Spark Plug of the Month

By Staff
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Courtesy Gerald Lestz, Editor, Gas Engine Magazine.
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 GM-74
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 GM-74
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390 GM-74

Union City, Indiana 47390

There he stood, leaning against the vibrating radiator and
trying to out-shout the old 25-50 Baker Tractor which was doing
50-horse on the Baker Fan without losing his cheek-full of Bagpipe
chawing tobaccer.

‘She’s doin’ ’bout fifty, Joe,’ he yelled
over the steady, rythmic chug of the mighty Baker which was hitting
on all four — his grin depicting the proudest moment of a Spark
plug’s life without even losing his precious cud. What a
50-horse Baker couldn’t jar loose, I felt his smile would. But
Leo kept a tight lip.

From the files of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka,
we have obtained some old-time farm pictures. Perhaps some Kansas
old-timers who are still there or living elsewhere can recall
details. If you want to buy prints of the pictures they are
obtainable from the Historical Society.

The one pictured above-is a tractor built by E. W. Willard,
Morrill, Kansas about 1918.

You haven’t met a friendlier

Spark plug than Leo Daniels. As I found out during my brief
interview at the Rushville, Ind., Pioneer Engineers Club which
turned out to be a shouting match between the human voice and an
un-muffled Baker tractor leaning heavily into a tight belt against
the Baker Fan, doin’ fifty.

Yes, Leo Daniels is the friendly sort of guy who is long on the
handshake and broad with the smile. The kind o’ fellow who has
fun at the shows both on and off his tractor and with the folks.
Never sees a stranger does Leo — whether it pertains to either gas
tractors or people. For, as to tractor he’s owned them all. As
to people, he knows them all. And all of them he likes.

‘If you’re ever over in our area, pay us a visit,’
is the welcome Leo Daniels always holds out to you. ‘I’ve
got a lot to show you,’ says he.

But, even if I did make it over to Milton, Indiana, where Leo
holds forth, despite the gas shortage, I knew I never could afford
enough film to take pictures of all the stuff he’s collected.
For the lineage of old-time gas tractors and gas engines, the steam
boilers and uprights and portables, the cider and sorghum mills and
burr mills, not to count the horse-drawn implements and sawmill
gearing — to name a few — read more like a Who’s Who in
Agricultural Memorabilia Americana than the old-time Sears Roebuck
catalog. And I could probably spend the rest of my life there,
taking pictures, with no time left to write the story.

‘I have a 20-40 Oil Pull, a 25-50 Baker, 17-30 Minneapolis,
a four-wheel drive Massey Harris, three Fordsons, an Oliver 70 and
F-12 Farmall, a Regular Farmall, C C Case and a 25-40
Allis-Chalmers,’ says Leo, just getting a good start at naming
his ‘family’. (Let’s hope his memory doesn’t give
out.) ‘Then I have a 40-62 Huber, a 30-50 Huber and a 15-30 and
10-20 L.C. Huber, a Best 30 Crawler, Caterpillar 10, a Toro Motor
Cultivator and a 5-10 Avery Orchard Model tractor, very rare. And
that’s not all, Joe.’ (Wow –that would be one box of film
gone now.)

‘I have a Model D. John Deere with spoke fly-wheel, a Model
A John Deere, and a G-P John Deere and three old steel-wheeled
garden tractors,’ continues Leo Daniels, flipping through the
pages of his classified calculus mentalis. ‘And everyone
I’ve named so far are on steel wheels,’ says Leo,
underlining the steel to let us know he’s a stickler to the
authentic and original, as per the factory catalog picture.

Naming some of his small internal combustion power, says Leo, I
have about sixty gas engines from one to twelve horsepower — many
different kinds, some very rare, such as a 6 H.P. Woodpecker, an
Aero-Motor, Fuller Johnson,
Stickney  and  Emerson Brantingham, to name a
few.’

Almost all of the tractors and gas engines mentioned are in
working order and are used in the sawmill, threshing and
fodder-shredding operations on the Leo Daniels Farm.

Top picture is an old-time threshing scene at the Leo Daniels
Farm in 1971 and by tractor power. Next shows Leo and Jerry Daniels
cutting wheat by tractor in 1968. Following scene shows Spark Plug
Leo Daniels likes the smell of smoke and feel of the throttle on
Walter Hood’s 20-75 Nichols-Shepard which he houses at his
farm. Bottom scene is Leo Daniels Baker, Best 30 and Woodpecker gas
engine in background. Pictures are from Leo Daniels, Route 1,
Milton, Indiana.

It seems that I have interests in many things,’ says Leo.
(As if we hadn’t already guessed.) ‘I have two stone burr
mills and a sugar cane mill and cider press to make our own
cider.’ (While Leo takes time out to aim for the gobboon,
I’ll slip a new sheet into my typewriter. One page won’t
hold it all.)

Don’t get the idea you’ve heard it all. For Leo Daniels
goes on and on, listing his ‘goodies’ of yesteryear in
other and diverse fields. And, in case you’ve already judged
him a landlubber confined to merely tilling the soil — forget it.
This guy once sprouted wings to soar high and beyond the line fence
— and has the remnants to prove it.

Says Leo, ‘I used to do some flying, way back when you flew
by the seat of your pants. I still have a rare Heath-Parasol
airplane engine and some parts from my planes, including the
propeller and tail section.’

And Daniels doesn’t want us to overlook his seven antique
outboard motors, dating from 1914 to 1928. And he hastens to inform
us he has a very old high-wheeled bicycle (the kind you fall off of
and get laid up in the hospital in traction from trying to ride it
if you don’t know how.)

Then there is the antique motorcycle which he still has around
— to sort of remind him of the days when he used to zoom up the
muddy turnpike roads, scaring all the horses into running away with
their buggies and farm wagons and upsetting neighbors in corn
shocks and wheat fields.

And still he hasn’t mentioned his portable 50-horse Frick
steam engine, and the several small stationary steam engines and
upright boilers he has sitting around, just for atmosphere. Or the
Advance-Rumely 28-46 separator and the New Idea shredder which he
uses for threshing grain and shredding each year.

‘We also have a sawmill which we use now and then,’ says
Leo. ‘And I also have some horse-drawn implements.’

In case you might think that Leo Daniels has a lot of stuff just
to play around with and have fun –don’t. For the list of early
gas tractors he’s worn out in his farming over the years is
just as impressive and endless.

‘Yes, I was a farm boy — raised at Riley, Ohio, a small
town south of Oxford. Then we moved to Indiana in 1930. I helped my
father with the threshing and working a great deal with horses
before the gas tractors. I didn’t get started with
steam.’

Above is the 20-40 Rumely Oil-Pull on the Leo Daniels Farm. At
top, that’s Leo with the rig coming to do the family threshing.
Bottom shows son, Jerry, standing beside Oil Pull. Pictures from
Leo Daniels.

‘My first tractor was a Fordson, then the 10-20’s,
15-30’s and (here we go again), 20-40 Oil Pulls’, says he.
‘After that it was the John Deere A’s and B’s, followed
by a Minneapolis, Baker, Allis-Chalmers, Avery, some Hubers, a
Toro, Oliver 70, the F-20’s and F-12’s. And somewhere
between the John Deere and Minneapolis, a Frick portable steam
engine came in.’

To use it reads like a Who’s Who in the evolution of
American farm tractors. But to Leo Daniels it meant trying them all
out, possibly wearing some out, to see which one was best in
getting the job done. And it doesn’t surprise us when he comes
up with this statement, ‘I’ve always been interested in
mechanics.’

‘I do all my own work in restoring these tractors and
engines and machinery,’ says Leo. ‘I have made several of
my own shop tools such as a power hacksaw, an air-compressor, a
drill press and trip-hammer.’

Leo Daniels is proud of the fact that he, and his wife,
Josephine, still farm their 140 acres of rich river-bottom which
lies along the winding, beautiful Whitewater River — a waterway
fraught with Indian legend and lore.

Altho Leo’s daughter, Lucille, and two grandchildren live in
far away California, he does have his son, Jerry, who still lives
at home and is attending classes at Indiana University East at
Richmond, Indiana.

‘Jerry helps me out with the tractors and engines,’ says
Leo.

The only show that Leo Daniels takes a tractor to, for
exhibition and performance — as well as just to have fun — is the
Pioneer Engineers Club at Rushville, Indiana. After all, it would
be most difficult and costly to move even a portion of his
menagerie elsewhere for public showing, when all he has to do is
remain ‘back on the farm’ and ‘down in the river
bottom’ where every day he puts on a different show anyhow.

And who are we to doubt that, everytime he makes sorghum, or
presses apple-squeezin’s for cider, does a bit o’
sawmillin’ or threshes a jag o’ wheat — any and all who
have a nose to smell and an ear to hear the barking of an old-time
tractor come a-running anyway. At least that’s what we’d
do, if we were just happening by within earshot and our nostrils
caught wind of that sorghum ‘n cider.

All of us who remember — we thank you, Leo, for preserving the
sights and sounds and smells of yesteryear so dear. And for all
your unwavering interest and labor in gathering together such an
impressive array of old-time Americana we doff our Spark Plug katy,
and dust off a front-row seat in our Hall of Spark Plug Fame.

Our love is greater than all the junk men who envy you. And
hover over you, like buzzards at a banquet. GM-74

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