Author's note: My name is Jeffery Lockhart and here is some of the background for my story. Marvin Simon lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He has been collecting and restoring old gas engines for 12 to 15 years. He has many that he has restored from mummies into gems. You should see all the motors he has fixed! He has two barns filled.
My father, Johnny Lockhart and Marvin have been tight friends for thirty years and are inseparable. They have gone out hunting for old farm motors and marine motors many times and have spent hours in the shop.
I have gone with them also and have many tales and experiences of old motor hunting to prove it. This story concerns some yellow jackets we got into trying to pull out a marine motor. This all happened about ten years ago when I was a teenager of 14. They brought me along to do all the pulling and tugging. Mr. Godfrey has since passed on (God Bless his Soul) and his sister has since moved.
It was a cool day in late October. Our car was flying down the country road. Inside we were warm and talking about that motor we would find. I was in the back seat swallowed up in cushions.
'What kind of motor is it?' I said.
Marvin turned his neck to speak and still maneuvered the wheel around curves.
'Oh, it's a two-horse upright marine Mianus. 1907 model. Used on an inboard skiff workboat. Fella told me a Mr. Godfrey has it sitting in a barn in Princess Anne County.'
Johnny leaned his head forward and lit a cigar. His hair was wild and more grey than black and his nose protruded out far when he talked.
'Marvinlet me tell you how we're gonna get that motor. Are you listening?'
'Yeah John, go on.'
'Alright. Listen on this. First we're gonna look over that motor and see what we got. Okay?'
'Then we're gonna come back with that flatbed trailer and all of us grab it and winch that baby onto the bed and vamoose outta there.'
'Oh John, we can get it right here in this car.'
'Marvin, you're a boogot.'
There was the house. The Caddy slowed down fast. We checked the name on the mailbox. N.B. Godfrey. We pulled into the dirt road anxiously. The car nosed up and down in ruts. Soon we were on grassy surface. Marvin honked and we all climbed out. Johnny left his door , open as usual and walked up on the porch.
It was a two-story house, freshly painted. Rose bushes and hollyhocks bloomed in the frontyard. Lightning rods pointed out of a juniper shingle roof and smoke curled out the chimney. The screen door creaked. An old white-haired lady looked at us through rimmed spectacles as she leaned on a cane.
'You come to see 'bout that motor?'
'Yeah, where's . . .'
'My brother's coming 'round the back door now.'
I smelled some beans cooking and a faint whiff of cornbread. I was awfully hungry.
We walked to the back of the house blowing frost off our breaths. Standing in the bright sunshine was Mr. Godfrey. He was short and wore farmer's clothesbib overalls, a white shirt and heavy shoes. He had a whiskery chin and white hair but very bright eyes. He smiled and joked all along.
'You must be Marvin Simon.'
'Yes, I am. Hello Mr. Godfrey. Is that motor still there?'
'Oh yeah, you don't think I'd sell it under your nose, do you?'
'No. You look truthful to me where's the motor?'
Johnny was very anxious. Mr. Godfrey pointed with his cane.
'It's over yonder in that barn.'
The barn was huge and had two big swinging doors on front.
'Let's go get that baby.'
Johnny took off in a trot. Marvin and I followed and the old man put down his cane and came along steady:
All at once a small, curly-haired dog flew past us yelping and barking. Johnny stood by the barn door peeking in between the cracks. Mr. Godfrey arrived blowing from the long walk up the rise and pulled out a key. He turned the lock and flung open both doors.
The barn was stacked with rusted farm implements and old tools nailed to walls. He showed us the motor. It was a small 2 H. P. Mianus but not so easy to get out. It was sunk in the ground and covered with dirt, leaves and oily rags.
'My daddy bought that motor off an old oyster tonger when I was a young lad. He put her in his new skiff. We went fishing and crabbing a many a summer and tonged oysters in Back Bay in the winter. I remember one morning we had to crack ice with a mallet to get out.' Mr. Godfrey said.
'Come on Jeff, let's grab 'er and jerk 'er outta here.' Johnny bent over and put two strong hands on the flywheel. I grabbed and we pulled. Nothing. Stuck solid.
Again we pulled. That mound of dirt cracked and I heard a strange buzzing sound. Something stung my thumb. Yellow jackets!!!
They began to pour out of the hole and swarm the barn. From here it was all chaos and running. Hundreds of angry yellow jackets came out of their nests and filled the air with meanness. Mr. Godfrey quietly looked around the door. I sucked by thumb and ran outside with yellow jackets buzzing about in droves. The little dog got covered. They tangled in his fur and stung him viciously. He rolled around yelping and biting with his teeth. Marvin ran away quickly knocking them off. They came at my head hard. I ran fast down the hill, my arms swinging wildly. Johnny got stung through his socks and went in a rage. He ran backwards, back-pedaling and puffing on his cigar furiously, laying out a smokescreen.
We got back to the Caddy panting and doctoring our wounds. Marvin wanted to wait until they calmed down but Johnny had gone beserk. He wanted to go back and fight. So we got in the car and drove to the nearest hardware store. Johnny was driving and his temperature was rising. He parked and entered the store hollering, 'I'm gonna kill all them yellow jackets! Where's your buzz bombs?' Everyone looked on silently.
He grabbed up half a dozen cans, rapidly reading labels and spraying in the air. He barged past the cash register, slammed down a twenty and took off. Riding back he continued to holler and plan his attack. He tore up a cardboard box and made a funnel.
We drove by the house kicking up dust. Mr. Godfrey was on the porch laughing with his sister. We bounced into the barn with yellow jackets still flying. Johnny closed the windows and cracked his side vent. He stuck in the cardboard funnel and shoved the nozzle of the spray can through the hole. Safe, he sprayed and sprayed, while spitting verbal abuse at their kind. In time all the spray was gone. His voice became cracked and hoarse and most of the yellow jackets disappeared. We went back to the house and walked in. Mr. Godfrey and his sister were sitting at the kitchen table eating bowls of beans and sopping up with cornbread.
'Them yeller jackets raised a fit didn't they? Sandy's under the house licking his stings. Reckon that old motor will have to sit 'til another day:'
We were quiet and silent battlers.
'Sit down and pick your heads up some.'
Mr. Godfrey and his sister shared their food and home with us.
She found some turpentine and soaked by swollen thumb.
'Maybe you can come back tomorrow after they've moved to a new house. You just came in through the wrong door.'
We talked until dark and left.
Marvin and Johnny went back to get that Mianus the next day. There were no yellow jackets but they used a great deal of caution.