Old Iron and Gove Rural High School Reunion

By Staff
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Right side, 1920 3 HP F-M Z engine finally purchased from Grumbein Salvage, Alexander, Kansas. Alfred Townsend is examining the crude but effective ignition system.
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This view of the 3 HP F-M Z shows the white oak wooden block with 12 gauge steel wire extended downward to make camshaft contact. Obviously the previous owner, who had the magneto malfunction, knew his stuff!
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Left side of the F-M Z.

Rio Grande Equipment Club, 712 La Vista, McAllen, Texas
78501

I am a 75 year old retired teacher, member of the Rio Grande
Valley Old Farm Equipment Club, secretary, and publisher of the
monthly club newsletter, ‘Rust Bucket Ramblings.’ On May
24, 1995, I departed McAllen for: (1) Kansas City, Missouri, to
pick up a small trailer previously loaned to Russell Anderson to
haul his belongings from Harlingen, Texas, to Kansas City; (2)
Gove, Kansas, to participate in their high school reunion, visiting
former students and patrons from the 1948-1950 era when it was my
good fortune to be a teacher/coach until recalled to the Army for
the Korean conflict; (3) Alexander, Kansas, to continue
negotiations with Glenn Grumbein for a 1920 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse
Model Z engine. Saw this engine first in 1975 and Glenn wanted $300
for it. He has one of the relatively untouched hoards of salvage
and antique farm machinery in the state of Kansas. And he is
reasonable, except I didn’t agree on the engine price so the
years have passed and he has steadfastly held his ground.

From 10:00 p.m. until about 4:00 a.m. on May 25th I rested in an
Ardmore, Oklahoma, motel. About 30 minutes after leaving the motel,
the truck manifested a leaking heater hose. My first warning was
the smell of hot antifreeze, but I told myself that it must be
fumes being given off by some chemical plant, and got the real
message when steam began emanating from the engine. What to do?
Spotted a lighted building (this turned out to be about 10 miles
south of Norman, Oklahoma) and carefully exited the freeway seeking
haven in what turned out to be The Engine Center. Parked under
bright lights and waited for things to cool down after determining
the problem was in the top of the heater hose. In about 45 minutes
removed the hose at point of rupture, trimmed away the damaged hose
and replaced it. But then what to do. About noon I had been
stretching my legs at a rest stop and a 1972 Oldsmobile had pulled
in needing waterhad used my gallon of spare water to get it back on
the road, after helping the driver remove a thermostat that locked
like it might have been on one of Sherman’s tanks. And, though
there were many chances thereafter to refill the container, I
didn’t. Woe is me, no water!! Just a minute, there on the side
of the building, directly in front of the truck was a water faucet.
Here I had been thinking about a long wait until someone came in at
8:00 a.m. (hopefully). It didn’t take long to fill the radiator
and in a jiffy was ready to go. Left a watermelon, a sack of
oranges, and a sack of grapefruit by the hydrant, then
departed.

About 9:30 a.m. on the Kansas Turnpike near Wichita I decided to
try for breakfast at a turnpike restaurant. But no, the sign said
‘Open For Lunch at 11:00.’ As I returned to the truck a
pair of pickups (newer than mine, but not much) pulled in. As the
trucks had Texas license plates, politely I inquired, ‘What
part of Texas are you from?’ the answer, ‘San Juan.’
San Juan is a sister city of McAllen. The migrants were heading for
Minnesota and seasonal work. A brief chat, a sack of oranges and a
watermelon less, and it was hit the turnpike again. In a good mood,
thought things are going well. Even my travel companion,
‘Lily,’ a half pit bull/half Labrador four months old pup
(named after Harry Seidensticker’s rare 1907 air cooled 2 HP
‘White Lily’ engine) had mastered getting into and out of
the truck on command. Things were looking up! This pup has the
potential of becoming my number one guard dog.

With no air conditioning in the 1965 ton Chevrolet pickup
(speedometer passed 180,000 miles on this trip) it was a relief to
begin getting cooler temperatures at San Antonio. By the time we
hit the Oklahoma line, it was drizzling and cooler temperatures
merited opening the heater valve. We ran in 55°-60° weather through
Oklahoma and Kansas, coming and going.

Russell had previously instructed me to stay on Interstate 35
until reaching 24, Independence Highway; turn right on 24, find a
convenience store to phone him so he could come and guide me to the
trailer. Made the turn and spotted a large Ford agency to do my
telephoning. Russell indicated I was about five miles from the
trailer, how about coming on in? ‘No, thank you, these Kansas
City drivers have been tooting their horns at me too much, already.
Come and get me, I’ll wait.’ Getting the trailer was no
real hassle and Russell was good enough to lead me to Interstate 70
going west. Arrived in Salina area about 10:00 p.m. and was
beginning to get sleepy. Plus, one of our good members Robert
Robins lives in the area at Minneapolis, Kansas. Checked two
motels. Both were filled to capacity. To heck with the motels.
Motored on down the road about 30 miles to a rest stop, got in the
camper and went to sleep. After a brief rest, proceeded westward.
Twenty miles east of Hays a deer sideswiped the right headlight.
Still had the left lamp, so proceeded on into Hays. Stopped at an
open convenience store and inquired about finding a good
auto-electric shop. I was directed two blocks further down the
street where I parked to wait out the 8:00 a.m. opening time. At
8:00 I found the manager, explained my problem and asked him to
check the right rear running light on the trailer. ‘I’m
going across the street for some breakfast, and will get right
back.’ I took about an hour for breakfast. The truck was
sitting out, the bill was ready. But, I summarily checked the turn
signals; they were reversed. There was still no right rear running
light and the right headlight was pointed down at the pavement with
a 45 degree angle. ‘Marvin, calm yourself, this is doing your
high blood pressure no good.’ The technician sensed my feelings
and quickly offered to spend a little more time on the problems. I
assented but immediately called Berneice Herrman at the Chrysler
dealership and she put their service manager, Mark, on the phone.
He advised me to check out the availability of WHEELS & SPOKES,
as they are the best in the area with sheet metal work and trailer
wiring. ‘Marvin, do you want me to call Jerry and make
arrangements for you?’ ‘No, it’s not necessary, I know
Jerry Juenemann, having previously sold him an antique
Chrysler.’

Called Jerry and briefly explained my predicament. ‘Marvin,
get that rig on out here, we’ve got you covered.’ True to
his word upon my arrival at 11:00 o’clock Jerry pulled three of
his best technicians, Chuck, Doug, and John oft their projects with
simple instructions. ‘Get Marvin back on the road.’ By noon
the sheet metal work and headlights were in tip-top shape. At noon
the shop broke for an hour lunch period. In the meantime, Jerry and
a couple of his model plane enthusiast buddies left to fly some of
their models. At 1:00 p.m. sharp the technicians were back with the
remaining lights and trailer lighting problem. By 3:00 p.m. they
had completely rewired the trailer and all lights were A-okay. Who
do you think was fretting about paying for all of this? You bet
your boots I was making some mental calculations: three men times
three hours comes out to nine hours of labor, and it was very
obvious that these men are as skilled as any you will find
anywhere. Based on the $18.75 paid previously for installation of a
headlamp and messing up the wiring loom, this could call for a
visit to Fort Knox for enough capital to get out of hock.
‘Would you guys like to see an old man cry?’ Bravely
approached the cashier for the ‘bad’ news. ‘Marvin, you
owe us $38.00.’ With a sigh of relief and the deepest respect
for a grand bunch of fellows, I wended westward to Quinter, and a
night’s rest at Motel Q.

The traffic at the motel cafe was heavy. Sat down at 6:30 and
still hadn’t gotten a menu by 7:00, but all was not lost as
Donnie Heier and his sister, Alberta Reinbold, joined me in the
waiting room. Alberta quickly assured me that I had been the best
teacher she’d ever had, and that made my day. But when she got
to the part about having four grown sons, a bevy of grandchildren
and being 62 years old, I was flabbergasted. In my mind, Alberta
will always be 15 years old. Donnie and I, being the true gentlemen
we are, were considerate enough to allow Alberta to pay the
tab.

The next morning, I elected to pass eating in the same cafe and
went on to Gove and its cafe. Was joined at breakfast by Sanford
and Gladys Powers and their son, Roger. There were other people at
the table also and we got around to talking about old engines
(naturally). Roger said, ‘I was at a neighbor’s yesterday
and he has several in his scrap iron pile’ ‘Where is this,
Roger?’ Fifteen miles from here.’ ‘What are we waiting
for, let’s go.’ ‘Marvin, don’t you know it rained
six inches last night, he can’t get out and we can’t get
in.’ Well, if that isn’t the cat’s pajamas!!

Renewing old acquaintances, taking an occasional photograph made
the time pass rapidly. Here it is, NOON. Time to eat, and food fit
for any harvest crew, in abundance. Loaded my plate with roast beef
and all the trimmings. Even thought of Lily and carefully wrapped a
broiled quarter of chicken in a napkin to share with her that
evening. After the meal I left our group’s table to find a
trash can in the kitchen area. Found the barrel, and happened to
think about checking the time. Oh my!! Almost 1:00 o’clock, and
I had an appointment with Glenn Grumbein at Alexander, 100 miles
away, for sometime after lunch. Gave Wayne Packard a hasty goodbye
and headed for the truck. Took the chicken from my pocket, threw it
up on the dashboard and turned around to talk briefly to Gail
Beesley. Sure, you guessed it. By the time I was back in the truck,
the chicken, less the napkin, had completely disappeared. Lily was
sitting there with the most innocent look I’ve ever seen on her
face. She looked just like the proverbial cat who swallowed the
canary.

Headed south on 23 to reach 96, which would be the shortest
route to Alexander. Gail had forewarned me that my Dighton cousin
was probably at a Methodist convention in Hays that day. He was
right, so I hurried to the fine new museum which has recently been
erected. Found 50 harvesting, steam thrashing rigs, headers, header
barges and a variety of farming pictures of the early 1900s, and a
custodian who was willing to make copies. Mrs. Johnston was a great
aid and I appreciate her efforts very much.

Our old farm equipment club is always exploring ways and means
to raise funds for future projects. Most recently the idea of
conducting a raffle on an antique tractor has surfaced. Alfred
Townsend (McAllen, Texas) suggested that inasmuch as most members
have welding equipment and are welders, that we should consider
making some shop seats, using an old disk for the base, used pipe
for the support and an implement seat. These could be sold to the
public or used for seating in the Mercedes building. The only
critical item is the implement seat.

By mid-afternoon I had reached the main gate of Grumbein
Salvage, Alexander, Kansas. Water was standing in the ditches. It
was obvious the rains had been here also. The gate was open and
Darwin’s (Glenn’s son) three boys were busy working on two
lawnmowers. I introduced myself and one of the boys promptly phoned
Darwin. I began my usual sashay through the yard, but it was too
muddy. Just turned back to wait for Darwin, who soon arrived.
‘Long time, no see, Marvin! What are you interested in
today?’ ‘How about implement seats, do you have any?’
‘We probably have a couple hundred you can pick from.’
‘How much?’ ‘We’ve been getting $5.00 for the sound
ones and $4.00 for those with cracks.’ ‘Hey, what happened
to the $1.00 seats?’ ‘That was five years ago and those
days are long gone, didn’t you know we’re in an
inflation?’ ‘Okay, you’ve got me between a rock and a
hard spot. Have the boys load up 50 of the sound ones. How about
engines?’ ‘We have several. Say how did you come out with
the Eclipse #1 you got the last time?’ ‘That engine was
hopeless, too many cracks in the wrong places. Never managed to get
it restored. Is the 3 HP Fairbanks Morse still here?’ ‘Yes,
but that’s Dad’s.’ ‘Do you think Glen will give on
that $300.00 price?’ ‘I don’t know; you better talk to
him.’

I knew exactly where the 1920 3 HP engine was located, for I
have been, walking around it for over 15 years. There it was,
patiently waiting, sans crankshaft cover. The hole in the gas tank
hadn’t gotten any smaller. Apparently the previous owner had
trouble with the magneto, as it is missing and a white oak wood
block with a piece of 12 gauge steel wire had been rigged to work
in connection with a battery and a buzz coil to furnish ignition.
Nice pulleys on each flywheel and whoever ran the engine last knew
what he was doing. The piston is positioned for easy extraction and
to give maximum protection from the weather to the cylinder. The
serial number indicates production in early August, and August 8
just happens to be my birthday, too!

‘What’s your best price today, Glenn?’ ‘For you
Marvin, $200.00.’ ‘Are you sure that’s the bottom?’
‘It is!’ ‘Load it!!’ So, 30 hours later we were
back in McAllen, a few dollars poorer but ever so rich in
memories.

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