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
2. No exposed shafts, on belts or mower (for safety).
3. Slow ground speed so I could catch him, and
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.