Four Miles From The Mississippi River

By Staff

12750 Highway TT Festus, Missouri 63028

Well, I’m going to try my hand at writing about the engine
we have. I am the youngest of three brothers. We were born and
raised on a farm about 40 miles south of St. Louis and about four
miles from the Mississippi River. In those days, no one had
electricity or tractors. Horsepower was the way. Good old days.
Cutting wood with a cross-cut saw and axe was hard work and
slow.

Our farm joined a 1500 acre rich man’s farm. They had an old
castle built in slave times. They also had an old 1916
Fairbanks-Morse, 6 HP gas engine to pull a slow speed, 32 volt
generator for their lights. About 1929, my dad bought the engine
from them to use on the farm to grind corn and saw wood. What a
blessing! It did the work.

One day my uncle, who lived about two miles from us, wanted us
to saw wood for him. The engine was mounted on skids, so we loaded
it in our 1927 Chevrolet flatbed truck. My brother said we could
belt it up without unloading it. Sounded great. We got everything
ready to start it up. My brother gave it a spin and away it went.
They didn’t have the truck bed blocked up, and it started
bouncing up and down. It almost tore the truck up before we could
shut the thing down. That was the last of that.

As time went on, we needed a better way to handle hay. Dad
bought a new John Deere stationary hay baler. That old engine did
the job well. One year we had about 10 acres of alfalfa hay down in
the river bottom to bale. This was in 1937. With engine and baler
down there, everything was ready to go to work. The baling crew was
my two uncles, a cousin, my dad, brother and myself. The hay was in
shocks, so my job was to take the team of mules and buck rake and
bring the hay to the baler. The engine was running on kerosene and
doing fine. We had about a hundred bales made when my dad, who was
feeding the baler, got a little more hay than the baler could take
and caused it to choke up and throw the belt off. My brother went
to the engine to shut it down and add more water and grease. But
before it had time to stop, my cousin picked up the belt and
sheared it back on the engine. The pulley on the engine was the one
used on the generator. It had a space about 1? inches from the
flywheel. The belt was hot and limber and went over in that space.
The engine was on skids and staked in the ground. When that
happened and the baler choked up, the engine wound up on the belt.
My brother was at the engine and as it jumped up, it hit him and
knocked him down, spilling boiling water on him from head to toe.
We were 10 miles from town. We got him to a doctor who treated him
and sent him home. The doctor said he didn’t have a chance to
live, but he did survive, though it took about a year to
recover.

After that, we got a tractor which I still have. After the
accident, my mother didn’t want the engine on the place, so my
older brother took it to his place and tore it all apart.

It escaped scrap drives during the war. One day, one of my sons
and I were talking about it, so we went to look at it in the scrap
pile. We wanted to see if we could coax it back to life. What a
mess. There were some parts buried in the ground that we had to dig
for. We found most of the parts. We sandblasted it, sleeved it and
added missing parts. Finally, it was painted and ready to start. I
told my son to give it a crank, but nothing happened. Checked it
over again, then I told him if I would turn the gas on it might
run. So he gave it another crank and away it went. After 50 years
of neglect, that was sweet music to my ears-even brought a tear to
my eye.

I’m sorry that my dad and brother who got hurt didn’t
get to hear it run again. My other brother couldn’t believe it
could be restored, but we have it now, alive and well.

May I add a word of caution: never run any engine with the wrong
pulley.

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