Smokstak Bulletin Board

Grumpy Old Men

Ok, how many of you have had this experience? You find an engine or tractor or some old piece of iron that you want and the old man who owns it won’t give or sell it to you for a million bucks, even though it is sitting out in the junk pile, (he probably forgot it was even there.) He says he'll get it running or restore it someday, but you go by the place 5, 10, 15 years later and it is still in the same place, 5 inches deeper in the mud, the old man passed away and the estate is split up between the 10 kids making it impossible to get. I understand that the guy wants to keep it because it is his dad's or something but why let good iron go to waste if you’re never going to touch it and someone else wants it? I guess I'll probably be the same way when I am 80. -- Tanner

Does this mean that I can come over to your house, pick out any thing I want, pay you what I feel is a reasonable amount, and you cannot say no? Because, if that is the way you feel, I will be right over to pick up a truck load! – Bill

Well if I had an engine that was outside rusting and I was never going to do anything with it then, yes Bill you could have it. That's what I mean if some of you got it wrong. -- Tanner

I have a few engines that I do not show, and are not on my web site. One is a ¼ scale salesman’s model (of a 1HP) that runs. Others are some scarce or rare engines that sit on my shelf in my garage covered up with an old T shirt. I also have a 1929 Harley-Davison that I got running after 12 years. This was converted to a stationary engine. I have some guys that want to buys these engines, but I keep saying, no I do not want to sell, but they keep on bugging me. Over and over and over they keep asking, one even had his wife ask me to sell it. It’s getting to the point that I’m getting peeved and I don’t even want to go to the same shows that these guys go to. When I see them, I walk the other way. I had one guy offer me a Maytag for my 29 Harley-Davison, ha, get a life. NO DAMMIT I DO NOT WANT TO SELL THEM. -- enginenut

I agree with you 100%, but you’ve got to admit, the guy who offered you the Maytag for a '29 Harley sure had a lot of brass. -- Dave

I have engines that I don’t want to get rid of and they sit in the corner of the barn, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t do anything with them. That guy must have been drunk when he asked you to trade him for a Maytag, I’d trade him a plastic toy, but not an actual cycle. – Kyle

Tanner, I have acquired engines, tractors, and cars from situations like you described. Most of the people you described have had that piece of iron for a long time, are used to seeing it and they don't like change. Visit them a few times over the course of a year, talk to them. If after this they seem friendly visit with them more often. Take pictures of your other engines to show them what you intend to do if you were to acquire their engine. Be honest. I have acquired many items this way and a few lasting friendships with some very interesting "Grumpy Old Men". -- Pat

Hey Patrick I like your idea! I met a man who has a small tractor made for cultivating between the rows. It’s powered by a single cylinder Wisconsin, has a steering box like a John Deere A and a Chrysler rear axle and wheels. Really cool and it has been setting outside for years. He told me it was no account and I didn't want it. Before I could open my mouth he again repeated YOU DON’T WANT IT. I bid him good day and left. Think I should try again another day? What does buckshot feel like? – Jeff

Tanner, there's a guy that lives in my area that has gas engines, steam engines and lots of other old stuff just rusting away in his yard. There's even a Russell Steamer with a tree growing through the boiler. I've known his family since I was a kid and he won't even let me look at the stuff. He explained the personal reasons for it to me. He's also been bothered by people that think money talks and will buy anything and that REALLY makes him mad! I hate to see the stuff rot away too, but I also respect his reasons. Maybe some day the "Grumpy Old Men" will give in, (they have their reasons) just be patient and remember: there's "Good ol' boys" out there, too! – Randy

I have had my experiences too. A guy with a F/M 6hp tank cooled and a few others that he just will not sell. I’ve tried to trade some things and I have become a good friend with him (I think it is because of my age and interest in the hobby) but, still he won’t sell. He had a few others he said, but got rid of them. One item in particular that is sitting outside is a Jaeger 2hp engine and mixer that I want. Everything else is inside to my knowledge, but still this Jaeger is sunk in 5 inches of mud. GRRRR! Maybe some day I'll get them but, I look at it this way, I have enough time ahead of me to find more treasures, about 65 years or so. -- Chase

If you want to see iron rusting away you should see the 52 steam traction engines in a field by Montgomery, MN. The father of the fellow who owns them drove them in there many years ago and there they sit. The owner will not sell them or sell parts off them. Every year I go to the swap meet at LeSueur I go by them. – John

Hey enginenut, I would give you 2 Maytags for that old scooter-motor, but I don't want to get rid of any more of those stupid 2 cycle crappy motors. I got about 30 of them, and they all have names. Several of the names are listed above. When my wife asks why I want all those old motors, I just revert back to the teenage years and reply. I don't know? Then I get this blank look. – Al

I guess some people just get attached to things and do not want to get rid of them. Another angle is, these guys went through a depression and most of us YOUNGER (70 and under) people do not have any idea what it is like to have to do without something. My Grandparents use to save newspapers and sheets of aluminum foil for fear someday they would have to do without something again. My Grandfather used to talk about those days and I would imagine these guys would just like to be secure in knowing even if they never need it, it’s there if they do! But In support of you younger folks, IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK! – Lonnie

Every thing I own with a couple exceptions has been for sale at one time or another and probably will be again, but right now nothing I have is for sale. Of course I’m not stupid and the right outrageous offer will buy most anything I have at most any time. The only engines I will never sell are my first hit and miss and my Triumph motorcycle that I have owned over 25 years. And, I am getting grumpier as I age, so fast that even I notice it happening. – Steve

How about this? Pick out one that can be easily restored, and offer to restore it for him. If it's all there, unstuck, and the magneto still works, your costs would be minimal, sweat equity, if you will. This should get him interested. Who knows? He might feel obligated, and sell you one. – Hal

That approach has worked for me in the past. The only thing is that I ran into a lot more cost than expected, but in all it worked out for the best. The love of the iron. -- Tom

Tanner, living out in the country, I know what you are talking about. I just stop and think what part of NO don't I understand? But then, I don't give up either. I can understand the depression generation as to possessions, but what I find hard to take is a younger local engine collector who will buy every engine in sight, and then let them set out in the weather until they freeze and break, or rust to junk. This guy would not sell or touch them, just lets them rot! Good luck. -- Carl

I too have run onto an engine this way. A really nice and complete Elmira Force Field Pump engine in a cement mixer. The fellow at least let me look at it, but it was in the back hedge row completely enshrouded by sumac and brush. I advised him to pour some oil into the oiler and let it drip into the cylinder, but I'm sure this went in one ear and out the other. What people do with their "junk" is their business and you just have to forget about it. When it's an old engine, it's hard to forget. -- Harry

I got both of my engines from older men who had them for a long time. I got to know them better through church, and while at first the answer to "May I buy the engine?" or whatever words I used was, "No!" or something along that line, its amazing what time can do, and the end result was a "Yes!" The engine had sat out in front of a barn of his for a very long time. Eventually we got to know each other, and he knew that I would give it a good indoor home, and restore it to good running condition, as well as the wooden saw rig that it is set upon. He sold it to me because I showed a genuine, not only financial interest in it, I would fix it up and give it a good home where it would be used for its original purpose, it would be near him, and he could watch our progress on it and we'd even bring it up to him to show him the end product and operate it with him there, and also because I am young and show a great interest in this old iron. In the end, I made a neat friend and acquired an engine that will forever belong to me, as long as I live. -- Colt

Patrick, Your advice is very good. I acquired an old Moline tractor by stopping and talking with an old man for nearly four years. At first I asked him if it was for sale, the answer, “DO YOU SEE A FOR SALE SIGN ON IT?” OK, I left that alone for a while, but it kept bugging me to see it just sit there. So, from time to time I would just stop in when he was out and chat. One day he asked me for my phone number in case he changed his mind. About a year later he called, and it took a chainsaw and a friend with a winch to get it out of the tree. He will be the first one to try and start it when it's restored. -- Sandy

We acquired a few engines over the years by waiting. One was a 6hp FBM Z. For eight years, every day I went to school, I saw this engine. I knew others who tried to purchase it and the answer was NO. One day, the couple had a rummage sale and the engine had a tag on it for $75.00. I didn't let that one get away. The other time was a gentleman got sick of people asking him if he would sell his engines, a 1-1/2 Lindsay Alamo and two 2hp Stovers. He placed them in the paper and wanted offers. We offered $325 for the three and didn't hear from him for a long time. One day we got a call and he said to come and get them, so off we were again. I haven't run into many people who won't sell their stuff. Right now I'm working on a gentleman who has a 40hp Superior oil field engine. He has had it for 10+ years and hasn't done anything with it. He said not right now, but I'll keep your phone number. I’m just waiting for that call. -- Jason

Ok, here you go Chase. Do you figure on getting married someday? That will knock about 25 years or so off of that 65 (unless you marry the right woman!) Then figure about 25 years from now you will have a kid of your own that will want engines! Now you have to compete with him! Now total that up and that only leaves you with about fifteen years left of your own time to collect engines. Man, you better hurry! Actually, there are probably a lot of us, me included that don’t have nearly that much time left so I’m thinking, lots of auctions! You may come out in pretty good shape! You have a great attitude towards life! (Kinda made me laugh!) Good luck with your engine collecting. – Jim

Tanner, I am sure that I understand how you feel about this sort of a thing. It seems such a waste of potentially good material and I have felt the same way occasionally. On the other hand what really ticks me off about some of these old goats is that they have also accumulated all kinds of money over their lifetimes. They obviously will never be able to spend it all. I am sure that I could put some of it to much better use than they ever will. Yes, it is a shame that some people would rather let an old engine sit out in the weather and rust to pieces. I think they are being inconsiderate to others by doing so. At the same time, it is their property and who should be the one to tell them what they ought to be doing with it? Certainly not the government by passing a law that you can't let an engine go to waste! Damn, if I could only get my hands on some of that dough I could really get a few things done around here! Actually, I think it is just another bullet we have to learn to bite down hard on when we come across one of these old tight fisted curmudgeons that own something we dearly covet. – Russ

Listen up whippersnapper: You dang kids is becomin a bunch of whiners. I'm gonna become a grumpy old fart because of all yer cryin, and here I was just startin to enjoy my third childhood. Did any one of you ever think there might be something more important than the almighty dollar? Ya spend all day bitchin cause I won't sell you my hunk of rusty old iron, but does one of you, who's so damn concerned about that hunk of iron sinking into the mud, offer to come around and jack it up outta the mud and put some timber under it? Did you ever think an old fart just might still hear that iron run in his mind, and remember when it made an all day job into an hour's work? It's nice you want to take that hunk of junk and get it back to running, paint it up and haul it all over hells half acre showing it off, but don't one of you want to do a damn thing to preserve it till I decide to let you have it. Ya gotta prime the pump before you can fill the bucket. I ain't sellin so you can go fix it up and sell it to somebody who wants it for a lawn ornament. – Franz

WELL SAID, My feelings in a nutshell. What the yougun’s need is a lot more of something called RESPECT. Something to think about, do you know the person who owns the treasure you want? Have you just went by and taken a few moments of your busy life to just visit the person and find something out about him or her and what life has been about for them? Maybe one thing you might find out is a tender hearted person that might just be lonely. Maybe by becoming a friend you might change his mind. Did you, after getting to know them, suggest maybe getting something running for them so they may be able to reminisce the past perhaps even with you? All I can say is with your beginning attitude (GRUMPY OLD MEN) you indicate a bit of hostility. As a salesman along with other jobs I learned one thing right up front. A PERSON MAKES A JUDGEMENT OF YOU WITHIN THE FIRST 5 SECONDS OF MEETING YOU. Chances are the chip you carry on your shoulder shows right away, and to the other person it takes a lot on your side to get it taken back off. Just an old man with a few engines? You are welcome to come see them, talk about them and maybe even run them. Who knows none of my kids are interested in them and they will need new homes some day. -- Bob

I’m only 45 but I always try to respect my elders. My neighbor, Russell was my friend first. He was 87 when he died. I never asked nor did he offer any of his belongings, but the stories he told of his life were worth a million. We should not ever covet what others have. Their personal memories are in those things. – Robert

A local farmer, who got me interested in antique tractors, was known as a grumpy old man. Before I met him, I would hear people say what miserable old duff he was, but after getting to know him, I found out he had a soft side that he hid. He is a very smart, business minded person whose biggest gripe is that his kids, except for the one that helps him run the farm, don't ever come to visit him. He has probably seen his son-in-law more often then his daughter. There are times when I don't get around to visiting him, and when I finally do, the first thing out of his mouth is, "Where the hell have you been hiding?" He really is a good person and has bent over backwards for me and a few others that have gotten to know him. So, get to know the "grumpy old men," you may find out that all they want is a little company. -- Bill

My feelings also, Bob. I agree with Franz. I guess at 70 you could call me old and my wife says I'm grumpy at times, but you sure can't call me an old goat because I'm broke!!! – John

One day I was trying to buy an old Willys jeep from an older fellow who would never use it again. I was whining about not being able to afford to pay him very much for it, and he seemed to know better. After a bit of taking it all in, and just about the time I thought I had him broken down he looked me in the eye and said, "Boy do you know how much money you have" I replied no I don't. He replied "well if you didn't have any you would know". He didn't sell the Jeep either. Al

True that this world has many colors and shades of gray. I started in this hobby when I was 12 by restoring a Farmall F-12. Young and eager, light on patience and brains. That was then, now what I would like to share with you is how I got my steam engine:

When I was in grade school I took a picture of several engines including a steam engine at a local museum outdoor exhibition. I remember showing these pictures and telling everyone I was going to own one someday. Years later I began the restoration of my deceased grandfather’s F-12 out of tribute to him. A local retired man who owned a repair shop helped my out by getting the head rebuilt. He invited me to go with him to a show with his steam engine and we became friends. He had LOTS of good stuff but would never sell or give it up. I bugged him often.

Years passed, some were spent together, others apart as I went to college, began a family, etc. As with everyone, once the kids get old enough, you can free up some time to do the things you want. I started to see him more often, sharing times. One year we went to a show and the steamer was in need of some maintenance. I volunteered to go over it and paint it. I bugged him a couple times and then left it out of respect. One day he called me and asked me if I would still work on it, and would I come over and get it to work on it at my house. Why my house, but sure, why not? He followed me home, as to help me unload it and put it safely into my shop. He was always welcome. After all was put into its place, he asked me if I had a checkbook. Yes, but why I asked? He promptly told me he knew I would take care of it and show it as he did. Now write me a check, he said. I bought it under one condition, he would visit and help me with it, and go to the shows with me. Every Sunday afternoon he would stop by for a cup of tea, check on the engine, and on his way. After Christmas that year, my mother asked me to remove a trunk of my stuff that I had left behind. Going through it, I found plenty of old memories as the kids watched with excitement. I showed them my box camera, and started to go through the pictures. Then I found them, those pictures I took in grade school of a steam engine. Looking carefully at them, I noticed one in particular. It was a picture of my steam engine!

The moral of this story is it is not the destination or ownership, but rather the journey and fellowship we experience. This is what our hobby is truly about. -- Ron

More... CONTINUED (March 2002)

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