P.O. Box 446, Buffalo, Texas 75831
It all started simply enough: a so-called friend, Sonny House, from New Braunfels, gave me a contraption he called a one cylinder engine. This was the beginning of my addiction! Just to show how ignorant I was at the time, I spent three years looking for a magneto for the 1? HP Fairbanks Morse until someone told me that it never did have one. ('What are you talking about, timing marks on the gears?')
Since the initial learning experience, I have purchased, searched for, been given, and otherwise acquired approximately eight-no, make that ten-one cylinder engines. Not all of them run yet, but just give me time and more lube.
Then, my habit took a turn for the worse when someone gave me a John Deere tractor. Well, I was doing pretty good by now because I had learned so much, like magnetos, coils, and spark plugs and how well meaning brothers-in-law can sure give you a shock! John Deere tractors only have two cylinders, so why not try to restore one?
I am a veterinarian in rural east Texas, and I am surprised that I have not killed myself while driving on large animal calls because I am now looking in every fence row and pasture, behind every barn, or wherever I think I might find an old engine or tractor.
That gift tractor was the best thing that has happened to me. On December 20th, 1989, Horace Epps called me just at dark to come deliver a calf. I did not want to go because the temperature was in the lower teens with the wind blowing at 30 MPH, and believe me, we are not accustomed to that kind of weather! But I went, and driving through his gate to the cow pen I passed what looked like an entire salvage yard for old tractors. In my headlights I saw a styled John Deere and began having visions of restoration on a larger scale.
I was in time to deliver a live calf for Mr. Epps, and told him to take it home with him because it would never survive the night in that weather. When I nonchalantly mentioned the John Deere tractor I had seen, he said he couldn't sell it because he was still using it, but to bring my flashlight and come with him. I didn't have a flashlight, but we went farther back in his storage yard and there in the dark was an unstyled Model B John Deere tractor which turned out to be a brass tag 1935, Serial #10924. Mr. Epps must have been appreciative for my delivering this calf because he said I could just take the tractor.
Earlier I mentioned that even brothers-in-law could give you a shock; in case you are confused, I will explain. Hugh Wink is my brother-in-law and he is also getting into the 'bad' habit of collecting old rusty iron. He was helping me put the magneto on a Model B John Deere and set the timing. The method that I use to set the timing is to sit on the flywheel side of the tractor, put the little finger on my left hand in the spark plug hole, and slowly rotate the flywheel until I get the piston top dead center and the magneto to fire. Well, I had readjusted the mag three or four times and just about had it right. I had forgotten to keep my eyes on Hugh-big mistake! While I was working on the flywheel side, he was on the other side putting the spark plug wires in the mag and threading one of them through to my side. You guessed it! The mag impulsed, the wire was touching my right hand, and when I screamed and jumped I broke my little finger which was stuck in the spark plug hole!
I am always learning lessons in safety while working with old iron. Once when I was charging a battery with a trickle charger and working on an engine cart with an electric grinder, I heard an explosion behind me. Yes, it can happen. The sparks from the grinder ignited the gas coming from the battery and I no longer had a battery. Luckily nothing was hurt but my pride.
Lessons in expense are easy to come by, too. I was working on my second engine, an upright 1 Vi Monitor. I had done all the things I was supposed to do to get it running, with no success. In the meantime I had taken a glass fireplace door out to the workbench to clean the carbon and soot off (price range of the door $75-$100). I decided to make one more effort on the Monitor before cleaning the door. There I was making adjustments, turning the flywheel until I had blisters, when all of a sudden the thing fired! It ran at full speed (why bolt it down if it won't run?); with me trying to hold it, the Monitor took off like a jackhammer across the workbench, right on top of the fireplace insert and quickly reduced it to a pile of shattered glass.
One of the greatest pleasures in having old engines and tractors is going to shows and meeting people who share my addiction. The first year that I was an exhibitor, the Texas Early Day Tractor and Engine Association Show was held at Speegleville, Texas, and all I had to show was the Monitor engine that ran away with me. I did not have a cart built yet, and when I sat the engine on the ground, sure enough, it would not even start, let alone run.
I became a member of that association, and this past October we went to our permanent show grounds in Temple, Texas. I guess I have come up in the world because I carried a Hercules engine, the Monitor engine, and the 1935 Model B John Deere tractor. Just to kick off the move to the new showgrounds, everything ran perfectly. I even managed to introduce my nephew, Prentice Wink, to the spark plug and magneto.
Last but definitely not least, I want to thank some of the best people in the world. Those people have given generously of their time, thought, energy and self to the preservation of a bygone era and to helping others learn about this hobby. I earlier mentioned my ignorance when I first started. With help and knowledge from many patient people, I feel a sense of accomplishment that comes from taking a discarded piece of the past and making it work again.
Because of my work schedule I am not able to attend many shows, but I know that any time I can get away I will meet people who are willing to stop, spend time with me, and share their experience. Thanks! You are too many to name here, but you all know who you are!