And What Does Your Husband Collect?

Content Tools

19675 T Drive N. Olivet, Michigan 49076.

This story could serve as a warning to women of would-be retired iron collectors, or in most circles, of what are identified as gasoline engines. It can also serve as a support to those women who already have husbands who are 'hooked'.

I use the word hooked, not reservedly or loosely, but rather as a factual term. Because ladies, antique gasoline engine collecting is an addiction! If your man says, 'But I just want one.' don't believe it for one second! That 'just one' is like trying to eat one peanut, one potato chip, or one olive. The strongest of wills succumb to this strange phenomenon.

I speak from experience. My husband Bill, also known as Carl, is a collector. It began in the summer, 1965, at a gas engine show in Coldwater, Michigan. Being rather naive at the time, I failed to notice the warning signs at first.

Bill scrutinized every engine on display, whether it was a single exhibit or a trailer load. He pulled levers, diddled gadgets, flipped flywheels, looked down, up, under, and into all parts of each and every engine. All this time he was asking an untold number of questions. Examining something that methodically was the red-alert I failed to pick up on. That is, until on the ride home. The conviction in his statement, 'I'm going to have one of those someday,' set off a 'beep, beep, beep.'

Winter came and went. As spring began to set in, I was beginning to think I had misinterpreted the tone of his last summer's comment. Bill's rhetorical question, 'Guess what I found?' upon arriving home from town that day ended that speculation.

I've discovered during this collecting phenomenon that where an engine is located or found and its condition are highlights in engine collecting conversations. A dilapidated chicken coop was the location of Bill's first find. It was covered with dust, cobwebs, and chicken and bird droppings, and set up with rust from blowing snow and rain through the broken window under which it had begun to settle in the dirt. This blob even had a name-International.

When buying or selling, Bill likes to haggle, something in which most men are proficient. But this gem did not warrant the usual haggling, and he readily handed over the asking price. (What I felt was ridiculous for a blob of iron.) Upon payment addiction took its hold.

Engine number two, a Novo used for running a sheep shearing machine, was unearthed at the local junkyard. He got it for junk prices and what with junk prices on the low side at the time, this price sounded a little more sensible.

Fellow shop workers soon got into the act of relaying information as to other possible buys. Before long more engines found a new home on our farm.

A Sunday drive ended at the house of a man who just happened to have two engines he was willing to part with. The visit wasn't a total loss, however. (Those two engines made quite a dent in the checkbook.) The man had worked for the Rumely Oil Pull Tractor Company in Battle Creek in his earlier days, so the conversation was both interesting and educational.

For awhile Bill's snowballing hobby saw a temporary slowdown. Subscriptions to the Gas Engine Magazine and the Farmers' Advance soon activated the hobby again.

Now I know it's necessary to advertise auction sales, but do they really have to list EVERY item? Miscellaneous sounds adequate to me.

A burning tire soaked in fuel oil smokes like the smoke from a Cushman Bill had gotten at one of these sales. It brought the neighbor running: he thought the barn was on fire. A storage warehouse for obsolete machinery at the neighbor's workplace had two engines, 'something like what you got there,' resulted in further acquisitions.

One summer we took a vacation(?) to Arkansas. I'll admit we did do some fishing two nights by lantern light. One 1200 pound Hvid, plus three smaller engines made quite a load in our three-quarter ton pickup, on the return trip to Michigan.

Bill's 'just one engine' has now reached almost the 50 mark. The overflow definitely needed storage space so a new pole barn was erected. A 14 by 20 foot garage was bought and moved from Battle Creek onto the farm. Then a 12 by 20 foot shed addition was added to the big hay barn. The overflow continued. Finally another pole barn was erected. This is to be the last addition. My comment to the possibility of a new barn is 'reorganize'.

With most addictions one does not always stick with the one substance originally addicted to. Bill's has multiplied to what the family refers to as his 'unique unique' addiction. It ranges from items small enough to hold in one's hand, to a half mile of railroad track on which he runs his Fairmont crewmen's car. Needless to say, it is no problem knowing Bill's whereabouts. He is either at an auction sale, a gas engine show, or home among his treasures, usually the latter.

Dealing with this type of addiction does have a workable solution. One merely follows the old axiom, 'If you can't fight them, join them.' As soon as Bill clears a large enough working area I am planning to dismantle and restore an antique of my own, a 1928 Bolens garden tractor. It has a vertical-mount Briggs and Stratton engine, which in turn has the spark plug coming out of the front of the engine head and the carburetor on top. I've been told this is the opposite of most Briggs and Stratton engines. I'll have to take someone else's word for that.

Is is possible that I, too, am becoming an addict?