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| April/May 1996

  • Memoriam

  • Memoriam

Old Father Time is doing much more than 'Picking My Pocket,' as an old song suggested. He has run the clock out on many old engine friends, including one that I first met over twenty years ago, at the Stephenson County Antique Engine Show at Freeport, Illinois VERNER  HENSEL, 1908-1995.

One evening while looking over the large old tractors, my attention was drawn to the sound of a quiet, slow-turning engine. Very slowly approaching, was a 40-60 Rumely Oil Pull, and on the man-stand, with the bill of his cap turned up, and his hand raised in greeting, stood the engine man. Pulling the clutch lever, he invited me onboard. Extending his hand, he said, 'Howdy, I'm Verner Hensel.' I introduced myself, thereby beginning a friendly relationship that included his wife, Lillian, daughter Joyce, her husband Gerald Linker, their two sons and daughter and spouses, his son Bob Hensel, and a number of Verner's friends.

I've been told that Verner, and several other fellows, had started attending and operating tractors at other shows back in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Who of us who knew him, can forget his Chevy Pickup, the word 'Iron Man' on its bug deflector, and the pickup cap that housed his bunk, tools, various pieces of old 'junque' and his guitar? Also, we knew that with little or no encouragement, a harmonica would appear in his hand, and tunes such as 'Red Wing' and 'The Wabash Cannonball' would be heard.

Verner farmed near Ohio, Illinois. When show time rolled around, he and his 'Tired Iron' cronies would tour the Midwest and Canadian show circuit, sometimes for six weeks at a time. In addition to attending old engine shows they were scouting around for old gas engines, old tractors and other interesting items of antiquity.

He also rebuilt, from less than a basket case, a rare 1919 12-24 Russell tractor which, in addition to the Oil Pull and 1920 10-18 cross engine Case and the 'Hensel Special' engine, were shown at a number of shows.

The Hensel Special engine was different. Verner built it with one crankshaft, two cylinders, four pistons, six connecting rods and no heads. Crank it over and it would run.


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