Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390
He may come from the 'Show Me' state, but when it comes to buyin' 'n swappin' old gas engines he's got 'em from every other state but Missouri. And, when it comes to fixing up a gas engine trailer exhibit, to show at the summer engine reunions, well he figures it's like gettin' married -- a feller wants folks to say, 'Gee -- he's got the 'purtiest, most beautifullest' one on the grounds, 'e 'as.'
But, when it comes to showin' off his trailer-load of old gas engines, at such a shindig as Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show, at Portland, Indiana -- well, Don Skidmore sort of keeps his Ruby in the background so folks can concentrate the better on the uniqueness and orderliness of his outfit. He likes to hear the exclamations of the onlookers about his unusual trailer and where he got it -- as well as the excellent restoration of his old gas engines and the re-finishing thereof.
For, after all, all a wife like Ruby does is try to keep the Old Man's clothes clean while he's busy a-cleaning his old oily and rusty gas engines -- so that when he shows 'em off to the public everyone will say 'My, what a handsome line o' poppers 'n pluggers!' In answer to which, Don, thinking they're talkin' about him, will sidle up and thrust out his 'Mule State' chest, while Ruby, hiding in the background will chuckle, 'I thought I was marryin' a man -- but I wind up married to gas engines, instead.'
Yes -- when a fellow starts an innocent little hobby -- say he falls in love with some lonely old gas engine that's been junked long ago. His wife takes pity on the old engine too, and sides in with hubby that such a hobby wouldn't be so bad after all. But then, as the years go by, hubby's hobby gets to be a lobby demanding such priorities as special point jobs, expensive replacement parts and/or luxurious trailers with special built-in shock-absorbers so as not to jar their nuts 'n bolts as they ride from place to place to show off their grandeur and splendor.
True, Wifey shares the hubby's hobby to the extent that he gets all the praises while basking in the limelight and she, lurking in the shadows, knows darned well that she not only helped to de-grease and paint the engines, but also laundered our hero's clothes.
But somebody -- we said 'Somebody's gotta be out front doing the unpleasant task of heaving heavy flywheels and oiling value rods and linkage as well as explaining how his exhibit got that-a-ways. And so Don Skidmore of Knob Noster -- yes, we said, 'Knob Noster,' Missouri, came all the way to the big Tri-State Show to do just that.
Spark Plug Don Skidmore of Knob Noster, Missouri, starts his 'pride and joy' the big 6 horse John Deere Gas Engine he has restored. Note the specially designed Air Force trailer he found in a junkyard and mounted them on. Note the stencil bearing place and date of purchase. It has special wheel brakes and springs and, by removing a pin, it can be parked curb-side. How's that? The whole outfit is as sharp as Don himself. Sorry, but Ruby didn't show up until after the pictures were taken. She was sharp looking too.
We could say that Don Skidmore's exhibit was unique in several ways. First, his entire collection of old gas engines consisted of only various models of the John Deere variety and manufacture. Second, the entire trailer load is painted and stenciled in the exact color combination of the originals. Third, each engine bears a stencil recording the name of the town and state as well as the date where it was bought or swapped. Fourth, the trailer on which they are mounted is so unusual that it alone fetches quite as much comments from onlookers as do the engines it holds. And fifth -- not many in 'this yere Newnited States of America' can boast of coming from Knob Noster, Missouri. (Not even that Missouri Mule, Harry Truman, who was as independent as the Independence he came from.)
'I live in Missouri,' says Don Skidmore, 'But I bought and swapped for my engines in other states.' (On t'other side of the stateline road.)
There was the one-and-a-half horsepower John Deere bought at New Virginia, Iowa, then the three horsepower John Deere traded for at Coon Rapids, Iowa, both being of the 'ingniter type'. Not to be outdone, or we should say, outshone by the other two, was the one-and-a-half horsepower 'sparkplug' type John Deere which Don traded for at Monmouth, III., and the very rare 'spark plug' type three horsepower J. D., traded for at Grafton, Nebraska as well as the one-and-a-half horse 'spark plug' John Deere he got from the same fellow at the same place.
But the one that cops first place in Don Skidmore's heart (second only to Ruby), and occupies the most imposing position on the Skidmore Engine Trailer is the big six horsepower John Deere (igniter type), bought north of Bagley, Minnesota 'back when.'
Quite as eye-catching as the six beautifully-restored John Deere Gas Engines which make up the Don Skidmore internal-combustion exhibit, is the unusual design of the trailer which bears them from one show to the next.
'The six engines are mounted on a special trailer I found at a junkyard,' explains Skidmore in his humorous Missouri patter. 'It's an aircraft engine carrier used by the Air Force. Much of it is of aluminum casting, making it very light.' (though sturdy, too, Don.)
Lives in Missouri, but does his tradin' cross the state line - Spark Plug, Don Skidmore of Knob Noster, Missouri exhibits only John Deere Gas engines at Tri-State Show, Portland, Indiana. He is making an adjustment on one of his several Spark Plug type John Deeres. Even people from Missouri look like other 'critters' from our state - and the John Deeres too.
'It has special parking brakes and springs on each wheel,' points out Spark Plug Don. 'And you can pull a pin out and turn the casters to park sideways,' says he.
'I'm no machinist -- just a farmer,' chuckles Don, tongue in cheek. But, by the looks of his John Deere Engines and trailer we know he's not the kind who refuses to patch his leaking roof when it's raining, and also in fair weather because it doesn't need it then. For Don Skidmore epitomizes the kind of farmer-hobbyist who is going places with his engine exhibit, his trailer and his wife, Ruby -- all three.
Says wife, Ruby, 'I don't do much cleaning on his engines, but I do help him get them started sometimes. And I do clean his dirty clothes after he works on them.'
'My wife likes gas engines. After all a man can't do any good unless his wife backs him,' winks our Chief Plug for the Month.
And it's a good thing that Ruby Skidmore does like hubby's hobby well enough to hang in there. For Don Skidmore has other gas engines and contraptions besides the six John Deeres that adorn his special trailer.
For instance, 'back home', which is 'Down Knob Noster, Missouri-way', the Skidmore man-and-wife gas engine team have a two-horse Independent Sideshaft Engine, an Aermotor Pump-Jack, a Fairmont Railroad Section Car Engine and a one-and-a-half horsepower Gade Air-Cooled Engine.
Together, the Knob Noster Skidmores, Ruby and Don, attend a wide variety of gas and steam shindigs in the bi-state area of Missouri and Kansas.
'We've exhibited at shows in Paris, Platte City and Booneville, Missouri,' says Don. 'And also at McLouth, Kansas. Then we decided to do something different and come to Tri-State at Portland, Ind. It's the biggest and best gas engine show of all.'
Says Spark Plug, Don Skidmore, commenting on his hobby of collecting out-dated and run-down old gas engines, 'I like to take something common and still in business and make them attractive again. Like a Model-T Ford, for instance.'
Which explains why he likes to restore old gas engines with the name of John Deere -- a firm still very much in business, as is the Ford Company which once made the fabulous and bone-rattling Model-T.
And, also for the same reason -- namely that womenfolk are still being manufactured--our Spark Plug includes Ruby amongst his collection of 'first loves'.
Though I've sent engine records to such exotic-sounding places as Crabtree Orchard, Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, Moscow, Idaho and Milton-Freewater, Oregon and heard of Shake Rag, Buzzard's Glory, Teacup and Hogpath, this was my very first encounter with a 'critter' from Knob Noster who appeared for all the world like most other two-legged creatures. Only this 'critter' had more John Deere Gas Engines than any other I've met.
And, as to Knob Noster, when I queried our Spark Plugger about the length, breadth and population thereof he replied, 'Don't wink when you're going through or you won't know you did.' But it is a town, if only of cross-roads proportions and it is peopled with human bi-peds not too different from those that populate the rest of our land.
In fact, our Spark Plug, Don Skidmore, was a most pleasant fellow to meet and chat with. And his wife, Ruby, was fully as charming and bright looking as any one of the John Deeres that hubby drools over. And Don Skidmore's humorous Missouri patter could make even a guy with a stuck engine piston forget his troubles and laugh.
So it is to Don and Ruby Skidmore, for putting forth so much effort and elbow grease in keeping the fine line of John Deere 'internal combusters' out of the junk pile and exhibiting them as reminders of America's great past -- that we honor you both with a seat in our Spark Plug Hall of Fame. For having preserved a segment of our eminent forebears whose ingenuity and industry made America great, you have helped to erase the abomination of a so-called 'Generation Gap'. And, in doing so, enriched our rising generation in a manner otherwise impossible.
And, the least that we can do in a column like this, is to report what you have done. And thank you for having done it.
As our late and beloved 'Uncle Elmer' would say it -- 'You have blessed mankind -- and we love you for it. - A-MEN!'