| June/July 2003

The 1916 20-35 Yuba Ball Tread at the 2002 EDGE & TA show in Grass Valley, Calif. The front wheel axle is set behind the wheel's vertical point of rotation, making it instantly follow any shift in direction. Photo courtesy Floyd Schmall.

Thirteen years ago, a freak accident left Don Dougherty in the hospital and in a coma. When he came to, a new life began, both for him and the machines he restores.

On a September day in 1990, Don Dougherty was getting ready to help his mother move out of her rural Colfax, Calif., home when a fire in the adjoining trees grabbed his attention. That summer and early fall had been devastating for the area as fires, sparked by lightning and fueled by drier-than-normal conditions, broke out spontaneously across California. It was, Don says, 'a little fire,' and he immediately went to work putting it out.

What Don couldn't see was what caused the fire; a high-voltage line had snapped when a dead tree fell across it, momentarily jumping to ground before bouncing back up, only to hang some three or four feet from the ground. Putting out the fire, Don stepped back, contacting the line with his shoulder and the left side of his face, creating a conduit that let 7,200 volts course through his body.

'I woke up in the burn unit in Sacramento three weeks later,' Don says. 'After getting my senses back, I wanted to put a positive spin on a negative situation. During that whole event, my heart never stopped, so I put a tag on my truck; 'STL TIKIS.''

That event changed Don's life forever, and in large measure it's what pushed him into antique tractor restoration. 'When you face a catastrophic injury, a person wants to get back into their comfort zone. You want to consider yourself normal, so you do things that are aimed at trying to get yourself normalized. For your own self-esteem and clarification of yourself, you're trying to get back to where you were, so you look for a path that works for you. I've always loved antique trucks and tractors, and restoration was just a natural extension of that. That may seem bizarre, but that's what I did.'