Ferry View Martins Ferry, Ohio
There it comes!
The boys who had been anxiously waiting all morning for the wagon's return ran to open the gate. Dad had left early for town to get the new gasoline engine that had been ordered. After the team came through and the gate was closed, they scrambled up into the wagon. There-with its bright paint and brass gleaming like gold was the little giant that was to make farm work so much easier. To this farm, as to thousands of others later, had come the first permanent mechanical power. Heretofore, except for a windmill or two that pumped water, the only power in the neighborhood aside from animal was when a ponderous steam traction engine pulled a separator around to thresh grain late in the summer. Sometimes portable steam engines pulled by teams of horses or oxen were used for threshing, cutting of ensilage, and many other jobs.
On some farms the fodder was fed to the animals just as it came from the shock. It was a very wasteful method. On most small farms one of the chores for the boys was chopping the stalks into short, more edible feed. This was done by pushing the fodder through a cutting box, and chopping with a hinged knife. When done right, this was a slow tedious job. Naturally, when the boys were in a hurry the stems were cut pretty long. You might say that some had just 'a lick and a promise'.
In the farm papers engine manufacturers were beginning to advertise. A gasoline engine was something to dream about until Dad went to the State Fair in 1907 and saw one set up and working! He examined it closely and after starting and stopping it
several times, ordered one. While waiting for its arrival at the home farm, a concrete base with hold down bolts was built in the barn, and a place outside readied for the gas tank.
The upright 3 h. p. engine weighed around 900 pounds, with tanks, cooling screens, etc. Ignition was furnished by 3 drycell batteries with a coil and ignitor. Gas was pumped up to the mixing valve on the cylinder. Belted to a new rotary knife fodder cutter it did a good job for many years.
Now, instead of the machine oil can being filled before harvest time, the new engine required that a supply be kept on hand at all times along side of the harness oil. Instead of just axle grease, there was also a can of cup grease-and the boys were cautioned not to waste the expensive grease by screwing in the cups. Everybody was warned not to be careless around the bright red can that was used to bring gas from town. In time, some wagons that delivered lamp oil carried gas in 5-gallon cans.
A competitive windmill company's slogan was 'Why buy gasoline when wind is free?' Soon there were many more engines around. Some were belted to a line shaft that ran 5 or 6 different machines. In the school science books around World War 1 a favorite problem was to figure the diameters of pulleys to run different machines at certain speeds from a given R.P.M. Some had just one job to do and were permanently fastened to cement mixers, pumps, saws, etc. As engines were made smaller, some were moved around where needed. Perhaps usually used to run the family washing machine, and at harvest time it ran the cider mill, and at butchering time the meat grinder, etc.
In the late 1920's the gasoline tractors began to be used more and more on the farms, and with their power take offs took over the jobs of the larger engines. When the rural electric lines were extended during the 1930's, the heyday of the old side wheel gas engines was over! Some continued to be used, but with the advent of the light weight, air-cooled engines they became more scarce than ever. Many were junked, some were covered up in sheds and barns, others left outside to rust away. Finally, in the late 1940's it was discovered that most of the old machinery was getting scarce. Especially the old steam traction engines. As a hobby, some were restored and meets were held where the public could see them work. Soon these were large annual events where the old hand methods up to the latest mechanical ways were demonstrated.
One of the boys who had so anxiously watched for the wagon that day so long ago, went to a meet accompanied by his son and grandson. There with the steamers, old gas tractors, ox teams, horse powers, and antique cars was a GAS ENGINE exactly like the one that had been in the wagon - together with other models, and makes, all brightly painted and running like new.
Grandpap fondly looked at them and thought of all the hard work they had eliminated from the old hand days. Son looked at them, and thought of all the work-such as hand feeding and hauling-that the modern machinery has done away with. Grandson looked,-and thought of the 4-H girls selling hamburgers at the refreshment stand!