The Making of a Cat Man


| October 2002



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Categories d2 tractor

Selden Lacey, one of my dad's cousins, lived east of Sioux Falls, S.D., in the 1930s, where he and his family raised potatoes to sell in the area. Like my dad, Selden was inventive and patient, and in the 1930s, he had very little money.

One day, Selden got wind of a Caterpillar Fifteen 'in a pile' out by Scenic, S.D. The machine had burned a rod bearing and was available for purchase for $100.

Scenic is more than 300 miles from Sioux Falls, but Selden and his neighbor, Don Williams, started out to buy the Cat. They were driving an old Ford truck, probably a 1 1/2- or 2-ton rig, which had a four-speed transmission and not a real enthusiastic engine doing the work. Progress was slow because the roads back then were rough and unpaved.

In the town of Chamberlain, S.D., the rod bearings in the truck engine thought they'd gone far enough. Undaunted, Don and Selden bought a set of new bearings from the local Ford dealer, found a shady spot, pulled off the oil pan and installed the new parts. The next day, they continued on their way.

Luck was with them for they found the Cat, along with its hood, which was laying in a nearby cattle yard, somewhat bent up, and its fuel tank, sitting on top of the grain in a half-empty flax bin.

The next problem was how to load this inanimate 5,000-pound machine. In a stand of Russian thistles, they found some planks in a pile, so they pulled the Cat around to the loading area with the Ford, backed up the truck to the 'dock' and laid out the planks as best they could to make a ramp.