As told to: David Sullenberger P.O. Box 1628 Las Cruces, New Mexico 88004
It all started innocently enough at the October, 1985, Antique Engine and Farm Machinery Show at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, New Mexico (see January '86 GEM).
The Time Warrior, champion of 'Old Stuff', became a permanent fixture at the show for both days. The show was his first and he was there with camera in hand gleefully soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of old engines doing their thing.
Long a collector of 'old stuff', mostly cameras, machine tools and photos of old, forgotten and abandoned things, Time Warrior hadn't even been aware there were antique engines 'that run and everything!!' much less that they were a delightful new kind of collectable for stopping Time.
Naturally, when the show was gone and Time Warrior had only his photographs to muse over, he became afflicted with a curious malady. Symptoms included a longing for the feel of cold cast iron, the acrid smell of exhaust and BAM phuff phuff phuff BAM phuff phuff... sounds of a smoothly running chunk of history. This strange malady quickly became an obsession of the highest order.
A QUEST was definitely called for!! (Everyone knows, of course, that a successful Quest is the very best cure for all manner of mechan-o-historical ailments.)
The Mesilla Valley area of Southern New Mexico is a treasure trove of history and lore: Indians, Conquistadors, Cowboys and horse thieves, railroads, lost gold mines, rockets, A-bombs and space travel.
The Time Warrior reasoned that, with all that history, there 'surely must be an antique engine out there'; one merely had to search with a Pure Heart and Clear Vision, ready to do battle with those forces of evil that constantly seek to destroy 'old stuff' (scrap smelters, parking lots, plastic, planned obsolescence, modern American man's thirst for the newest foreign gadgetthose evil forces.)
The Quest began in the lair of Time Warrior's mechanic, who said he 'thought' maybe Time Warrior had 'really flipped out', but did know where there were some 'pretty old tractors down south a ways'. Aha, A Clue!! Yes, a clue... signifying nothing.
Disappointed but undauntedly this minor defeat, Time Warrior pointed his trusty Pinto north (that being the logical direction to return from out of the south).
As is the nature of a True Quest (with Pure Heart and Clear Vision) the magical elements of crystal blue sky, crisp autumn day, and distant misty mountains' siren call, conspired to lull Pinto and rider to the small settlement of Dona Ana, about 15 miles to the north.
Having decided a drive was nice, but basically unproductive, Time Warrior turned Pinto west to circle the settlement and return to the real world of business as usual. Thus resigned, vowing to return to the Quest on the weekend, he rounded a curve and Lo!! As if by magic, there appeared the shop of a dealer of used farm equipment.
Surely this was a True Sign! It certainly couldn't hurt to look in any event.
Did the man 'know of any old engines on farms around or about, the kind used for pumping and sawing and the like??'
'No', as a matter of fact the only one he knew of was 'just out back; care to see it??'
There it was, nestled among the cultivators and plows. The Quest was ended, an International 3-5 HP 'LB' was found, quietly awaiting its chance to arrest Time by being saved from the smelter.
Time Warrior and dealer settled on a reasonable exchange and agreed to a delivery date, just after Christmas.
On the appointed day Time Warrior arrived to load 'LB' for the trip home. Chains were firmly attached to the fork lift boom and the 'LB' was raised toward the pickup bed.
It started to spin.
Time Warrior, aware of the danger of trying to 'catch' the weight if the engine should fall, knowing to keep hands clear of the chain to not tangle a finger in the links, and to keep feet spread away from the landing spot should the chain break or engine come loose... Time Warrior, no stranger to lifting heavy objects, ever cautious of various perils... nevertheless reached to steady the spinning engine.
His ungloved hand found firm purchase on the barrel of the air cleaner, the 'LB' stopped spinning and the chain 'gave' a link or two... in the barest fraction of Time, even as The Warrior tried to pull his hand away, a finger was jammed between the air cleaner cap and barrel, neatly severing all but a small flap.
Time Warrior bled. And finished loading the engine. Dealer applied a bandaid while Time Warrior held the nearly severed end against the rest of the finger, wrapped the whole 'bloody' thing in wet paper towel and drove the engine home.
The orthopedic surgeon at the emergency room said he had 'seen a lot worse', disinfected and sewed the end back on. Blessed medicine man then prescribed 'large quantities of magic vodka elixer' (for pain) and said to let him 'check on it' in a week.
Time Warrior is pleased to note his now Famous Finger ('you dropped a what on it?') seems to be healing nicely.
As for the gold mine engine, after cleaning the blood off and the dirt out of the air filter, patching a small hole in the gasoline line and hand pumping quantities of WD-40 and light oil through the cylinder, old 'LB' fired right up, none the worse for Time Warrior's experience.
Time Warrior says: 'Quests are fun, but do be careful our toys can bite!!'