Madison's Machine

| June/July 1998

  • Madison

  • Madison

914 Johnson Creek Walton, West Virginia 25286

Having my six year old son Madison as a 'gas engine show buddy' is a father's real challenge and opportunity. While Madison enjoys watching tractors and engines at shows, he enjoys 'doing things' even more. Like our visits to the West Virginia Antique Steam and Gas Engine Association spring and fall engine and tractor shows at the West Virginia State Farm Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I was lifting him on and off every single one of the farm museum tractors for his pretend driving sessions. I was on the lookout for a kiddie size garden tractor for him to operate safely at engine shows and on our farm. My shopping list for a tractor included the following factors:

1. Look for a 'big' tractor having fenders, hood and steering wheel.

2. No exposed shafts, on belts or mower (for safety).

3. Slow ground speed so I could catch him, and

4. Cheap.

By chance, a call from my mechanic/welder friends, Keith 'Peewee' Ashby of Ashby's Garage, and his helper Billy Harris met all my requirements. Peewee's son, Robert 'Bubby' Ashby said that I should come up to the garage to see some of 'your kind of stuff' that they had collected on a return trip from the Marietta, Ohio, car crusher. A homeowner/mechanic had flagged them down with an offer to sell and/or give away some old two wheel garden tillers, lawn tractors, lawn mowers and a metal pickup flatbed.

When I arrived at the garage, visually shopping for cast iron mower engines, I found instead a David Bradley two wheel garden tractor with cutter bar, plow, disk, and cultivator. I asked, 'Any garden tractors for sale?' and my attention was brought to what would be 'Madison's Machine,' a Simplicity 707, 8 HP Briggs and Stratton powered garden tractor with two-speed transmission with reverse and no mower. A deal was struck on the two-wheeled garden tractors with equipment, the flatbed pickup bed and Madison's Machine.

Later, I brought Madison up to the garage 'to see Peewee' (and to gauge his interest in this tractor). He got on and started play driving on the tractor. I kept quiet as to whose tractor it really was, because it didn't run yet, but the building project was set in motion.

A 4 HP Briggs engine was made up out of parts from several engines including a new small crankshaft drive pulley to slow things down to boy-speed. Madison's Machine could then move under its own power. The mower lift arm handle was rigged to operate the clutch-brake pedal as Madison's legs were too short to reach the pedals and the tall lever gave Dad an emergency brake to stop the action if the young operator got in over his head. Running boards finished the retrofit and the unveiling and maiden voyage of Madison's Machine was ready.

Madison's face lit up like it was Christmas morning when he was told the tractor he was sitting on was his! A short demonstration at Peewee's was followed by a route around the yard and garden and then Madison's Machine was hauled home. Madison helped sand the tractor, and with Dad's help, primed and painted his choice, dark blue metallic. After several tractor operations, Madison's hearing improved and he doesn't have to be asked twice, 'Want to drive your tractor?' Left and right and stop have been mastered but Dad still walks beside him to add, 'Watch where you are going!' when necessary. Madison's Machine was a hit at the engine show. It was a toss-up who was grinning more, Madison or I. Maybe next year a trailer? (If he learns to back up.)

Madison's Machine was an entry at the County's Kiddie Parade to the delight of all.


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