RD 1, Box 151B, Iron Bridge Road, Mount Joy, PA 17552
It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and I was staring wide-eyed at the Jay County Fairgrounds, which I might add was over 550 miles from my home in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Almost everywhere I looked were mud puddles, some so large that I began to look for the loons, but these ponds were muddy, not golden.
Had I actually suggested that we vacation in Portland, Indiana for the annual Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show? I must have been out of my mind-I could have been in Martha's Vineyard. But, I thought, 'Our motel reservations are only a half an hour away.' I could almost feel the heat of the water streaming from the hot shower I would take, and how relaxing it would be to slip between the cool, dry, clean white sheets.
Before I continue-to be fair to Ed, we had brought sleeping gear with us in case we decided to stay for two nights (no more) in our pickup truck. Suddenly fifteen minutes before the 6:00 p.m. deadline I was dropping coins in a pay telephone canceling my precious reservations, cutting the umbilical cord to the style to which I had become accustomed. What would my arthritic spine say to this?
Life this week was not going to be a beach. Instead of the tranquil sounds of the surf, I would be waking up at 6:00 a.m. to a steam engine whistle that seemed to say, 'Get up, we've got lots to do today.'
Seriously, I was in the friendly rural town of Portland for one reason: my husband is a gas engine collector, and now I'm going to tell you about Ed's pride-and-joys.
Their names are New Way 4? HP, 3? HP, 2? HP, 1 HP, and his newly acquired 1? HP named 'Little Jewel' by the manufacturer. He runs well, but needs a face lift. The big guy, 8 HP, a two cylinder no less, is undergoing reconstruction in our basement workshop. He'll keep Ed whistling while he works in the evenings this winter.
These polished and pampered ones stand proud and stately with a flawlessly smooth and shiny spray painted finish of red and light green. When the sun shines, their brass name plates gleam with beams of reflected light. Their newly applied decals state, 'Goes and Goes Right.' They sure do! They have their own, made to order, new trailer and an '89 Ford pickup truck with a big, thirsty engine to get them over any mountains we might encounter. Each one is bolted onto its own varnished oak cart with wheels. I almost forgot to mention the white daisies which Ed hand painted on the bases. This is a prominent identifying mark of the New Way engines since they were originally manufactured in the early 1900's.
When they are started and running, they make a popping sound and puff smoke out of the holes of the big black mufflers , and their large flywheels spin round and round-a colorful and impressive sight indeed.
4? is the most grandiose of them all, but he is difficult. Every now and then he backfires and scares my little Pekingese, Mitzy, panting up into my arms. He also is known as a 'quitter.' I remember the clay we drove to Maryland and rescued him out of obscurity in an old country barn, forlorn and ugly. I remind him of his present good home and chide him for being unappreciative. We threaten to sell him, and he shapes up a bit.
3? was our first of the New Way 'family.' Ed spied him on the back of a pickup truck at Penns Cave in Pennsylvania. His teenage owner had lost interest in him preferring, can you believe, a flying model airplane. He became ours at a very reasonable price. He had only one bad habit. He used to spray oil all over us through the muffler holes along with his smoke, but now his newly installed rings are settled down securely, and we don't have to dress like Johnny Cash anymore.
2? came to us from a public auction with rows and rows of engines to be sold. In fact, he was the last engine up for bid. I can still remember the two of us standing in line as I dug deep in my pocket-book for the last bit of change to pay for him. He has been worth it all-never a problem.
Little 1 is accident prone. Last year he suddenly developed a fractured casting and had to have major repairs. This year he was pushed off the loading ramp and his poor little crankshaft was bent. That too has been fixed. He came to us the same day as 2?.
Portland, Indiana opened their hearts to our engines. They were photographed, home videoed, taped for TV, examined thoroughly and even patted and rubbed. Ed had a wonderful time; he could talk about them for hours to anyone who is interested.
Now I know that Ed's engines are, in themselves, lifeless, but as I walked around the spongy grounds that were drying out in the sun, I saw the uniqueness in all the things man had made, from the gigantic equipment to the tiny tin home-made inventions. This is also true of the restorations. Our engines are not a rare breed, nor are they expensive by the standards of some, but they represent the creativity of one man. The numerous displays remind me of the diversity of God's universe and of us who are made in His image.
Ed's laugh for the week was standing back and watching grown men clamoring all over a just-arrived flat bed piled high with rusty iron. He said it could be compared to women at a bargain basement sale or ants at a picnic. After a while, it seems the pile went down as many treasures were retrieved.
Finally, as the wife of a collector, I would like to share from my own mental album of thoughts and experiences from this show.
It was exciting to watch the hundreds of campers and equipment roll in during the week. Thirty-some states and most of the provinces of Canada were represented. Both national anthems were played at the opening and tears came to my eyes.
Ed and I found some cream pitchers for my collection at the huge antique show. They have been washed and placed in their appropriate places in the corner cupboard of our dining room. The crackle glass items are now perched and sparkling in our sunny front windows.
My clothes are a little snug-it could be from the double dip butter pecan ice cream we enjoyed before bedtime with our friends from Manheim, Pennsylvania, Dick and Josie Shelly.
I laughed when I saw dogs of all kinds being chauffeured around in carts and wagons by their masters...or servants maybe.
I love the bright faces of dear old men, and to watch their eyes twinkle as they relive 'their' good old days. Maybe someday I'll ask them to tell me a story or two. I bet they could fill a book.
It was a refreshing change to see fathers and sons sharing their special interest, which is almost a phenomenon today.
I love the song, 'I'll Fly Away,' whether it's sung by a gospel group or played on the banjo. It makes me excited from within.
As we were heading for home driving south out of town, I was feeling a little nostalgic. I said to Ed, 'You know, maybe next year if the Lord allows, we can come back again and then head further west to some of the shows we've been invited to. We better do it while we can.'
I forgot about the motel room comforts, and the mud didn't hurt me. A few things on my list of survival items to bring with me are my stack of foam rubber padding, my special cervical pillow and my favorite blanket. Oh yes, I must remember to buy a pair of rain boots-just in case.