Fast Cutting, Steady Running

| October 2002

Charlie Coughenour's 83-year-old Witte drag saw cranks on the third stroke every time, and it's all original right down to the battery box -except for the spark plug.

For years, the rig belonged to a Laurinburg, N.C., farmer, who had a tenant farmer helping him work his land. The saw was used to cut firewood -mostly oak to heat the farmhouse and pine to fuel the cook stove in the kitchen.

Charlie, who also lives in Laurinburg, tells a classic story: When the farmer died, his children didn't want to farm, so his equipment stayed as he left it, while his elderly wife remained on the farm. After she died, the children sold the place.

'This saw was under the shed, behind the barn, and out of the weather,' Charlie recalls. 'When they sold the farm, they gave the saw to the tenant farmer's son.' His name is Ralph Norton, and he happens to be one of Charlie's old school chums.

In time, Charlie heard that Ralph had the saw, so he contacted him about buying it and was invited to come and take a closer look. At Ralph's place, they quickly agreed on a price and Charlie expected to just haul the saw home, 'but he'd helped his daddy operate it as a boy and he wanted to hear it run one more time.

So Charlie went to town, got a battery, gas and some tools, and the two of them started tinkering with the machine. 'In about two hours, we had it running,' Charlie recalls with a chuckle.