The Trip Home

Rumely en route

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739 Church St., Grass Lake, Michigan 49240

It had been sitting there for over twenty years, put out of commission by change and technology. It had belonged to Walter James, who used it as a farm tractor until his death. After his death, his wife didn't have enough time and money to keep it going, so it just sat there and had been there ever since.

It was a 1929, 20-30, model W Rumely Oil Pull and from the first, my dad wanted it. We made an offer, but were turned town, until she decided that it would be better to see it go than to see it turn to waste sitting there.

We were going to bring it the fifteen miles to our home on Saturday, December 20, 1986. For a sense of adventure and lack of a trailer, we decided to drive it home by its own power.

The morning was crisp and cold with a forecast of sun that never showed up until the next day.

We got to the little house on the hill around eight A.M. and similar to how a pit crew would get a car ready for a race, we got our tractor ready for its race. We checked the oil, filled the gas tank and greased the wheels.

We got everything ready and started it around nine. At first, it didn't look like to was going to start, but it showed us by belching a little smoke and chugging on its way.

We started out by nine-thirty, and as we passed the G. T. Ranch, all the cows stopped eating and stared at us as if they knew how old it was. Eventually they turned back unconcerned to their eating.

As we passed, we saw a game sanctuary that was covered with wild Canadian geese. (It being a late, mild winter, they never really left.) They all took off in one wave-like motion, then settled back down, yelling curses at us all the while.

A little less than halfway home, one of the sparkplugs fouled out. We had to keep checking it until we got it changed, and even then, we had to watch it.

Now, if you have ever seen a Rumely or any other kerosene burning engine, you know that it spits grease. Our tractor hadn't been driven in over twenty years, so it had a lot of grease to spit. All the people who came within five feet got splattered with black 'freckles' of grease. And for those of us who were around it all day, we were almost all black.

Around noon, my mother came with lunch. We stopped to eat just beyond the Norvell Bridge, and attracted all kinds of attention from people who wanted to know, 'Is that a steam engine?'

When we got home, around four-thirty, the workers were working on the pole barn: future home of the Rumely. They didn't think it fair that we got to play on the tractor while they had to work on the barn.

In the end, we had used over seven gallons of gas and one gallon of oil, for a five hour, fifteen mile trip. As for the race, a turtle could have beaten us.

This chronicle of a family trip was written by Larry Middlebrook's 14 year old daughter, Jennifer.