Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'
Single and thirty years of age -- you could hardly call that old enough to be classified as an antique, if we were talking about a gas engine. But Spark Plug David Shearns of Marion, N. Y., all of thirty and as yet unhitched by beltpower to the 'brake-wheel' of man's severest testing -- matrimony -- is proving there are other thrills in life as great and rewarding as saying, 'I do' to a woman before a bald-headed preacher. (Sorry, Brother Elmer. Maybe the next guy.)
But, although Spark Plug David Shearns lives alone with his folks, minus the 'joys 'n jolts of connubial bliss,' -- the feminine touch to cook his morning oats, and or the tongue-lashing he could get every time he drags another engine home -- there are those inalienable rights enjoyed only by the single species of homo sapiens who go prowling the countryside in quest of antique gas tractors and engines.
Indeed, it was far more rewarding for Spark Plug Shearns to fetch home and introduce to his parents, a heap of conglomerate iron which once was known as a 30-60 Rumely Oil-Pull than had his latest bounty been merely a smiling bride. The difference being that man can bend and shape a piece of iron to his own liking -- a fact that has not always proven true concerning that unpredictable element in a man's life, known as woman. And, although it usually takes a lot more work to get an engine in shape -- before costs taper off and the fun begins -- a woman can get worse and the expenses spire skyward conversely once the honeymoon is over.
At any rate, wrestling with a 9-ton Rumely is much more predictable to Spark Plug Dave -- and after all his troubles of hauling, re-building and hoping, it was much more rewarding when he drove it over the grounds of the '69 Pioneer Gas Engine Assoc. Grounds than merely flashing a gold band on the fourth finger of his left hand.
'David Shearns is our nomination to a Spark Plug of the Month,' said Dorothy and Paul Smith who had fetched along some of their photos and facts about the tireless director of that show, which they handed to me while visiting the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor reunion at Portland, Ind., this summer. 'We feel that David has done so much for our New York show that he deserves a niche in your Spark Plug Hall of Fame.' (And rightly so, we concur.)
Spark Plug Shearns does not operate in the orthodox manner of ye Spark Plugs who hire out low-boys to go far a field to tow in their rare bounties so they can re-furbish junk into gems in well-appointed workshop with indirect lighting, turret lathes and the gamut of modern tools lining their walls in alphabetical order. For David Shearns, it meant the rather discouraging spectacle of tearing down his ancient 1949 Ford Truck and replacing the Ford engine with that of a '56 Buick (he calls it his Bu-Ford) to get the necessary power to haul his iron trophies home. And once the tractor-heap is 'safe at home', there remains the heavy task of unloading 'the thing' onto the ground floor of his 'sunshine workshop' where he works at rehabilitation as long as the weather's nice. But when the weather gets bad, and the task runs on into winter, there's his back-porch workshop, also on the ground level, into which he shuttles his heavy, unassembled components. And when the severest of weather arrives, there yet remains the rather dingy, unlighted basement shop heated by a wood furnace, into which he hibernates with his odd-lot assortment of tractor and engine parts to continue operations till spring.
This is the restored Rumely Oil Pull 30-60, after David Shearns assembled it, also made cam-gear cover, fuel pump, oil pump, magneto and other parts in his cellar workshop. It's shown strutting its stuff at Pioneer Gas Show. Photo by Paul Smith.
But, though the transformation from a heap of what appears to be only a megalomania of scrap and junk into a superb restoration of an antique tractor finally emerges, by the time the robins and wrens are chirping -- like April showers that bring May flowers - out chugs the pride and joy (the first love) of Spark Plug David Shearns, ready for the next Pioneer Gas Engine Show.
The latest of this 'single-30, unbrid-aled' engine hunter's sorty wound up deep in the tall corn state of Iowa where, near the town of Kingsley, he came upon an old 30-60 Rumely Oil-Pull, model S, serial 39 -- one of the rare early ones. In company with another Rumely man, Frank Arbaker (owner of the Pioneer Gas Engine Association grounds), Spark Plug Shearns rolled into the Iowa corn land with his 'caravan' -- a tri-axle trailer towed by the inevitable 'Bu-Ford' in search of the iron beast.
Once discovered in its lair, it required no little of engineering ingenuity to load the huge monster for the trip back to New York State. Backing the huge 9-ton Rumely up onto the tri-axle trailer, the rear assembly and wheels were removed, the rolled on planks over onto the 'Bu-Ford' Truck.
When Dave and Frank rolled into home with their prize quarry, it might have looked to the innocent by-stander like a lot of nothin'. But the man of vision -- the tried 'n true Spark Plug, who scurries the countryside for his diamonds in the rough, sees only the finished gems in the junk he is buying. And once this 9-ton hunk of unassembled junk went through the three-shop cycle of 'nature's workshop', the back porch and basement of Spark Plug David Shearns -- by gas engine reunion time it was chugging around as about the biggest and rarest of the Rumely Oil-Pull lines on the Pioneer Gas Engine grounds.
With his three other Rumely Oil-Pulls, one a 25-45, Spark Plug Dave Shearns can now boast of owning the complete line of the solid fly-wheel Rumelys -- and, in addition, has a Rumely-six to boot.
Also, our Spark Plug of the Month, David Shearns has, over the years, acquired such notable worthies to his collection as a 22-45 Aultman-Taylor Gas Tractor, with the tell-tale radiator which resembles more of a section of a steam boiler with flues, than the conventional internal-combustion cooling system. But it works, as do the tall, cleated drive-wheels which also appear more or less as a 'mutation' in the evolution from steam to gas power than most conventional tractors.
Completely restored by the three-shop cycle process of Spark Plug Shearns, the huge, four-cylinder Aultman-Taylor proudly struts its stuff annually over the Pioneer Gas Engine grounds -- like a primordial elephant with Dave perched atop, the envy of the 'up-state' crowds beneath him.
This is how the 9-ton Rumely Oil-Pull looked when it was loaded onto David's 'Bu-Ford' truck for the trip home from Iowa. After it was backed up onto the tri-axle trailer, the rear-assembly was removed and rolled over onto the truck. Photo by Paul K. Smith.
Lengthening the list of Spark Plug David Shearn's collection of old-time agricultural Americana are a 27-44 Twin City, a 22-32 Rumely Separator and a 30-48 Rumely Separator, all of which are restored and have been shown at the Pioneer Gas Engine Show as well as the show at Canandaigua.
Always the man with many friends -- and never one to refuse lending a hand to whatever job comes up in the big Pioneer Show -- Spark Plug Dave Shearns is always busy in there pitchin,'whether it's helping at the sawmill, cutting the grain or threshing the wheat. And, being owner of a Baker Fan, Dave sees to it there's plenty of chugging, popping and banging at the belt, come Pioneer days which this next year of 1970 will be held July 25-26-27.
Spark Plug David Shearns had to put '56 Buick motor in '49 Ford truck for enough power to haul his engines back home for restoring. He calls this his 'Bu-Ford'. David's greatest 'sin' was buying an old Nichols & Shepard steam engine from an Ohio estate. It is shown at right.
Oh yes -- one item we'll mention under our breath. Spark Plug David Shearns owns (of all things) a 25-50 Nichols & Shepard Steam Engine, vintage of 1925, which he bought from an estate out in Ohio. But he hasn't as yet restored it, hoping no doubt by ignoring it, his 'sins' will be forgiven before the Spark Plug Throne of Grace, lest steam should get into his blood. (Awful thought!) Thanks Dave, for your tireless efforts at promoting old-time American gas-orama and tractology -- hunting, restoring, rehabilitating our glorious past, lest our future generations forget the glory that was, and, thanks to you, still is.
Enter, one David Shearns, into our Spark Plug Hall of Fame, where there's plenty of parking for Rumely or Aultman -- however you came.
Spark Plug David Shearns moves his open-air workshop onto the back porch when weather is inclement. He calls this his 'diggin's'. When weather is really bad, he goes down into the cellar by his wood furnace. Photo by Paul K. Smith.