AT LAST, IT’S MINE!

By Staff

Route 1, Floydada, Texas 79235

‘Why can’t that man call?’ my husband, Charles,
fretted. ‘It’s been two weeks already. Surely he’s made
up his mind whether or not he wants to sell.’

The object of all this anxiety was an old gas engine, a Monitor,
that once had been used to power a windmill on our treeless Texas
Plains. Charles had learned of the engine from an acquaintance. He
had made an offer to buy the engine from the owner, and he was not
accepting or rejecting the offer as quickly as Charles wanted. He
was as itchy as a child with chicken pox waiting for the phone to
ring. His quest for the Monitor made Sir Lancelot’s quest for
the Holy Grail look like an Easter egg hunt. He probably would have
hocked one of the kids to raise the funds to buy that old hunk of
iron. Finally, after nearly worrying himself into apoplexy, Charles
and the engine’s owner reached a mutually satisfactory
agreement, and Charles could add another entry in his gas engine
ledger.

So, one cold, blustery day this past May, Charles, Chase, our
three-year-old son, Phil Dunavant, a neighbor, and I drove out to
the rural cotton gin that serves the Becton Community some 25 miles
northeast of Lubbock. It was not the type of day that was ideal for
an outing and certainly not typical for a day in early May. The
biting wind was blowing straight out of the north, kicking up fine
dust that made the chilly air even more uncomfortable.

Charles had not been this excited since the births of our
children. He was not going to let a little thing like a cutting
north wind and swirling dust slow him down. He probably would have
driven a team of huskies through a roaring blizzard to retrieve his
Monitor.

Although Charles had not actually seen the engine, he knew it
was tucked safely away in the gin’s seed house. Charles and
Phil had to move a mountain of dusty, cobwebby tarps, gin belts,
wire, nets for cotton modules, and even a red bicycle to free that
engine from its prison. Next they had to work it out of the seed
house, which in itself would have tested the strength of Atlas.
Finally, the men had the engine out in the bright May sunshine, and
they could see what they had been working so hard to get.

There it sat, a three-horse open crankshaft Monitor with the
36-inch gear pump jack still attached to the back. Its five-spoke
flywheel stood proud and tall, the white striping still visible. It
looked as though it were just waiting to be used again to pump the
precious water from beneath the dusty plains. We could see the
white design, faint but still distinguishable, on the water hopper
that cooled the engine. The wood on which it was mounted was
painted red with the word MONITOR stenciled in black with a black
flower design stenciled on either side.

The process of restoring the Monitor to its original glory has
begun. Charles poured a new bearing from babbit, a new experience
in itself. He disassembled the Monitor and has started sandblasting
the different parts. It will be repainted the original gray. The
striping will be carefully replaced. When it has been reassembled,
this three horse Monitor will run as smoothly as an antelope
dashing across the Texas Plains.

Charles swears he can sniff out engines as we drive down a
highway. So many times I have heard him say, ‘This is engine
country. I can smell one around here.’ Charles is usually
right. He even found one in downtown Ruidosa, New Mexico, while we
were on vacation one summer. He has said innumerable times, ‘I
don’t want all the gas engines in the world, just the ones I
know about.’

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