The Neighborhood Cat


| September/October 1997



Caterpillar model 22

22711NE 16th Street, Camas, Washington 98607-9220

I have collected old iron in one form or another most of my life. Luckily it is not a serious disease and my friends and loved ones have learned to humor me. Recently, however, I think I may have stepped off the deep end.

We recently purchased a fairly large and largely unclear piece of land with a house on it. The house was for my family. I wanted the land. Why? Well for tractors of course. I knew that I was going to need some fairly heavy duty equipment to handle what looked like jungle around us so I began watching the local want ads. After a while up popped an ad for a crawler.

When I went to look it turned out to be a 1934 Caterpillar model 22, a cute little adolescent bulldozer made in the good old U.S. of A. back when men were men and had biceps like Popeye. Someone had hung a Holt blade on the front end that looked like it had originally been a storm anchor for the Queen Mary. It ran on gasoline or tractor fuel (a combination of stove drippings, bug spray, hot sauce and moonshine). It ran well, the price was right, and I was apparently mildly off my rocker.

Now, of course, I wasn't going into this completely blind. I mean, I have watched my little boy's road machinery video tape at least fifty times. But I had never actually driven one of these things before. The only real problem I could see is that there were quite a few more controls to handle than I had limbs. Besides, I wasn't sure that I would ever get the thing started anyway.

A previous owner had altered the crank start handle to be removable, I guess so the victim could get a head start in outrunning the thing. When I warily approached the beast to start it the first time, I was gripping this handle with some trepidation. I guess you could say I was a blue knuckle cankers. I squared my shoulders, took a wide stance, fitted the handle to the shaft, and gave a mighty heave. The handle came off the shaft, spun around in my hand a couple times, knocked my hat off my head, and deposited me on my rear in the dirt in front of the blade. Cat one. Myself zero. After I had calmed down a little and worked out the starting sequence well enough so I wasn't being maimed each time, there came my first driving challenge. Now, I live on a pretty large chunk of dirt, and the Cat was pointed long ways across my property, so I reasoned that I had quite a bit of time to think about how to steer this thing be -fore endangering any surrounding neighbors. So while the gearshift system on this beast was pretty straightforward, the steering seemed a little beyond all reason. To turn, one was required to pull back on a lever and then stomp on a pedal (hopefully the correct one). I hoped that with luck I would run out of gas before I had to avoid anything. I did quite well until somebody moved my house into the way while I wasn't looking. We are still getting estimates on that repair work. Cat two. Myself zero.