Family Memoirs

By Staff

5500 County Road 27 N. E., Spicer, Minnesota 56288

An old photograph, a musty storage chest, and old tractor
memories. Certain objects-some old, some not-occupy a part of our
beings. These objects open our hearts to fond thoughts and

In the summer of 1982 a friend of mine and I, took off on one of
those imaginative journeys into the boondocks. Into old familiar
farms, groves and rock piles we drove in a quest for

I’ve often wished I had a good ole grease sniffing, hard-oil
hunting, cast iron looking dog – to smell out old iron – if so,
I’d name him ‘Ol’ Grease Cup’, yep, ‘OP Grease
Cup’. Well as treasure hunters hoping to strike it rich,
finding a Stickney or Mogul or, or, or, such a foolish

Anyway, we visited several sites and being we were near, decided
to visit my great uncle, Herman.

As we drove up we saw him ambling across the yard. He has
arthritis, but his mischievous smile and grin masked an obvious
inner pain.

‘Hi!’ I said. ‘Remember me, Lee Minzel?’
‘Oh, yes!’ And after introductions we settled into a
conversation about crops, rain and old times.

One thing I’ve learned is to revere the solidness of the
many older friends I’ve made at threshing shows. Their wisdom
and honesty are often the real gift at a reunion.

As the conversation rambled – lo and behold – barely visible,
above an iron pile to my left, I noticed the curve of a flywheel
and a spoke or two. My pulse quickened and I asked Uncle Herman,
‘Is that a gas engine I see in the scrap pile?’ ‘Yep, a
John Deere,’ he stated. It didn’t take long to toss angle
iron, fencing, shafts cattle waterers, and various debris out of
the way. Yes, a 1? John Deere, alright!

Solid as a rock but complete. Solid, and I do mean solid; the
crank wouldn’t move a stitch. The water hopper was split on the
bottom, but the elusive magneto and all the other small parts were
there. Heck, it even had a Mogul crankshaft breather threaded into
its crankcase cover. Genuine ‘Great Uncle Factory option’
and a good idea. After the usual grunt and groan, ech and strain we
secured the 1? into my pickup; my great-uncle said if I was crazy
enough to try to get it running I could have it. With thanks and
some musings we headed home.

To get the J. D. apart I was torn between dynamite or nitro; man
was it petrified! I removed the side cover and it had a 1924 serial
date, if indeed the first two numbers are the date of

Then I carefully, as in climbing up an iron pile, removed the
magneto. Lo and behold, the base bolt holes were miraculously
intact and after teardown, cleaning, recharging, and reassembly the
mag was hot.

Whatever anyone thinks, I feel a mag that works, that is that
old, is a miracle and a tribute to good old fashioned
quality-disregarding pot metal-ish!

Was it WICO that had on the EK nameplate ‘Guaranteed for all
time against defects in materials and workmanship’? Now
that’s a warranty!

Next I removed the cylinder head. The valve heads had rusted off
and were lying in the cylinder bore. I bored the valve guides out
to 3/8 and installed 283 Chevy exhaust
valves. To drill the holes in the hardened valves for the valve
spring pins, I heated the valve stem cherry red then allowed them
to cool very slowly in a can of floor dry.

The ignitor, after a thorough soaking in used automatic
transmission fluid (cheap, good soak’em fluid), came apart
easily. If you heat the ignitor good and warm – not charbroiled-and
place it back in the fluid hot it really works in and loosens
things up.

After ordering some ignitor springs, it and the head were

The block had ‘bought the farm’-cracked, and the
cylinder bore more closely resembled a culvert. I found another
block and then discovered mine was .060 over. I bored the block
myself. It’s a real trick with so little surface on the head
end to mount the boring bar.

The crankshaft, main and rod journals were very badly pitted. I
found a crank and flywheel at one of my friends’ house-another
cast iron fiend.

I ordered rod and main bearings from Wally Steding in Fort
Dodge- good product. I stopped and visited Wally and his son once a
couple of years ago; he and his son are fine people to spend time

Well, the block’s done and bored-put in new rod and mains-
new rings. Ever notice how much fun it is to turn over an engine
just with the piston and gears in? Fun isn’t it?

Having never tinkered with a ? John Deere, I just loved that
left handed governor nut. Made bushings for the timing and governor
gear shafts.

Gears in, mag on, side cover on, crankcase cover on, solder gas
tank, clean fuel line, basic timed.

Crank-pop-fizzle, crank-pop-fizzle, crank-pop-anger! Why
won’t it continue to fire? Get a glove, getting blisters,
I’m getting mad, better hold a truce.

Let’s try a coil to the igniter to bypass the mag, same
thing-no cigar.

Ah! What are those little marks on the brass fuel needle mixers
seat? Hum, holes should go up and down but it won’t run that
way, tee he ehee. When turned sideways it does.

Try again. Wow! It just about took my blistered thumb off. It
runs, quick, get water in the water hopper. It turns out my
great-uncle left water in the John Deere the winter of 1941, and
that ain’t good Minnesota antifreeze. It cracked the block and
was sentenced to run no more. It was 1982 some 41 years later that
I pulled it from its grave. It also turned out that my father, as a
boy, often stayed with his uncle and had started the John Deere
many times to pump water from the well.

I took pictures of the engine and sent them to my great-uncle
who is now in a rest home. He just couldn’t believe I got it

I often wander out to the shed and look at the green 1? and
think about how my father started it and no doubt listened to its
‘Ah-eh-ka-chu,’ and now I’ve had the pleasure to
listen. But best of all, it’s the memories, the continuity, the
joy. I’m thankful.

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