Learning How to Troubleshoot Gas Engines From My Dad

Floyd W. Cook shares stories of learning how to troubleshoot gas engines from his dad.


| March/April 1967



Floyd W. Cook

Photo courtesy of Floyd W. Cook, Washington, Illinois.

PHOTO: KEN KESTEL

Stories from Floyd W. Cook on learning how to troubleshoot gas engines as a young lad. 

"Go out to the field and get your dad, the gas engine has stopped again and my wash is not finished". Mom sends me out to a nearby cornfield where dad and the hired man are plowing com, to bring somebody back to get the gas engine running again. Had she been real aggravated, she would of used the emergency communication system; she would have rung the dinner bell. Such tactics being in reserve for in case of fire or a real emergency, mom was not able, or refused to start it, and I was just a small boy. Sometimes it was igniter trouble, or out of fuel, or it just plainly quit. Wash periods were long, and took all morning. I was more than willing to go for help; I have always been interested in machinery, and sort of started out with gasoline engines. At this time I not only wanted to learn what took place in getting it started again, but on other occasions when the wash was perhaps on the last tubful, I was drafted into finishing the load by hand and was perfectly willing to get someone to restart the balky engine.

The old washing machine was a twin, round wooden tub affair, with three wooden prongs mounted in a wood disk that hung under the wooden lid. (A "Dolly" washer I believed they called it.) This "three-legged-milk-stool" was driven by a rack and gear on top of the lid.

It tore and tangled clothes, wore splinters off the inside of the tub, also occasionally it got clothes half way clean, if they were left in long enough. With the homemade lye-soap we used, I believe, the 'soak time' did more than the actual rubbing of the washer. With some of that homemade soap, something had to give.

Now the rack drive had a place to put a wooden handle in a mating socket, and by pushing it back and forth, one could say he was washing clothes; I wasn't in favor of that, and had done it several times, and nothing suited me better than getting help to start the engine again — really though, I would have rather been far far away on some other self appointed mission at the moment, when it comes to washday.

Dad came in from the field, and I watched real close in order to learn how to troubleshoot gas engines; he seemed to know what to do, he unbolts the igniter, removes it from the engine and "here is the trouble" he may have said as he removes whatever obstacle that centered upon this gadget, replacing it and then restarting the engine. This was marvelous machinery, often dirty, troublesome and inconvenient, but it got the job done, if you had the fortitude to stick it out, Me? I liked it fine, trouble and all, any engine was all right, horses — well, they were fine for some, but I never saw a horse powered washing machine!