My mother, Frances Thurman, at Pawnee, Oklahoma with my two youngest children, Gib and Brooke, May 1990.
Rt 1, Box 226, Archie, Missouri 64725
In everyone's life there is someone who is your role model and the person whom you look to when life tumbles in. For me this person is my mother. She would never let me quit at anything I ever tried. When I was just 14 I bought a 1932 F-20 Farmall that hadn't run in 20 years and hauled it home. When my dad saw it he just shook his head in disbelief and asked why I would want such a thing, but my mom smiled and said I could do it and let me park it right outside the door so she could keep up on my progress. You see, my mom was unable to walk as she had worked harder than most men on our farm and had just worn her body out.
I fixed that tractor and many more after that, always outside the back door of Mom's house with her watching through the door smiling.
As the years went by I wanted a steam engine, as I had loved them since I was a child. There was one for sale but I didn't have quite enough money to buy it. The old steamer was in bad shape and needed a lot of work on the boiler. My mother said, 'You can fix it,' and handed me a check for the amount I was short. She and I didn't know that day that she gave me a gift that I can never repay. She gave me the gift of steam friendship. I fixed the old steamer and took it to the show. It is not the biggest or best looking engine, but to my mom it was the best. She would wave at me from her wheelchair as I would drive it by. She would go to shows with me but she 'never saw a better steamer' than mine.
My mom waved at me for the last time this summer, as she died suddenly in her sleep. To say I was lost is like saying there are a few gallons of water in the ocean. When my life tumbled in I had no one to run to, or at least that is what I thought.
Thanks to that small amount of money my mom gave me to buy a worn out steam engine, I had made many friends in the hobby. These people saved this ship as a lighthouse would during a storm. They came by just to visit, or to ask me to go after parts with them, brought food, wrote letters, made phone calls, sent flowers and cards, came to the family night and funeral, and just showed they cared. One steam buddy called every night for a week, and he lives 500 miles away. I have said all of this to say this to all of you in 'engine land': People I know and you that I don't know, God Bless you. You are the greatest people on this earth. I thank you for not letting the fire go out and for being my 'safety valve' when I was in danger of coming apart. I have not pulled the throttle on a steamer since her death, but when I do the first turn of the flywheel is to you, my steam friends; my mother would not have had it any other way.