Farm Collector

Buying an Engine

Brownsville, Indiana

It was late autumn. The cold days had arrived and the earth was
donning her winter robes preparing for a few months’ rest and
showing her indifference to the storms and vacillating pranks of
the weather that were forthcoming.

The harvest was over. The grain was in the cribs. But for a true
born thresherman there was no time when he did not have his
thoughts turned to his occupation.

During this time of year the General approached me and casually
stated that he believed his old Advance Engine was worn out.

I readily concurred with the General’s opinion, not because
of my broad knowledge of engines, but because I had several
encounters with the old iron brute on the firing line and I knew
the engine would have to be rebuilt and owing to its age I did not
think it would pay.

The General then explained that there was a Mr. Thomas, of the
Emerson Brenningham Co., who had a Geiser engine that would suit
him. He inquired if I would go with him to look at the engine.

Accordingly the next morning we boarded an interurban car headed
for Indianapolis. On the way out I developed a case of car sickness
and upon arrival I steered the General to the office of my friend
Jim Cooper, who was manager for The Huber Mfg. Co. I was well
acquainted with the Huber sales and office force and I was so sick
that I laid my head on a table and appeared to take no interest in
the proceedings around me. But I heard George Graves (who was a
cross between a walking skeleton and a corpse) ask Jim Cooper if I
was drunk. Cooper stoutly denied that I was drunk and offered
evidence that he had been around with me many times and had never
seen me touch a drop of intoxicating liquor. The General settled
the argument by saying, ‘H–no. He’s not drunk.’

Cooper went to the drug store and got some aspirin tablets. When
he returned he ordered me to take two and a large glass of water.
That put me on my feet.

We tarried around the Huber office for some time. I was trying
to regain my equilibrium but the General was becoming suspicious
and whispered, ‘Don’t try to sell me a ‘D—
Huber’. I didn’t care if he bought a Huber or a D. June
upright at that time, so I accompanied him to the Emerson
Brenningham office and we arranged with Mr. Thomas to go and look
at the Geiser next morning.

The General suggested that we go to a hotel. ‘Not
to-night’, I advised him. I went to the telephone and called a
friend. I abruptly broke the news that we were coming to his house
to spend the night. He accepted the proposition readily, but, as
though giving the matter a second thought, he ventured an

‘Are you sober?’

‘Sober! What do you mean?’ I flashed back

‘Not you. The other fellow.’

‘Perfectly sober,’ I vouched.

‘Sure, come on  over. Glad to have you over
night.’    And thus we spent the night among 
 friends in West Indianapolis.

Next morning we learned that Mr. Thomas had been under the care
of a doctor. This accounted for some of the delay. In the afternoon
we arrived at Foutaintown and arranged for two livery rigs to take
us to see the Geiser engine.

As the driver, Mr. Thomas and the General stepped into their
vehicle, I stood admiring their horse. It exhibited a marked degree
of activity by lifting his feet and prancing while chomping the
bit. As the strong and well-fed animal tightened his traces and
started at the command of the driver, I thought of a line from
Browning — ‘I galloped, Dick galloped, we galloped all

I entered the other rig beside a driver and after an interval of
clucking and a good sound tap from the whip that had been cut from
a tree, our equestrian motor began to move. It finally settled into
a slow dog trot. I then began to appraise the outfit. Previously I
had not particularly noticed the horse, but as we rode along I
carefully scrutinized the animal. I was reminded of Rosinante, the
broken-down hack of Don Quixote.

I also noted the clouds were hanging low and knew snow would be

‘We had better turn around and go back if we expect to
arrive at the station by the time the others get there,’ I

‘Get up,’ the driver exclaimed and brought the wooden
whip down on the bony sides of the horse. The blow sounded rather

‘They must be coming back,’ I ventured.

Whack, whack went the whip, but the only results it got was the
thud of contact with the horse’s ribs.

After the driver stood up and dealt some powerful blows upon the
horse we finally arrived where the engine was located, four miles
south of Fountaintown.

‘Did you get lost?’ the General questioned and his face
reflected a sheepish smile.

‘Lost the D—,’ I returned sarcastically.

‘Look the engine over and tell me what you think of it,’
the General suggested.

I looked at the clouds, then at the old horse. I decided I would
have to give the poor brute time to catch his breath, so I walked
over to the engine. Good gearing, square fire box, flues O.K., no
stay bolts leaking, but the smoke box and pipe need paint, I
advised the General.

‘How does she run?’

‘Like a watch,’ the previous owner declared.

I looked at the horse and noted it appeared to be breathing

‘Let’s get back to the station,’ I nervously

We started back. The other rig left us as it began to snow. We
were not progressing with too much speed but the snow was
increasing in volume. I always enjoyed a gentle snow storm but I
would rather be inside or comfortably situated. I finally could see
the buildings at Foutaintown. I stopped debating a question that
had been in my mind and shouted, ‘Whoa!’

‘What yer goin’ ter do?’ the driver inquired.

‘Going to walk,’ I informed him.

Foutaintown lay about a mile away. It was a glorious walk. The
exercise warmed my blood and I assumed the role of a champion for I
was leaving the horse and driver some distance behind. I could hear
him shouting words of vengeance upon the animal. He was exerting
all known means of horsemanship to keep me within his vision. As I
entered the station I heard the children yelling at the driver as
he passed the school house about a quarter of a mile back.

Before train-time the driver came into the station breathing
heavily, of course he wanted his pay. Mr. Thomas handed him a
dollar and I said ‘Thanks for the buggy ride.’

When we returned to Indianapolis we found the city reasonably
calm. The wind had moved a large cloud over the city and then
deserted it. The snow was falling as though a large ship had
anchored above and was unloading a cargo of pop corn upon the city.
I was somewhat addicted to the habit of eating pop corn. The
thought of that confection suggested hunger. The gleaming light
from a downtown restaurant urged me to suggest that I was hungry.
Mr. Thomas suggested that we eat. The General glanced wisely at the
restaurant and concurred, ‘Yes, something substantial.’

‘A T-bone steak,’ I ventured audaciously. I longed to
even up the score that I thought had gone against me that day.

Accordingly, we devoured a T-bone steak and I rather think
Emerson-Branningham paid the bill. At least neither the General nor
I did.

Did he buy the Geiser engine? No! He turned around at a later
date and bought a ‘D— Huber’.

  • Published on May 1, 1960
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