Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'
'That fellow was born with wheels in his head,' so they said. But there are others who might have said, 'He was born with a Boyscout compass and hatchet in each hand, and a knapsack on his back.' Still there are those who might claim he has steam and gas in his blood with a strong yearning to sail the seven seas running rife through his veins. All who know him (and that's about everyone) revere him as a leader in the community while every boy who ever belonged to Scout Troop 27 respects him as though he wore an invisible halo o'er his head. An anthropologist, analyzing his weather-lined countenance, might deem him a man of the soil, while a genealogist, upon trying to spell his name, could well acclaim him of most honorable French descent.
That's Angereau--spell it if you can-- Angereau McConnell of Danville, Kentucky, hard by Atoka, just up Perryville Road a little.
'Yes--we all know Angereau McConnell' they all say. 'Lives over by 'Toka Store, he does. And a mighty fine fellow he is.'
To a man with steam engine oil in his blood, a ride with Angereau on his paddlewheel steam boat up Herrington Lake might well convince him he's a died-in-the-wool Iron Man with real-for-sure coal dirt and firebox soot on his hands and brow. But a confirmed gas engine bug, foraging through his barns and sheds, could just as well dub him a Spark Plug--and that's where we aim to nail him. At least till someone comes along and buys a superb piece of his artistic wrought-iron work and calls him a blacksmith.
At any rate, before we get any further entangled in the intricacies of this man's diverse talents and character traits, we'll stop right here and call him Spark Plug Angereau McConnell. At least we're on safe grounds here, even if we can't fathom the broad perspectives of the entire man. And if you're lucky enough to be invited into his home, you don't have to be an anthropologist, a genealogist, or even an apologist to analyze that good old-fashioned southern Kentucky hospitality which befuddles the brains of 'us northerners'.
Lucky for us, it has been our pleasure and privilege to set up Uncle Elmer's Gas Engine Magazine dispensing constabulary directly across from the Angereau McConnell internal-combustion exhibits at the Blue Grass Engine Show, Harrodsburg, Ky., the first two years of its organizational existence. Here it is that we've had the opportunity to observe, first-hand, the astute Angereau in the actual operation of a diversity of old gas engines and antique tractors, all doing the work they were designed for back on the farm many years ago.
What Angereau calls his 'pride and joy'--a 2 II. P. upright Famous International of 1905 vintage--was belted up to an old 1883 model Ross Feed Cutter for the purpose of demonstrating how fodder was chopped into chewable proportions for the cattle of yesteryear.
Instead of the usual barrel-type cooling system, Angereau had innovated an old house radiator to the front of his International to keep the cylinder from overheating. It not only looked more professional than a barrel but proved more efficient--almost as if it had been a factory-engineered radiator-type cooler.
A one-and-a-half horsepower Bohon Engine, sold years ago by the George Bohon Company Mail Order House in Harrodsburg, was belted to an old 1877 Heelner & Sons Groundhog Thresher which Angereau bought from an old German family over in the Knobs which are the foothills in the lower part of Boyle County, Kentucky. They had used it to thresh by horsepower treadmill for years and years.
Combining public service with his exhibit, McConnell displayed a one-and-a-half horsepower John Deere Engine belted to a three-foot grind-wheel to show how Great Grandfather used to put an edge on his axe for felling the farm trees and chopping off the head of the Thanksgiving turkey. Many were the menfolk who stopped by long enough to whip out their favorite Bowie or Barlow Jacknife to whet the blade a bit.
Angereau McConnell and his 2 HP. upright Famous International Engine chop fodder with an old 1883 Ross Feed Cutter. One of the outstanding exhibits at Blue Grass Show this year, Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
Spark Plug Angereau McConnell looks very much like the proverbial plow-boy who ran away to become a railroader. The 40-foot, 25-ton C. & E. I. Caboose went through harried experiences before it finally was placed on the spur of track behind the McConnell barns. 1. to r.-Angereau McConnell and friend, Carl Smith.
Then there is Angereau's 'throne seat' which he always likes to bask in the warm Kentucky sun on, atop his old 1938 Huber H. K. Tractor, boasting thirty-seven and-a-half horsepower. Loves to tinker with the carburetor so that, when he leans into the big crank to turn the engine over, she barks right off in a staccatto, one-two-three-four rhythm, drowning out the one-lungers that are popping along simultaneously.
But the Huber is only one of a collection of seven old tractors which Angereau McConnell has around the barns and sheds at home--the others being a Model--A John Deere, a Case size C, a 1940 Model-B Allis Chalmers, a '47 Massey Harris '30' and two McCormick Deering 10-20 Tractors.
And taking up the vacuum of space between the old-time tractors in the McConnell barns on the paternal homestead farm are the smaller internal-combustion one-cylinder engines with such familiar names as Mogul 8 H. P., Fairbanks Morse Model Z, 3 II. I'., E-conomy, 3 II. P., Nova Upright, 2 II. P., Hired Man of 2 II. P., Delco Light Plant and Genco Light Plant, two Briggs and Stratton Engines of VA H. P., two Maytags, a single cylinder Sears Marine Engine of 5 II. P., plus a generous portion of engine parts.
If a died-in-the-wool steam engine man should visit the McConnell barns, the sight of an old 1870 McCowan Vertical Engine, two Troy Vertical Engines of three and five horsepower respectively, one Cretors Pop Corn Engine, a homemade steam engine (no doubt of McConnell design and engineering) and a 1903 Locomobile Automobile Engine might cause him to dub the diversified Angereau as truly an Iron-Man.
Should the same man, however, happen along Herrington Lake and get a glimpse of 'Cap'n' McConnell cutting through the briny deep at the helm of his homemade steam-powered launch, with admiral's cap 'n all, he might well deem him a sea farin' admiral in the Queen's 'Nah-vee'. The P. S. Voyager (Paddle Steamer Voyager), a neat, twenty-foot steamboat with two cylinders powered directly to the rear paddle wheel, was built and designed from stem to stern in the McConnell farm shops. The quiet slosh of the paddle wheel digging into the waters of Herring-ton Lake, the picturesque reciprocating steam cylinders, the piercing whistle, all lend a most nostalgic sight whenever 'Cap'n' McConnell takes his Troop 27 Boy Scouts for a cruise from King's Mill dock down to Gwinn Island and back as a reward for obedience and adherence to the official Scout Manual.
But if anyone happened to be visiting the McConnell farm, and was, perchance, invited to step up onto the platform of the big 40-foot, 25-ton C. & E. I caboose which Angereau had hauled to a spot of track he laid, back of his barns, he might refer to our Spark Plug as the proverbial plow-boy who left the farm and hopped a train to live the life of a rambling railroader. The first caboose he ordered never got there, due to vandals destroying it before the railroad could move it off of company property. But Angereau, having already paid for the 'rear end of his freight train', was promptly reimbursed by another caboose. However, before he came into ownership of it, vandals once again dismantled the innards, destroying the cushions and the pot-bellied stove, lights, etc. Still waiting for its delivery a month later, Angereau went to investigate and discovered it had been shuttled here and there on company tracks, winding up only a hundred yards from where he first spotted it in the railroad yard. The understanding railroaders located him another caboose stove and replaced it, as well as some of the other furnishings, then finally delivered it by low-boy to the spur of track which the indomitable Angereau had waiting for it. Here it is that Spark Plug McConnell, President of the 'A. McCon & Ell Railroad' hosts his fellow directors of the Blue Grass Steam and Gas Engine Club, as well as special friends, like Carl Smith, to genuine 'crummy' coffee 'round the old caboose pot-bellied stove. And, too, it serves as a mighty fine reward to his faithful Boy Scouts whenever Scoutmaster McConnell calls a special conclave of Troop 27.
However, we prefer to narrow the gap on the McConnell plug and just call him Spark Plug of the Month, despite the fact that he does like to 'horse around' the steam engines at the annual Blue Grass Steam and Gas Engine Shows. Likewise in spite of the fact that our camera 'caught' him 'stealing' that big locomotive whistle from off the top of Forrest Cunningham's Case Steam Engine after the show was over, which he later explained was 'hisn'n.'
'The junk man where I got this big whistle thought it was some kind of a grease gun, and he couldn't get it to shoot the grease, so he up and gave it to me,' chuckled Spark Plug McConnell over his free prize--the sweetest sounding, most melodious 'grease gun' any of us had ever heard, without price tag or tax attached.
Of all his gas engines, old tractors and other antique farm equipment, says Angereau, 'I always restore what needs restoring, but I never re-paint them, preferring they carry as much of the original paint and color schemes as possible.' A might good way of preserving their factory authenticity. And this includes an old four-generation double-shovel farm plow which his great grand- father used before the Civil War on the very same farm where Angereau's family and his mother live in their own respective homes. To McConnell, the old wooden threshers and feed choppers and other equipment somehow look all the more genuinely antique unretouched by modern paints and varnishes. And we agree.
Wherever you go, up and down Perryville Road, or should you drop by the Atoke country store or take that semiannual trek into the Danville county seat courthouse to pay your taxes--the mere mention of the Angereau McConnell name opens all doors a little wider to all who know him. For Angereau Me-Connell has become a sort of household legend in all these parts throughout this portion of Kentucky-land.
'Yes--we know Angereau McConnell--he's such a gentleman--a fine man,' come the replies from both young and old. 'He's a leader in our church, a scoutmaster well loved--Angereau's a man we can depend on.'
Spark Plug Angereau McConnell has a weakness of 'jumping up on a steam engine' now and then at Blue Grass Steam and Gas Engine Show, Harrodsburg, Ky. Camera caught him 'stealing' big locomotive whistle off Forrest Cunningham's Case Engine. It was given to him by junk man who thought it was an old grease gun that wouldn't work.
Knowing Angereau McConnell is the very best kind of introduction any northerner or 'damyankee' visiting in these parts can boast of. It's like a passport to heaven, and who is to say that beautiful Kentucky-land isn't almost like heaven to us visitors from the Ohio flatlands? For God surely made such as the hospitable slate of '01' Kain-tuek', and Angereau who so well represents the good folk living there.
'I can't say enough good things about Angereau McConnell,' says Carl Secchi, President of The Blue Grass Steam and Gas Engine Show at Harrods-burg, Ky. 'He's served so excellently on our board of directors, and there's nothing he won't do that needs doing.'
'This combo Iron and Spark man is a first class ornamental blacksmith and can make anything he desires,' continues Secchi. 'Resides being a member of the Kentucky Guild of Arts and Crafts, Angereau is an outstanding scout leader and extremely active in church circles. He has tons of good used parts from 1926 airplanes to steam and gas engines.
He will not let a fellow man go wanting.' How well we can testify to that--the front-support spindle of our trailer having been damaged enroute to the Blue Grass Show this year, to the point that we were unable to set up. And Angereau pounded the spindle back into shape on the rim of Frank Cornish's Keck Gonnerman and we were soon back in business, before we knew it.
For re-capturing the old-time spirit of American agriculture, for preserving and restoring so much of the past that is dear--the old-time gas engines, the tractors, the steam boat and railroad caboose--for raising your 'family' of fine Boy Scouts into leading citizens over the past thirty years, and exuding that good, old-fashioned Kentucky hospitality--we doff the old fedora as you, Angereau, take an honored seat in our vaunted Hall of Spark Plug Fame. We're sure that your wife, Martha, (supervising teacher at the Kentucky School for the Deaf), will need no special sign language from us to agree. Neither will your daughters, Angela and Margaret-nor your 'sons', the Scouts of OF Twenty-seven.
Frank Wamock's midget gas engines at Kinzers. He was Elmer's friendly neighbor. Frank is from Peoria Heights, Illinois.
Angereau McConnell on the 'throne seat' of his 1938 Huber H. K. Tractor of 37? HP. at Blue Grass Steam and Gas Engine Show.
And now, though we'll not attempt to bribe with any further diatribe, we hope Carl Secchi isn't lax in awarding one of those special Champion Spark Plug Plaques.