Back on track save the day

| April 2003

Bud Nack still lives on the ranch where he was born in Escondido, Calif. Suburban encroachment, which has steadily whittled away at his family's acreage, now surrounds him and prevents him from farming or ranching the land. Officials say it creates fire hazards and various nuisances. Bud's ancestors, the Einers and the Nacks, settled that land more than 125 years ago, and Bud intends to stay on it until the end. Surrounded by farm and heavy construction equipment from the day he was born, Bud now keeps in touch with his roots by collecting, restoring and using old equipment. His favorite tractor is his 1952 Mead Mighty Mouse crawler.

In 1952, Einer Brothers Inc., a general contracting company in Escondido, near San Diego, landed a contract for a portion of the San Diego County Water Pipeline installation project with work to begin in 1953. This pipeline would carry water throughout San Diego County from the Colorado and Feather Rivers, and was to be buried underground for most of its length. Because final preparation of the ditch grade needed to be precise, Fred Einer, Bud's second cousin and CEO of Einer Bros., needed a machine that could do the specialized ditch work. Enter the Mead Mighty Mouse.

At that time, Mead Specialties Inc. of Chicago built a very small dozer called the Mighty Mouse. The tractor, which Mead marketed to construction contractors, street departments and others in the 1950s and 1960s, was powered by a 6-hp Wisconsin AKN single-cylinder, air-cooled motor. The Mighty Mouse transmitted power through a reduction gearbox, automotive-style clutch and chain drive to a two-speed transmission with reverse. Steering was accomplished by uncoupling either of the final drive shafts with individual lever-operated, interlocking cog-type, in-out clutches. Pulling all the way back on one lever actuated a brake to that particular shaft, which allowed sharper steering. Pulling back on both levers stopped the tractor. In spite of its small size, the Mighty Mouse weighed about 900 pounds, and the model that Einer Bros. purchased featured a hydraulically raised and lowered blade.

Bud has very vivid memories of the Einer's Mead Mighty Mouse, particularly during its operation on the Nack ranch while San Diego County's waterline was being installed across their land. Bud and his friend, Carl von Seggern, both recall with delight operating that little tractor. Bud's father, Walter, raised barley, some corn and cattle on the ranch and was also a heavy equipment operator for his cousins, the Einers. Bud and Carl would often accompany Walter to the Einer Bros, equipment yard where they were allowed to run the Mighty Mouse.

In 1973, Einer Bros. Inc. was sold, but Fred Einer kept the Mighty Mouse. Bud tried unsuccessfully to persuade Fred to give him the crawler. Finally, in 1992 Fred agreed that it was time to let Bud have the machine. Einer Bros., a large company whose projects included the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the Palomar Observatory and the Miramar Dam, owned many yards and storage facilities scattered around San Diego County. With so much ground to cover, it took three years of searching before Bud finally found the Mighty Mouse under a pile of bridge timbers. It was truly a big version of 'needle in a haystack.'

Bud said he was crushed when he first laid eyes on the old tractor after so many years. The parts were stuck, and the bogey rollers were worn so much that the carriage rails were lightly scalloped from the rubbing tracks. The machine was muddy, rusty, covered with tar and asphalt, and frozen solid. Bud, along with his sons and friends, embarked on a truly laborious restoration fraught with doubt and frustration. The project, however, proved to be an example of how people with a shared goal can make magic happen.

9/3/2012 3:46:16 PM

This post brings back very found memories of the Mighty Mouse from my youth. My father, Harry Henwood, was the sales manager for Mead in the early 50's and helped design it. We had one in our back yard to play with when we were kids. It had a front loader that was fun. Thanks for the