AT LAST, IT'S MINE!

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Route 1, Floydada, Texas 79235

'Why can't that man call?' my husband, Charles, fretted. 'It's been two weeks already. Surely he's made up his mind whether or not he wants to sell.'

The object of all this anxiety was an old gas engine, a Monitor, that once had been used to power a windmill on our treeless Texas Plains. Charles had learned of the engine from an acquaintance. He had made an offer to buy the engine from the owner, and he was not accepting or rejecting the offer as quickly as Charles wanted. He was as itchy as a child with chicken pox waiting for the phone to ring. His quest for the Monitor made Sir Lancelot's quest for the Holy Grail look like an Easter egg hunt. He probably would have hocked one of the kids to raise the funds to buy that old hunk of iron. Finally, after nearly worrying himself into apoplexy, Charles and the engine's owner reached a mutually satisfactory agreement, and Charles could add another entry in his gas engine ledger.

So, one cold, blustery day this past May, Charles, Chase, our three-year-old son, Phil Dunavant, a neighbor, and I drove out to the rural cotton gin that serves the Becton Community some 25 miles northeast of Lubbock. It was not the type of day that was ideal for an outing and certainly not typical for a day in early May. The biting wind was blowing straight out of the north, kicking up fine dust that made the chilly air even more uncomfortable.

Charles had not been this excited since the births of our children. He was not going to let a little thing like a cutting north wind and swirling dust slow him down. He probably would have driven a team of huskies through a roaring blizzard to retrieve his Monitor.

Although Charles had not actually seen the engine, he knew it was tucked safely away in the gin's seed house. Charles and Phil had to move a mountain of dusty, cobwebby tarps, gin belts, wire, nets for cotton modules, and even a red bicycle to free that engine from its prison. Next they had to work it out of the seed house, which in itself would have tested the strength of Atlas. Finally, the men had the engine out in the bright May sunshine, and they could see what they had been working so hard to get.

There it sat, a three-horse open crankshaft Monitor with the 36-inch gear pump jack still attached to the back. Its five-spoke flywheel stood proud and tall, the white striping still visible. It looked as though it were just waiting to be used again to pump the precious water from beneath the dusty plains. We could see the white design, faint but still distinguishable, on the water hopper that cooled the engine. The wood on which it was mounted was painted red with the word MONITOR stenciled in black with a black flower design stenciled on either side.

The process of restoring the Monitor to its original glory has begun. Charles poured a new bearing from babbit, a new experience in itself. He disassembled the Monitor and has started sandblasting the different parts. It will be repainted the original gray. The striping will be carefully replaced. When it has been reassembled, this three horse Monitor will run as smoothly as an antelope dashing across the Texas Plains.

Charles swears he can sniff out engines as we drive down a highway. So many times I have heard him say, 'This is engine country. I can smell one around here.' Charles is usually right. He even found one in downtown Ruidosa, New Mexico, while we were on vacation one summer. He has said innumerable times, 'I don't want all the gas engines in the world, just the ones I know about.'