The Day Adam Harmon Believed

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Ralph Bangert and son Larry.

Auburn, California In memory of a 22 HP Keck, Gonnerman owned by
his father.

Submitted by Ralph L. Bangert, 804 W. Jourdan Newton,
Illinois 62448

It was the spring of 1958 while I was still in grade school that
Adam came face to face with the reality of a real live 22 HP Keck
Gonnerman tied to the front of his truck. The reason for the
dubious honor of the predicament he faced that day was that the
time had come for the phosphate to be spread on twelve acres of our

We were at the house when Adam’s truck pulled into the
field. He started across a small ditch and promptly buried the
truck in the soft ground until the axles touched the grass. Adam
then proceeded to race the engine and try to rock the truck back
and forth while all the time sinking lower into the wash with the
grace of an elephant in quicksand. In a few minutes, he walked
across the field and made his way to the garage that Dad operated
and sort of inferred if our steam engine was as good as Dad
thought, then we should try to pull his truck and the eight ton
load out of the wash. I can still remember the way Adam was cursing
and fuming about the whole thing like it was the first time he had
ever been stuck.

Normally, because of the loaded truck and soil conditions, the
job of extracting his truck from the mud would be a major
challenge. But for Dad, who knew his engine, it was a simple case
of being willing to help someone and the chance to pull the frame
out of a truck if the wheels did not follow along. The engine had
been steamed up earlier that day and the fire allowed to simmer so
there was steam to start the blower immediately, and Dad was ready
in about twenty minutes. I can still remember the steam gauge
climbing quickly with the blower providing the draft. This engine
would normally roll out on the road with just fifty pounds of
pressure so Dad was on his way west with the boiler gaining
pressure as he headed toward the field. He pulled into the field a
quarter mile later, carefully avoiding the muddy area and backed up
to the truck on plowed ground. I watched as he ran forward a few
feet and then backed up again twice to ensure the road cleats every
advantage on the plowed soil. Dad wrapped the cable around the
frame of the truck and connected it to the engine drawbar. Now I
have to admit as much as I liked the engine, I did not truly know
its capability until Dad eased into the cable gently and opened the
throttle only when the cable was tight. The Keck only barked loud
about four times and the truck just seemed to jump out of the hole
it had made for itself like a frog. I will never forget the look on
Adam’s face as he gunned his motor and hung onto the steering
wheel while the Keck engine simply launched his truck out of the
earth. The impact of the launch was sufficient for him to hit his
head against the roof of the truck as it was pulled upward and
forward about forty feet before Dad stopped. As for Adam, he
believed that very day in steam traction engines and for those who
did not see the pull, there was a reminder for all with the
permanent imprint of the cable on the frame of that 1957 Chevrolet

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