the heart and kidneys failed.

With our dear friend Donna Lee and me at his side, we said our final goodbyes. It was then Larry asked that I write this article for GEM, as his final goodbye to the friends and acquaintances who shared his fondness for these fine machines from yesterday.