From One Friend To Another

| September/October 1992

  • Friend Engine
    Engine #11584 parked beside Ridge Road shortly after it was retrieved from the swamp. The Schleber carb has been removed. Note section of tree trunk attached to the frame at left.
  • Friend Engine
    When new, Friend engine #15584 with chassis #S387 resembled this photo of a DXA Skid Model appearing in a Friend Manufacturing Company sales catalog. The buyer supplied his own running gear for increased savings. (Photo provided with permission of Friend

  • Friend Engine
  • Friend Engine

6190 Keller Avenue, Newfane, New York 14108

When I was growing up, there was a kid named Jerry who lived on the farm up the road. Jerry was one of those kids who did not inspire friendship. He was amazingly accurate in an apple fight. He was light-fingered and knew more swear words than a 10-year-old was allowed to know, let alone say! I tried to avoid this kid like the plague! Despite my feelings, my father would always say, 'Davey, you can never have too many friends.' It is truly amazing how a parent's words can affect a person in his formative years! Now I find myself saying the very same thing to my wife and family and neighbors. You see, I collect Friend sprayer engines and that is exactly how I feel. A person cannot have too many Friends.

Let me tell you about my newest Friend. Just before Christmas, a human friend called me up. A friend (human) of his had been hunting deer in a swamp back of his house and had stumbled upon an old engine. My friend (Bob) asked me if I was interested in it. (Does a bear. . .?) Of course, I was!! That Saturday before Christmas, Bob and Wayne and I mushed our way a quarter mile back into the swamp to have a look-see.

We approached what had obviously been a farm dump, inactive for many years. As soon as I saw it (my vision is 50/20 uncorrected, except where engines are involved, and then it's 20/20 or better.) I recognized the profile. Single flywheel, gas tank brackets semi-circular, gas tank missing as usual, Schleber carb all this spelled a new Friend! The engine was mounted on iron-rimmed running gear with wheels well submerged in frozen soil. All that remained of the wooden sprayer tank was the semi-circular end pieces. The old orchard sprayer was covered with grape vines and several young ash trees were growing up through the bed pieces of chassis. One tree had grown up and around one of the angle irons that formerly had supported the tank. It was love at first sight! In fact, it was a beauty!

On closer examination, I noticed that the engine was stuck which was no surprise. I could tell that the engine was made in the late twenties or thirties because it had a magneto bracket. The engine tag was in place and fairly readable. Having forgotten paper and pencil, I memorized the serial number for exact dating. The oiler base was still in place but the glass and top were missing (later to be found on the ground). Most importantly, the hopper and water jacket did not seem to be cracked. Friend engines have two chronic problem areas-cracked hopper/water jackets and cracked bases. This one looked okay on both counts, but there was no way to examine the internal cylinder wall, and no way to be sure on external cracks until the engine was home and cleaned up. Before I could think about getting it home I had to think about owning it.

I found the owner the same day I first saw the engine. She was willing to sell the old piece of junk, and agreed to let me cut down just enough trees to remove the rig from the hedgerow that bordered the swamp. A couple of solo treks back into the swamp with chainsaw and axe (not a bright idea) permitted me to clear a track out to the nearest field. As I was cutting the trees out of the chassis, a happy thought struck me. If I left the trunk of the tree attached to the angle iron of the bed, it would give people an idea of the condition in which these old engines and spray rigs are found. So it is that this Friend spray rig has a three foot piece of tree trunk still attached to its rear end.


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