| July/August 1970

Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

If you've ever been caught bug-eyed, shivering in your britches at the sight of what appeared like some primordial green grasshopper, jumping and hopping its way around over a threshermen's reunion grounds, the chances are a thousand-to-one that it's just 'Old Betsy' wanting to be looked at. For 'Old Betsy's' big iron connecting rod resembles the running gears of a giant katydid when she's lumbering from place to place -- a sight sufficient to scare old-timers into switching brands of chewin' tobacco scrap and womenfolk into hiding till it's passed. But, contrary to that first impression, 'Old Betsy's' one of the kindest, most inoffensive-souls that ever prowled a reunion ground. Though she can surely bark, her bark is without bite -- for her big 8-inch piston travelling its 14-inch stroke was made for the blessing and benefit of mankind in reclaiming swamp land to raise vegetables to feed a hungry people. 'Old Betsy' won't jump out at you and gobble you up. She just wants you to look at her and admire her brawn as she struts her stuff and flexes her huge muscles like a beast of burden -- a kindly brute turned out to pasture, enjoying her golden years.

'Old Betsy' is powered by a 15 horsepower International Engine, vintage of 1915,' says Spark Plug, A. C. 'Jack' McKibben, her builder and master who resides at 407 Catherine Ave., Columbia City, Ind. (15 mile west of Ft. Wayne.) 'My son who works at the Bendix Plant at Benton Harbor, Mich., was hunting on the House of David farm when he discovered this old engine sitting inside a shed. It hadn't been run for twenty years.'

According to Spark Plub McKibben, old-timers claimed the engine was used to pump water off of a forty-acre tract of river bottom, pumping the water back into the river at a rate of 7500 gallons a minute by running a huge water wheel with twenty-five buckets, each bucket capable of 100-gallons capacity.

'It turned the wheel three revolutions a minute, keeping the water eight inches below the ground level on that forty acres, making it possible to raise enough vegetables for the House of David and quite a lot for the Benton Harbor market,' explains Jack McKibben.

'When I went up and bargained for it, I had to hire a bull-dozer to level the levee down so I could pull the engine out from the middle of the swamp,' says McKibben who experienced the perennial trials and tribulations of the devoted Spark Plug in stalking his prey.