WE CAN'T LICK THEM

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Bismark, Mo. 63624

It was not long before my husband's retirement from the newspaper publishing business that he amazed me by announcing that he planned to buy a steam traction engine after he retired. Why in the world he would want one of those big black, smoke belching, steam spewing, greasy monsters, was more than I could see.

It was in August of 1966 that I accompanied him to the Old Threshermen's meet at Pinckneyville, Illinois, and all day long I listened to his descriptions of 'Single Simples', 'Double Cylinders', 'Cross Compounds' 'Lap Seams', 'Butt Straps' and dozens of other terms that meant absolutely nothing to me. However, I met a lot of interesting people, all of whom had one thing in common-an interest in steam engines. When we left the show grounds that evening, I had to admit to myself that there was a certain unexplained fascination about steam engines.

A few months later, a big truck pulled into our front yard and proceeded to unload a 20-hp, 'Single Simple' Robinson engine, and by no stretch of the imagination could it have been described as a thing of beauty; it was covered, for the greater part by thick encrusted grease, and an accumulation of dirt and grime. The remains of the cab, consisted of one lone roof rib; the rear platform, coal bunkers, and whatever else is supposed to be on the back end of an engine was missing. But, my husband said the boiler, gears, and other mechanical parts were in good condition.

Much to my amazement, I learned that taking a wood chisel and hammer, chipping off grease and grime from a casting or bracket, and later seeing that casting or bracket receive a bright red coat of enamel, could be a lot of satisfaction. It was not too long before we had a new cab on the engine, along with a new rear platform, coal bunkers, and tool boxes. We are still in the process of cleaning and painting, but in the meantime we have had several days of enjoyment steaming up and traveling over a large field near the house.

I have learned (through listening to long after supper lectures) about injectors and inspirators, lubricators and oil pumps, pop valves and fusible plugs, stay bolts and shaker grates, as well as the flue swabs and beading tools, to say nothing of steam guages and the tensile strength of different grades of boiler plate.

So I have learned that the fun of riding around on 'Old Robinson', seeing the fly wheel roll smoothly and silently as the engine sits idling in the shade of the trees, more than makes up for the piles of greasy clothes I have to wash each week.

May I offer this work of advice to all those ladies whose husbands have been bitten by the steam engine bug-- We can't lick 'em, so we might as well join 'em.