Another Old Iron Lover

| August/September 2000

3478 Woodlawn Avenue, Haynesville, Louisiana 71038-6202

Recently a friend of mine lent me six copies of GEM, which I enjoyed reading very much, so I sent in my subscription and realized I must be another lover of 'old iron.' To verify my belief I will list below some of my experiences with 'old iron' from the time I was a boy of nine until my present age of 71.

Age 9-11, I caught rides on wagons hauling cotton to the gin, and spent hours investigating all the engines and equipment throughout the gin. Very few belt guards were used those days, so I'm lucky I came out alive. During ginning season, the engines ran day and night.

When I was 12 to 13, my family had a hay baling operation which consisted of an F-12 Farmall tractor, large Case pickup baler with a Waukesha engine, Model A Ford automobile, Model B Ford truck, hay mower, rakes, homemade cooking and a sleeping trailer and six-man crew. I drove the tractor that pulled the hay baler. We baled hay for the public, sometimes spending several days at a time baling in bottom lands, camping near a creek, sometimes catching fish for our evening meal called 'supper' in the South.

At age 14 the summer, during World War II, I worked as a delivery boy for a company in Dallas, Texas, that rebuilt engines and sold engine parts. I had a choice of using a new 1941 Plymouth pickup truck or a new three-wheel Harley-Davidson motor cycle. At age 14, guess which one I used the most?

At 15, I stretched the truth about my age and worked in a shell factory in Ft. Worth, Texas, operating various types of lathes, etc. There was a man-shortage, so the employers weren't so strict.

When I was 16 I received my student pilot's license and learned to fly a J-2 Piper Cub with a big old 40 horsepower Continental engine. The airplane had no brakes or electric power, therefore it had to be cranked by hand. My oldest brother was my flight instructor. He was a test pilot and changed jobs, transferring to Fairfield, California, to fly to islands in the Pacific. They used converted B-24 bombers. He helped me secure a job at the airbase that summer as a driver. I had access to a Cushman motor scooter, Clark forklift, airplane tug with trailer, station wagon and any size truck needed, by going to the motor pool and checking it out. My job consisted of moving parts and equipment from the hangar, unloading B-24 engines from freight cars, making trips to Sacramento to exchange propellers etc., and transporting pilots to and from San Francisco to observe how air traffic overseas was handled. V-J Day was observed while I worked at this airbase.

At 17 I worked during the summer for a general contractor who built highways in Texas. I started as an oiler on a Model 5 Northwest shovel that was powered by a large gasoline Waukesha engine. It had to be cranked by hand and I was barely heavy enough to pull the crank. My operator was a cranky old coot and made me constantly pump grease in all the shovel parts until the grease was all over it, then I had to use a putty knife to scrape it off, and most of this being performed with the machine in operation.

When I was 18, the summer was spent building a highway again, pulling sheep-feet rollers with a Case Model K tractor and operating various Caterpillar dozers, including long trackR-D8. Working hours were long, taking advantage of the hot dry weather. The rock crusher operation was interesting, with all the diesel engines bellowing their black smoke.

When I reached 18-20, those summers were again spent working on highway construction, operating all kinds of dozers, scrapers, and heavy equipment.

Age 21-23. After one year of college, thinking I had all the 'smarts' I needed, I went back to highway construction. I operated a Northwest Model 6 shovel, powered by a six-cylinder Murphy diesel. Finally, I reached twenty-one years of age and hired out to an oil well cementing company, which sent me to Haynesville, Louisiana, to drive a large FWD truck powered by a six-cylinder 'Jimmy' diesel with 500/sack bulk cement trailer.

I met my wife, married, and was drafted a month and a half later into the U.S. Army, during the Korean War. After spending sixteen months training troops for Korea, orders were cut for me to go to Europe. I went to Germany as a dozer operator and heavy duty truck driver, completing my military time, except for being in the reserves, until being discharged.

At 24, I returned to north Louisiana to work for an oil well cementing company, operating a cement pump truck. This company had all kinds of good equipment, many pieces they called pig iron. There were several steam drilling rigs in use in our area and this company had one steam pump truck that could mix cement faster than any others I had seen. It would rock back and forth and resemble a large steam locomotive.

From age 24-66? went to work for a crude oil pipeline company here in Haynesville, as an inexperienced pipe-liner. Worked here for 42 years, raised two sons, and retired as maintenance manager. During those years we used all types of prime mover engines and pumps. When I first started, our main station had three Fairbanks-Morse Type Y vertical oil engines, style V coupled to Worthington horizontal pumps with 4-inch solid plungers. When these machines were started, there had better be a valve open somewhere or the pipeline would be split open. These engines were designed to burn crude of a certain gravity. They did not burn all the fuel, part of it being blown out the vertical exhaust stacks settling on the corrugated tin roof of the pump station building. When I was in the pipeline gang, we spent days on this old roof cleaning it so it could be repainted. We also used all kinds of 'old iron' engines, like Buda, White, Hercules, Waukesha and Ford, to power the prime movers.

I suppose my wife is a lover of old iron, too, having spent 37 of her last working years working for a company that moved oil well drilling rigs in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas area.

About forty years ago, I saved an old engine from one of the pump stations that were being sold for junk. I placed it in storage. Recently I cleaned it up and now have it running. It is a 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type Z engine, with throttling governor, spark plug and open crankcase. I thought it was probably built during 1921 and after securing a list of serial numbers, I found that to be true. I am now looking for a grist mill to use with the engine.

I hope I haven't bored you with reminiscing about my old iron past.


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