10634 Oakford Union Lake, Michigan 48085
We usually drive from the east side of Michigan to the west side about once a month to see Mom and Dad, and the kids see Grandma and Grandpa. What this really means is that the wife and I go through all of my boyhood memories to see what we can drag home this time. The kids raid Grandma's cookie jar and Grandpa's change pockets and venture out to see what lumber they can scavenge from Grandpa's kindling pile to build another fort with. That way they can leave something to be rememberd by and it gives Grandpa something to do for three days after we leave.
Upon arrival this particular weekend in September, 1985, and after exchanging greetings, hugs and kisses, Dad directed us all to the garage. There, where the fort building supplies used to be, was this strange looking chunk of rusty, dirty iron that had these wheels on either side of it that looked like Paul Bunyan's frisbees.
'Who mistook your garage for the local landfill?' was my first question. Dad explained that this 'landfill material' was an antique gas engine that had broken down the day before its' owner went into the Army-in 1941! This thing had been a winter resort for the local chipmunk union in the back of an apple orchard that didn't even produce apples anymore and the owner said that if Dad could dig it out of the ground it would be his. (Where was this Dad when I was trying to dig out twenty-inch tree stumps: heck, he could have had all of those!) Dad proudly told me that he was going to restore it and make it run again. Now I have to tell you that this man is educated, a decorated veteran, a retired successful business man, and probably the closest thing to the perfect father and husband that ever walked the face of God's green earth. His accolades and achievements belong in Who's Who. But being a victim and participant of the 60's, I have to tell you that I truly believed, at that moment, that this man had been smoking his social security checks!!!
'Why? What for? And what do you do with it?' asked my wife, Phyllis, very politely. (Of course you have to realize that this woman would tell a drought stricken farmer that his August ten-inch-high corn 'looks pretty good this year'.)
'Because it needs it-because I want to-and I can use it to run an orchard sprayer, a pump jack, or a corn sheller.'
You bet, Dad!!!
At that moment I began to long for the kids' forts and my discussions with my mother about how they had to pay my phone bill three times in the same month while I was at Michigan State. (For those of you who have children at college, I can now truth fully tell you that the bill really come three times a month, honest!)
Believe it or not, this is really leading up to something. Well, the month's visits and the winter slipped by uneventfully but each time we went over, a few more parts to this thing turned bright green. And those big frisbees? They were also green but had fiery red enamel outer rims. (Not a bad touch, Dad.) And low and behold I began to learn, out of courtesy at first, what a mag was and what throttle-governed meant. Did I mention that I work for General Motors Delco Division; you know, electronic fuel injection, electronic fuel management systems, and a whole lot of stuff I can't even pronounce. Now this was the beginning of a whole new education that you just don't learn out of a book! I learned what a buzz coil was. (I thought it was that thing you wore on your finger like a ring to zap people with.) And I learned what a hit and miss was (that's what my dad used to call me when he was my little league baseball coach). At this point I was beginning to get this little twinge in my stomach that, at the time, I really didn't understand but I really couldn't shake. Kind of an intriguing curiosity to see, hear, and want more.
Then came the big day in February, 1986. We made our weekend trip to Grandma and Grandpa's and by this time, the fort supplies had grown cobwebs and most of the table discussions were about Bessemers, hot-tubes (as compared to hot tubs), and low-tension mags. And dear sweet Phyllis had learned how to polish brass and rebuild a Wico. The kids still raided the cookie jar, but were brimming with anticipation. Dad said it was time, so armed with cameras, gas, oil and water (that's for the water hopper, you know!) we proceeded to the garage. 'Do you think it will run?' I asked. 'I mean this thing hasn't run in 45 years!' He looked at the Cub (I forgot to mention that it was a Cushman Cub, sorry), winked at Phyllis, looked me straight in the eye and said, 'third time over'. Right! Sorry I asked.
There's one-there's two- there's-pop-pop-pop.
Never missed a beat! The exhaust smell permeated my inner being, the wheels hypnotized me and drew me into a state that we only experience once in this hobby. We become totally, almost spiritually and without exception-HOOKED!!! And it wasn't just me; the wife, the kids, we all experienced it at the same time. And in those precious few seconds, we became initiated to a new way of life that includes terms like auctions, flea markets, and the ultimate: gas engine, tractor and steam shows. And of course, we were given new holidays like 'Wonderful Waukee Week', 'Majestic Mason', and of course, 'The Holy Days of Portland'. As the title of this story states, a dozen or so engines and three years later-'the rest is history!'-Stick around. Wait till you hear about Phyllis' first engine, or better still, our first tractor.