The Neighborhood Cat: The Movie


| February/March 1999


22711 N.E. 16th Street, Camas, Washington 98607

Some of you may recall the article on my 1930s vintage Cat 22 from the September 1997 issue of GEM. It is a small Caterpillar farm crawler with a Holt blade, a hand crank start, and illusions of grandeur. I purchased it during a weak (in the head) moment without really knowing what I was getting into. Since that last article, Cat and I have had lots of new experiences. This little bulldozer continues to have a mind of its own and an aversion to normality.

As time has passed I have begun demanding more from my machine, asking it to do all kinds of odd jobs around the homestead. It has been clearing huge old burn piles filled with tree stumps, spreading gravel and rock, and dragging tree limbs and boulders, not to mention ripping up the usual mole hills. However, it hasn't been willing to do any of this without constantly reminding me just who the boss is in every case.

We have a long gravel driveway that needed refurbishing, so I had fifteen yards of crushed rock delivered to right in front of the house. It's hard to relate just how large a fifteen-yard pile of rock is, but I wasn't worried. I had my trusty Cat. Apparently my trusty Cat took one look at all that rock and decided that it wanted to take up a different line of work, like maybe yard art. In spite of having run perfectly for weeks, it now refused to run on any more than half of its cylinders at any one time. Needless to say, it wouldn't move any rock. By the time I had traced the problem to closed-up points in the magneto, my wife, three-year-old son and I had spread all that rock with shovels and wheelbarrows while the Cat pouted over in the corner.



After I rebuilt the magneto and cleaned up the throttle linkages and governor, the Cat was running along just great for at least a week. I decided all was well and ordered a huge pile of dirt delivered for another project. The Cat, of course, took one look at that dump truck full of dirt and apparently decided that a vacation in Baja was more attractive. It started fine, sounded good, and ran great for about five minutes, just long enough for me to begin to relax. Then it chose the moment when it was climbing up the dirt piles and was nearly to the top to blow its stack, literally. Smoke, steam, cobwebs and mole guts blew out sideways from under the hood, the stack blew off, and all forward motion ceased. There I sat, on top of that three tons of iron, teetering back and forth, and exploring my reserves of forgotten swear words.

The Cat 22 has a rather oddly designed cast iron intake/exhaust preheater arrangement that all the rest of its engine breathing apparatus bolts onto. The machine originally could run on either gasoline or reconstituted compost, and this cast iron box made the appropriate arrangements. Being over sixty years old now, I guess it simply chose that moment to pass on to the preheater Valhalla in the sky. It literally went out with a bang. This seems to have been a chronic weakness in little Cats because this particular part appears to be only slightly less rare than an honest politician. In desperation, I decided to build one. My wife has always thought my actions were occasionally somewhat suspect in the practicality department, but I think this one really may have pushed her over the edge.














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