Family Memoirs

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5500 County Road 27 N. E., Spicer, Minnesota 56288

An old photograph, a musty storage chest, and old tractor memories. Certain objects-some old, some not-occupy a part of our beings. These objects open our hearts to fond thoughts and recollections.

In the summer of 1982 a friend of mine and I, took off on one of those imaginative journeys into the boondocks. Into old familiar farms, groves and rock piles we drove in a quest for ol'-iron.

I've often wished I had a good ole grease sniffing, hard-oil hunting, cast iron looking dog - to smell out old iron - if so, I'd name him 'Ol' Grease Cup', yep, 'OP Grease Cup'. Well as treasure hunters hoping to strike it rich, finding a Stickney or Mogul or, or, or, such a foolish romantic!

Anyway, we visited several sites and being we were near, decided to visit my great uncle, Herman.

As we drove up we saw him ambling across the yard. He has arthritis, but his mischievous smile and grin masked an obvious inner pain.

'Hi!' I said. 'Remember me, Lee Minzel?' 'Oh, yes!' And after introductions we settled into a conversation about crops, rain and old times.

One thing I've learned is to revere the solidness of the many older friends I've made at threshing shows. Their wisdom and honesty are often the real gift at a reunion.

As the conversation rambled - lo and behold - barely visible, above an iron pile to my left, I noticed the curve of a flywheel and a spoke or two. My pulse quickened and I asked Uncle Herman, 'Is that a gas engine I see in the scrap pile?' 'Yep, a John Deere,' he stated. It didn't take long to toss angle iron, fencing, shafts cattle waterers, and various debris out of the way. Yes, a 1? John Deere, alright!

Solid as a rock but complete. Solid, and I do mean solid; the crank wouldn't move a stitch. The water hopper was split on the bottom, but the elusive magneto and all the other small parts were there. Heck, it even had a Mogul crankshaft breather threaded into its crankcase cover. Genuine 'Great Uncle Factory option' and a good idea. After the usual grunt and groan, ech and strain we secured the 1? into my pickup; my great-uncle said if I was crazy enough to try to get it running I could have it. With thanks and some musings we headed home.

To get the J. D. apart I was torn between dynamite or nitro; man was it petrified! I removed the side cover and it had a 1924 serial date, if indeed the first two numbers are the date of manufacture.

Then I carefully, as in climbing up an iron pile, removed the magneto. Lo and behold, the base bolt holes were miraculously intact and after teardown, cleaning, recharging, and reassembly the mag was hot.

Whatever anyone thinks, I feel a mag that works, that is that old, is a miracle and a tribute to good old fashioned quality-disregarding pot metal-ish!

Was it WICO that had on the EK nameplate 'Guaranteed for all time against defects in materials and workmanship'? Now that's a warranty!

Next I removed the cylinder head. The valve heads had rusted off and were lying in the cylinder bore. I bored the valve guides out to 3/8 and installed 283 Chevy exhaust valves. To drill the holes in the hardened valves for the valve spring pins, I heated the valve stem cherry red then allowed them to cool very slowly in a can of floor dry.

The ignitor, after a thorough soaking in used automatic transmission fluid (cheap, good soak'em fluid), came apart easily. If you heat the ignitor good and warm - not charbroiled-and place it back in the fluid hot it really works in and loosens things up.

After ordering some ignitor springs, it and the head were done.

The block had 'bought the farm'-cracked, and the cylinder bore more closely resembled a culvert. I found another block and then discovered mine was .060 over. I bored the block myself. It's a real trick with so little surface on the head end to mount the boring bar.

The crankshaft, main and rod journals were very badly pitted. I found a crank and flywheel at one of my friends' house-another cast iron fiend.

I ordered rod and main bearings from Wally Steding in Fort Dodge- good product. I stopped and visited Wally and his son once a couple of years ago; he and his son are fine people to spend time with.

Well, the block's done and bored-put in new rod and mains- new rings. Ever notice how much fun it is to turn over an engine just with the piston and gears in? Fun isn't it?

Having never tinkered with a ? John Deere, I just loved that left handed governor nut. Made bushings for the timing and governor gear shafts.

Gears in, mag on, side cover on, crankcase cover on, solder gas tank, clean fuel line, basic timed.

Crank-pop-fizzle, crank-pop-fizzle, crank-pop-anger! Why won't it continue to fire? Get a glove, getting blisters, I'm getting mad, better hold a truce.

Let's try a coil to the igniter to bypass the mag, same thing-no cigar.

Ah! What are those little marks on the brass fuel needle mixers seat? Hum, holes should go up and down but it won't run that way, tee he ehee. When turned sideways it does.

Try again. Wow! It just about took my blistered thumb off. It runs, quick, get water in the water hopper. It turns out my great-uncle left water in the John Deere the winter of 1941, and that ain't good Minnesota antifreeze. It cracked the block and was sentenced to run no more. It was 1982 some 41 years later that I pulled it from its grave. It also turned out that my father, as a boy, often stayed with his uncle and had started the John Deere many times to pump water from the well.

I took pictures of the engine and sent them to my great-uncle who is now in a rest home. He just couldn't believe I got it running.

I often wander out to the shed and look at the green 1? and think about how my father started it and no doubt listened to its 'Ah-eh-ka-chu,' and now I've had the pleasure to listen. But best of all, it's the memories, the continuity, the joy. I'm thankful.