Four Miles From The Mississippi River

| November/December 1991

12750 Highway TT Festus, Missouri 63028

Well, I'm going to try my hand at writing about the engine we have. I am the youngest of three brothers. We were born and raised on a farm about 40 miles south of St. Louis and about four miles from the Mississippi River. In those days, no one had electricity or tractors. Horsepower was the way. Good old days. Cutting wood with a cross-cut saw and axe was hard work and slow.

Our farm joined a 1500 acre rich man's farm. They had an old castle built in slave times. They also had an old 1916 Fairbanks-Morse, 6 HP gas engine to pull a slow speed, 32 volt generator for their lights. About 1929, my dad bought the engine from them to use on the farm to grind corn and saw wood. What a blessing! It did the work.

One day my uncle, who lived about two miles from us, wanted us to saw wood for him. The engine was mounted on skids, so we loaded it in our 1927 Chevrolet flatbed truck. My brother said we could belt it up without unloading it. Sounded great. We got everything ready to start it up. My brother gave it a spin and away it went. They didn't have the truck bed blocked up, and it started bouncing up and down. It almost tore the truck up before we could shut the thing down. That was the last of that.

As time went on, we needed a better way to handle hay. Dad bought a new John Deere stationary hay baler. That old engine did the job well. One year we had about 10 acres of alfalfa hay down in the river bottom to bale. This was in 1937. With engine and baler down there, everything was ready to go to work. The baling crew was my two uncles, a cousin, my dad, brother and myself. The hay was in shocks, so my job was to take the team of mules and buck rake and bring the hay to the baler. The engine was running on kerosene and doing fine. We had about a hundred bales made when my dad, who was feeding the baler, got a little more hay than the baler could take and caused it to choke up and throw the belt off. My brother went to the engine to shut it down and add more water and grease. But before it had time to stop, my cousin picked up the belt and sheared it back on the engine. The pulley on the engine was the one used on the generator. It had a space about 1? inches from the flywheel. The belt was hot and limber and went over in that space. The engine was on skids and staked in the ground. When that happened and the baler choked up, the engine wound up on the belt. My brother was at the engine and as it jumped up, it hit him and knocked him down, spilling boiling water on him from head to toe. We were 10 miles from town. We got him to a doctor who treated him and sent him home. The doctor said he didn't have a chance to live, but he did survive, though it took about a year to recover.

After that, we got a tractor which I still have. After the accident, my mother didn't want the engine on the place, so my older brother took it to his place and tore it all apart.


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