Herding the Wheel Horses South

When a guy with a couple dozen fifty-year old tractors connects with a guy who twice drove from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to get to Kentucky, anyone expecting completely sensible behavior is likely to be disappointed. The guy with an aversion to direct routes is me. The guy with the vintage tractors is Terry Wolfe who first appeared in this blog back in 2014. As mentioned then, Terry collects Wheel Horse tractors. The tractors appear in the Old, Strong, and Fast and A Pretty Fair Week blog posts. Terry exhibits regularly at shows in Portland, IN, Greenville, OH, Arendtsville, PA, and elsewhere. A big show in Florida has long been on his radar but that was a little too far away for regular travel companions including his wife. He suggested it, the dates fit my calendar, and on the morning of February 19 we headed south with a herd of seven Horses in tow.

Although I thought about it, I decided long before departure that I would not attempt a daily journal on this trip. I did Tweet a few photos and comments and hinted at the possibility of a summary blog post. I was far from certain that would happen but here it is: an eight day trip in a single blog post.

We spent Sunday night in a motel south of Atlanta. On Monday we reached my Uncle Eldon’s place near Lake Alfred, FL, and stayed there overnight. Stops here appeared in trip journals in 2012 (Bunkin’ with Unk) and 2014 (Christmas Escape 2014). That’s Terry and Uncle Eldon tossing bread to fish and birds in the last picture.

Our destination was about thirty miles further south at Flywheelers Park where the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club holds several events each year. We drove the final leg on Tuesday and hit the right gate on the second try. The afternoon was spent unloading the tractors and erecting the canopy which was a welcome shelter from both sun and rain over the next few days.

I knew that a high school friend spent a good chunk of each winter in the general area and sent a text during the ride down to see if she was nearby. Tammy and husband Vic weren’t just nearby, they already had their trailer set up in Flywheelers Park and would be part of the show’s flea market. They found us as we were unloading and extended an invitation to dinner which was a pretty cool way to step into an unfamiliar show. Then, a couple of days later, they took us along on a grocery shopping trip to Avon Park. The dinner, the chauffeuring, and the general advice were much appreciated.

The show opened on Wednesday and so did the clouds. In fact the rain was quite heavy at times but the sandy Florida soil dried rather quickly between downpours. We managed to do some sightseeing during the rain-free periods. Terry had selected two of the Wheel Horses for on site transportation and we toured the grounds in style.

Literally hundreds of normal looking golf carts were pressed into service as shopping and sight-seeing vehicles but many of the people carriers were truly part of the show. I saw the single-axle machine occupied and in motion on several occasions but never when I was able to get a picture.

There are quite a few permanent buildings in the park. Many, particularly those in an area called The Village, are made to look like businesses of yesteryear. The show itself is huge with an extremely wide range of vendors and exhibitors. Despite Oliver being the featured brand this year, the largest array of a particular tractor I saw was this field of John Deeres.

Anyone who has seen some of my TripAdvisor reviews may have noticed that I often mention convenience, cleanliness, and comfort in rating my accommodations. With the tractors outside, our bunks in the trailer were certainly convenient and, with some fairly thick air-mattresses, reasonably comfortable. Cleanliness not so much. Breakfast each day was bacon and eggs prepared over a Coleman with other meals usually coming from a grill. The pictured meal is Friday night’s steak dinner. While at first glance, the flashlight illumination might give the appearance of a romantic candle-light dinner, what really happened was that we fired up the generator and turned on a drop light so that two old farts could see to eat.

We cheated just a little on the tear down and were essentially ready to roll when official closing time arrived on Saturday. We made it across the Georgia line for the night and home at the end of a long Sunday. As you can see, there was an unplanned stop on the way but I helped speed things along by staying out of Terry’s way. The reason for the vibration that he had occasionally felt was no longer a mystery. So, yeah, this trip was notably different from most in my recent past but, except for the tractor herding bits, it wasn’t something totally new to me. I’ve done a fair number of destination oriented road trips and will undoubtedly do some more. There was even a period when I did a decent amount of tent camping and another with frequent van camping. My most recent tent camping was a couple of night in Rocky Mountain NP back in 2011. What we did last week was quite similar to my van camping. I enjoyed the differences between this and my typical trip and I don’t at all rule out doing it again. On the other hand, I make no promises or predictions.

Annie’s (Parade is) Back

aop16aLast year what was said to be lack of interest but which can probably better be described as lack of agreement sidelined the Annie Oakley Days Parade in Greenville, Ohio. This year it was back and seemed to be just as popular and nearly as big as it ever was. The return of the parade was announced quite some time ago and right before my last visit to Greenville, some six weeks ago, it was announced that the Grand Marshalls would once again be relatives of mine. Several years ago a cousin and her husband had filled the roles. This year it would be an aunt and uncle.

aop16baop16cShortly after the color guard swung around the corner and the parade started down Broadway, the Grand Marshalls rolled by in a white carriage. Uncle Dean and Aunt Arlene had their youngest grandsons with them but Sam and Charlie weren’t really into that smiling and waving thing. They did, however, keep a sharp lookout on both sides of the carriage to prevent any and all surprise attacks.

aop16dKatie Hurd, Miss Annie Oakley for 2016, won her title the old fashioned way — with a gun. Contestants didn’t attempt to gun each other down but, like the real Annie Oakley, demonstrated their shooting skill by firing at a target. The shooting starts at 25 feet and the distance is increased until only one shooter hits the baloon target baloon. That happened at 100 feet. Hurd wears two sashes because she also won this year’s Best Costume competition.

aop16eaop16faop16gMany local businesses supported and participated in Saturday’s parade. There were also plenty of cars. The Darke County Jeepsters are personal favorites. Their matching red vehicles appear in many parades. The parade also contained quite a few Shriner units.

aop16hIt’s certainly fitting that Buffalo Bill Cody rides in Annie’s parade. The long association that the two had benefited them both greatly.

A Pretty Fair Week

gdcf15_01Once upon a time, all of Ohio’s county fairs preceded the state fair but not anymore. In fact, only 29 of the 88 opened their gates before those of the biggie in Columbus this year. When I attended the state fair a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I make it to the fair in my original home county from time to time. This year I made it to The Great Darke County Fair on Monday which is, among other things, Senior Citizens Day. It’s a day when folks over 60 or under 12 and ministers of any age get in free. Yes, I am cheap.

gdcf15_02gdcf15_03Darke County is the Horseshoe Pitching Capital of the World so finding a tournament in progress wasn’t much of a surprise. Some of these guys can throw more consecutive ringers than I can take consecutive steps without tripping.

gdcf15_05gdcf15_04It’s another sort of competition that is at the heart of all fairs and I got to see just a little of the Junior Fair Dairy Show. I believe the fellow in the second picture placed third and he couldn’t have been happier.

gdcf15_06gdcf15_07gdcf15_08I hate to knock the Ohio State Fair but the only “amazing creatures” I saw there were “The World’s Smallest Woman” and “Snake Girl”. The Great Darke County Fair has a whole menagerie plus a giant horse. Of course, the midway also had plenty of games, rides, and food. The pictured food stand certainly isn’t the flashiest or exotic. I’m including it for personal reasons. I have a real weakness for ice cream made the old-fashioned way in a mixer cranked by an old hit-or-miss engine. Doubly so on an apple dumpling.

gdcf15_11gdcf15_10gdcf15_09When I saw that this was the day of the High School Marching Band Spectacular, I decided to hang around to see the band from my old school. I got there just a little late and missed one band. It took me awhile but I eventually figured out that the band I had missed was my old school, Ansonia. I still enjoyed the show.

gdcf15_12gdcf15_13Even though I get back to the fair every few years, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a dark Darke County Fair. I probably should have stayed around to ride to the top of that Ferris wheel but it was getting chilly and I was ready to head home.


gets15_03gets15_02gets15_01I visited fair grounds again on Thursday but it wasn’t for a fair. It was for the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association‘s 50th Antique Engine & Tractor Show on the Jay County Fair Grounds in Portland, Indiana. Terry, a long time friend who collects Wheel Horses, has exhibited at the show for many years. Dale, another long time friend, lives reasonably close and has attended the show on several occasions. This was my first time but I knew I’d be in good hands. I arrived a few minutes ahead of Dale which gave me a chance to snap a few pictures of Terry (on left in third picture) and his tractors. The Massey-Ferguson and Simplicities in the foreground belong to Terry’s brother, Joe.

gets15_04gets15_05gets15_06As expected, there was no shortage of gas engines including plenty of the hit and miss variety. A sizable percentage were not running and probably couldn’t without considerable effort while others were hard at work doing things like making (or at least pretending to make) ice cream. Some were running but were just relaxing and blowing smoke rings. One display prompted me to attempt a rare video to show one solution to the aggravation of having an engine that works and a console TV that doesn’t.

gets15_09gets15_08gets15_07I would quickly discover that the show contained about as many things that I had not anticipated as those that I had. Maybe I should have expected this display of unusual Crosley vehicles, Terry had shown me a photo of the motorcycle from a previous year’s show, but I didn’t. Some, like the motorcycle, are factory prototypes while others, such as the first open-wheeled Crosley-powered racer I’ve ever seen, were aftermarket customs.

gets15_10gets15_11gets15_12This would have been completely unexpected if I hadn’t heard the announcer mention it over the PA. As soon as I heard the phrase “spark plug collector” I knew it was a hobby as natural — and as endless — as postcard collecting. I was thinking only of the multitude of brands and sizes but soon discovered that there were variations I had never dreamed of. Some early designs had an opening which allowed cylinders to be primed with fuel. Others had two connectors to support both coil and magneto ignitions. There were a variety of multi-piece designs that could be used to fashion quick disconnect plugs so that fouled electrodes could be changed during racing pit stops. Besides being surprised but the many wild plug designs, I was somewhat surprised that Terry and Dale (in the first photo) were almost as unfamiliar with them as I was — but I didn’t let it show.

gets15_13We all learned something here, too. At first I thought it was showing different types of fencing like some barbed wire displays I have seen. Then I thought it might be showing different methods of splicing pieces of wire. The truth was so much better. These are variations of Check Row Planter Wires which were first patented more than 160 years ago. The wires were stretched across a field and carefully placed “buttons” would trigger the dropping of seeds from a sled pulled along their length. A slightly more readable copy of the explanatory placard is here.

gets15_14gets15_15Almost everyone knows about Gibson guitars, greeting cards, wines, appliances, and other items but I doubt many know about Gibson tractors. I didn’t. Produced between 1946 and 1952, internet searches indicate that the tractors were made in Colorado although the company was based in Seattle, Washington. This was an at least rare, if not unique, instance where one 1947 model Gibson took a photograph of another.


lsd_tshrOh, and one more thing. In between the cows and the tractors, I went to a concert at The Southgate House Revival. Tuesday marked my second time seeing Lake Street Dive. As part of his introduction, WNKU’s Ken Haynes asked how many had also attended their only other area appearance and a number of hands, including mine, went up. “Well,” he said. “They’re two years better.” He was off a little on the calculation (That show was March 4, 2014.) but right on regarding the better and they were fantastic the first time around.

Doug Dickey Honored at Garst Museum

dougdfbDouglas Dickey never got to be a veteran. He barely got to be a high school graduate. Less than two years after graduation, Doug’s life ended in Vietnam. He was twenty years old.

A Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded, as so many are, posthumously. There was no question about it being deserved. Doug’s actions that day were exactly what we think of when we think of unselfish bravery. They might even be what we think of when we think of the Medal of Honor. To save others, he threw himself on top of a live grenade seconds before it detonated. While we might think of that as the quintessential Medal of Honor worthy scenario, I don’t believe it’s typical. I haven’t read every Medal of Honor citation and I have no supporting statistics but my impression is that the majority of these medals are awarded to men who do a considerable amount of damage to the other side, usually in defense of the defenseless, while disregarding all personal danger. Defending the defenseless is exactly what Doug Dickey was doing when he died and the fact that he destroyed no enemy gun positions and killed no attackers places his actions neither above or below those of other Medal of Honor recipients. It just makes them a little different than many.

dougd1Doug Dickey was a classmate of mine. He has been mentioned before in this blog and in my trip journals. This entry is prompted by the dedication of a greatly improved museum exhibit organized around a newly acquired display-only copy of his Congressional Medal of Honor. That dedication took place on Friday, November 14, at the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio.

dougd3dougd2The featured speaker was Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Retired), who is one of just 79 living Medal of Honor recipients. General Livingston’s speech was stirring and his presence certainly added to the prestige of the event but preceding comments from Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney, USMC (Retired) were, in my opinion, more gripping. Neither man had ever met PFC Dickey but McKenney had heard his story back in 1968 and was instrumental in obtaining the Medal of Honor being placed on display. Some of the story he had heard all those years ago had stuck around in some corner of his mind. A visit to Darke County and hearing it again had pried that memory loose. He had heard the story from someone who was there and who had described the quick motion of Doug’s eyes from the grenade to a wounded and immobile soldier to the corpsman treating him to the platoon leader. Although the time it took to make his decision was hardly more than that involved in an instinctive reaction, there had clearly been a decision. There are other Medal of Honor citations that end, as Doug’s does, with the phrase “He gallantly gave his life for his country.” It’s quite clear that Doug did literally give his life and that he knew what he was giving. I’m pretty sure, though, that he didn’t give it so much for his country as for those individual human beings he barely knew.

dougd4One of them was Greg “Doc” Long, the corpsman. He is, in fact, the only currently living member of the group that was in that crater. He did not speak during the ceremonies, only stood when McKenney introduced him, but I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating his presence most of all.

dougd7dougd6dougd5The event was well attended and the display is extremely well done. It includes glimpses of many aspects of Doug’s short life and a video, with footage from the 1960s and 1970s, that was shown as part of Friday’s program. Kudos to all involved.


dougdaAddendum 18-Nov-2014: I hinted at other mentions of Douglas Dickey on this site but did not identify them. In correcting that oversight, I realized that I’ve not posted a photo of Doug’s grave anywhere. A photo of the grave marker is at right. The only other blog mention is here.

The following are trip journal references:

 


fwtwAnother Marine I know, along with a bunch of other folks, has been putting a lot of energy and sweat into a feature length movie helping some of today’s veterans tell their story. They have reached the point where their own sweat isn’t quite enough. Click on the picture to check it out and maybe chip in a few bucks if you can.

Old, Strong, and Fast

fpotp01Although I saw no single piece of equipment that possessed all three attributes, over the last couple of days I saw a lot of old stuff, strong stuff and fast stuff. The old stuff was primarily at the Greenville Farm Power of the Past 15th Annual Reunion with the strong stuff showing off at the day ending truck and tractor pull. That was Friday. The fast stuff blew by on Saturday at the East Coast Timing Association‘s event in Wilmington, Ohio.

A recent post told of my meeting up with an old friend after two score and seven years. That friend, Terry Wolfe, collects and restores Wheel Horse tractors and had several on display at the Greenville event. Despite my good intentions, I never did get a proper photo of the display. The shot at the top of the article, taken while the two of us, along with Terry’s brother Joe, sat and talked, is the best I can do.

fpotp02fpotp03fpotp04I had timed my arrival to take in a scheduled threshing demonstration. This is not something I haven’t seen before but it had been quite awhile and I generally enjoy seeing older equipment of any kind being used as intended. Before combined harvesters became common, wagon loads of freshly mowed grain stalks would be brought to a stationary thresher where the actual grain would be separated from the straw. As we walked toward the demonstration, Terry told me that this was where the term “straw boss” came from. The primary boss concerned himself with the machine and the grain while an assistant would head up a crew to deal with the accumulating straw. Terry also told me of the tradition of the straw boss tossing his (usually straw) hat into the thresher at the end of a job. Sometimes that hat made it through more or less intact. Sometimes not. The tradition is upheld here. There is no need for an actual “boss of the straw” during the demonstrations but the term is used, a bit incorrectly but quite respectfully, to refer to the fellow who would be the “big boss” in the field. Come Sunday, when the last demo of the year is over, a hat (Lester’s, I think) will go into the big machine.

fpotp07fpotp06fpotp05There is no shortage of big equipment on the Darke County Fairgrounds but Terry and I sort of concentrated on the smaller stuff during our walkabout. I’ve always been intrigued by “hit-and-miss” gasoline engines and the variety of mechanisms creative minds applied to to control their speed. A local connection is worth some extra points so I naturally liked the nicely restored Greenville built 1906 Wogaman in the first picture. Terry, who is under that red hat in the second picture, has exhibited here for several years but this year the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America is holding their Ohio regional show in conjunction with Greenville Farm Power of the Past and there are even more of the smaller tractors than usual. Maybe the item in the last picture doesn’t quite fit the normal definition of “power” but I had never seen anything like it and just had to include it. A sign identified it as a MantaMower and a web search turned up the information that it was patented in 1923 and manufactured (in Grand Rapids, MI) until about 1962. There is no question of its being light and safe and I don’t doubt it was rather effective as long as you didn’t let the grass grow just a tad too tall.

fpotp08fpotp09fpotp10Here we have the strong stuff. The Darke County Tractor Pullers Association is a pretty big organization and this was one of their events. I don’t know enough about it to describe things much beyond saying there were some really big tractors dragging a bunch of weight for a pretty good distance.

fpotp12fpotp11The previously pictured tractors were clearly not stock but I do believe they were powered by engines that began their life in a tractor. These are from a class powered by transplanted and modified V8s. The announcer referred to them as “hot rods” although I have no idea whether that’s an official designation or not.

fpotp13fpotp14Trucks followed the tractors with more classes as well as more total entries. I think we made it to the beginning of the final class but left well ahead of the final pull. If you don’t count the clutches that were sacrificed getting off the line, there was very little equipment damage. Only one tractor had needed a tow and the dragging drive-shaft on the blue Ford was the only failure we witnessed among the trucks. Opportunities remained, however.

ecta_om01Calling it the “Ohio Mile”, the East Coast Timing Association holds several events each year on the former DHL facility now known as Wilmington Air Park. Speed runs take place on the runway in the background while the foreground pavement is the return lane as well as being used by spectators and other traffic.

ecta_om02ecta_om03ecta_om04We parked then walked to the starting line where a wild variety of vehicles, in no particular order, awaited their turn. It took us awhile to figure it out but we eventually realized that entrants were not timed through the mile but were clocked at its end. There is no need for jackrabbit starts or even super quick acceleration.

ecta_om07ecta_om06ecta_om05After watching a few fairly unexciting starts, we set out for the other end of the track. On the way, we paused at one of the field’s more unusual vehicles. It’s a 1951 Crosley Super Sport whose owner believes will go 110 MPH. Whether it did that today is unknown. In fact, I didn’t realize we had seen the car on course until I was home and looked at my pictures. I’ll update this when results of this meet are posted but, for now, the only performance information I have is the 56.9548 MPH it turned in during the May meet. The website promoted on the car contains little information about the car but does include a video that, along with a certain amount of “Jesus is my mechanic” flavoring, has some pictures of the car being built.

ADDENDUM 27-Aug-2014: The Run Log posted by the ECTA shows that the Crosley managed a run of 97.6987 MPH. Not quite the targeted 110 but getting closer.

ecta_om08ecta_om09ecta_om10One reason that we don’t know how the Crosley did today is that there is nothing like a scoreboard or other visual indication of speeds or anything else. Nor is there any PA in the normal sense. There is a low powered FM radio broadcast which, had we brought a pocket radio or chose to sit in the car, would have kept us informed. As it was, we picked up the occasional scrap of information only when we passed an appropriately tuned radio.

ecta_om12ecta_om11This is pure conjecture but my guess is that about one-third of ECTA  members would like more spectators to help with expenses and another third want more spectators to add some legitimacy and prestige to what they are doing. To the remaining third, spectators are probably a real aggravation. When we did hear the announcer, it was interesting and definitely added to the enjoyment. A signboard flashing a car’s speed might help but I think a few radios hanging on poles would help more and probably cost less.

Real Royalties

me_terryI get a little bit of money whenever a copy of By Mopar to the Golden Gate gets sold. It’s called a royalty though it’s hardly royal in the crown and sceptre sense of the word. In time, book sales might produce enough cash to cover the giveaways but that’s far from certain and it’s not even a goal. I didn’t write the book to make money. I wrote it partly as a bucket list checkoff and partly to gain a little notoriety in the road fan community. But the best benefit of all was one that had never even occurred to me.

dgadvocatetAnother graduate from my high school has long worked at my home county’s only newspaper. Her name is Linda Moody and she writes features on a variety of subjects along with a regular column on our shared home town, Ansonia, Ohio. It was through an article of hers that I first learned of a book written by another school mate which I reviewed here. That gave my sister an idea and the next time she saw Linda she told her about the book I had just written and that led to an interview and article. That was very cool, of course, but it’s not the big benefit that I’m writing about.

The article prompted a few contacts from people who saw it and recognized me. One was an email from the fellow beside me in the photo. The photo is from the first time Terry Wolfe and I have seen each other in forty-seven years. I’ve actually mentioned Terry in this blog when I wrote about the 1952 Ford I bought from him. Starting about the time I entered my teens, I spent much of each summer with my grandparents who lived in a very small town. Make that a VERY small town. Two boys of roughly the same age naturally spent a lot of time together on bicycles and on foot and, once in awhile, on something that floated on the nearby Stillwater River. We attended different high schools but remained close friends into our motorized years and through graduation. At some point, bound up in our own lives and families, we lost contact.

I know we’ve both thought of each other now and then over the years. My Dad once told me about seeing a poem of Terry’s in the paper and I made quickly forgotten plans to contact him. Fortunately, Terry was much better at following through when he saw the article on the book. First came an email that led to a phone call that led to some vague but sincere plans to get together. Those plans came together two weeks ago.

When I knew I would be in Darke County without a tight schedule, I checked with Terry to see if he would be around. He would so after doing a few chores at my stepmother’s, I headed his way. Terry has retained some of his mechanical skills and keeps them honed by restoring and showing Wheel Horse tractors as a hobby. We talked about some works-in-process and several show ready “Horses” as we got reacquainted. Then, after an extended session of “sittin’ & rememberin'”, we, along with Terry’s wife Sue, headed to a nearby pizza parlor for a couple cold ones, some excellent pizza, and a few more memory tests. We will definitely do it again.

rrdg65rrtw65I’ve no record of what we looked like forty-seven years ago, but here we are forty-nine years ago as high school seniors. I won’t try to analyse those forty-seven years nor will I profess some sort of regret. That’s just the way life works. And I won’t claim that writing a book was solely responsible for that recent meeting. It does, however, get some of the credit and hearing from and connecting with Terry was a terrific “royalty” that I sure had not anticipated.

My Wheels – Chapter 8
1957 Austin Healey

Austin-Healey 100-6Why in the world would a couple of newly weds buy a ten year old British sports car in the middle of winter? I am, at present, as baffled as anyone though I apparently once knew the answer to that question. A month or so after our 1966 Boxing Day wedding, my bride and I purchased a 1957 Austin-Healey 100-6. The one pictured is a 1958 model but looks pretty much like our ’57. This was not a play car to park next to a dependable sedan. This was our only car.

The Renault‘s reliability had steadily decreased until I sold it to a friend who either rebuilt or replaced the engine and drove it for quite awhile. I almost bought a 1959 Plymouth an aunt had recently replaced and actually “test drove” the car for a few weeks before acquiring the Healey. Buying the Plymouth would have been the sensible thing to do. But we were 18 and 19, I was a full time student, she was just out of high school, and we had just gotten married. Why spoil it by doing something sensible?

The Healey lasted more than a year. It was a great summer car and an OK winter car. Climbing snow covered Cincinnati hills was not its strong suit but it got around as good as many other cars of the day and it was reasonably warm in slowish city driving. Things were a little different on the open road. It helped that it had a removable hard top. It was fiberglass and not heavily insulated but was infinitely better than the cloth top. But it was a true roadster with sliding Plexiglas side curtains rather than roll up windows. At highway speed on a cold day, the heater stayed on full blast trying to keep up with the air escaping through the side curtains.

That soft top I mentioned was on the car once while I owned it. Attaching it had much more in common with raising a tent than with raising a convertible top. The hard top came off in the spring and went on in the fall. In between, with the one exception to prove that erecting the canvas top was possible, we made do with a tonneau cover and, yes, we did get wet now and then.

It was called a 2+2 with a pair of padded depressions in a shelf behind the seats. I actually remember carrying someone in those “seats” for a short distance but the shelf was much better at holding a couple bags of groceries than a couple derrieres.

The 100-6 was produced for three years. In 1956 it replaced the four-cylinder 100 which immediately became known as the 100-4. The 100-6 had a 2.6 liter six-cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission with overdrive. In 1959, it was replaced with the 2.9 liter Austin-Healey 3000 which had a rather long run through 1967.

Cars are often remembered for the misadventures they were part of and here is a story that helps me remember the Healey. For reasons not quite remembered, there was no license bracket on the front for awhile. It had been damaged somehow and repairing it had slipped entirely off my schedule. We were driving home after a visit to my parents. On state route 49, near the town of Arcanum, we passed a state trooper headed the other direction. He turned around, turned on his lights, and pulled us over. There was no “serious” issue, like speeding, but there was no front license. After checking a few things, he gave me a written warning and went on his way.

A couple of weeks later, I was back in Darke County. The low slung Healey had suffered a few scrapes and bumps on its crankcase and had developed a minor leak. I arranged to meet a high school buddy who had a welder so we — actually he — could fix the leak. The repair was accomplished and I headed home. At just about the same spot as before, that same state trooper passed the Healey with the same license plate not there. When I saw his brake lights come on, I immediately turned off on a side road and, with a few quick turns on the narrow roads, made my getaway. Satisfied that my evasive maneuvers had worked, I was starting to slow when I saw it. The road ahead was unpaved. It had not been graded for awhile. A fairly tall gravel ridge stood in its center. Before I could stop, I was plowing that gravel. Then I was oiling it.

The gravel had ripped off the recently applied weld and the crankcase was leaking much worse than it ever had before. I lost a lot of oil by the time I made it back to the main road. At a little gas station and grocery store, I bought a five gallon can of used oil. I believe farmers sometimes used used oil in slow reving equipment so it was often available for sale. The leak was not quite as bad as I feared but I still lost close to another gallon getting back to the friend’s house. He had just been visiting from college and was already gone when I got there. His dad let me use the welder and I managed to plug the leak with one of the ugliest welding jobs ever. This was the first and last time anyone ever left me alone with a welder. Then I drove home and fixed the license bracket the very next day.

Although our car must have looked just like the one in the picture when new, when we had it the paint had lost its shine and there was rust. Not major visible rust but hidden and interior rust in floor pans and such. The car was never garaged while we had it and I suspect that was true of much of its life. The rust and mechanical malaise led to the Austin-Healey being replaced before the next summer rolled around.

My Wheels – Chapter 7 — 1961 Renault 4CV


Although this post is semi-random (I picked it from two possibilities) it appears during Cincinnati’s first snow event of the year (which is kinda why I picked it) and gives me an excuse to tell a semi-related story.

1959 Plymouth FuryThe 1959 Plymouth Fury at left is a dead ringer for the one I passed up to get the Austin-Healey. A rather spiffy ride, don’t you think? On one snowy night, my new wife and I were out with a friend in my borrowed car. The snow was not deep but the big Plymouth was not doing well on the slick streets. At one point, as we attempted to climb a slight incline, the friend and I got out to push while my wife took over driving. It did not take much to get the car moving but stopping to let us back in would have left the car stuck once again. Instead, my friend and I each grabbed a fin and “skied” alongside the Plymouth to the top of the hill.

Half Century Gone

Kennedy official photoOn this day fifty years ago I was a high school junior. I do not even remember most of the day and some that I do remember is foggy and questionable. I remember some very small pieces all too well. I remember going to my chemistry class and taking a seat in the second or third row. It was the rightmost seat facing the teacher’s desk and the wall of blackboards. My memory is that the principal, Mr Pawlowski, entered before class actually started and gave us the news though it might have come from Mr Conrad, the instructor. In my memory, Mr Pawlowski quickly moved on to personally deliver his message in other classrooms so that every student heard the same version. It is logical and might indicate how important he thought the message — and its uniform delivery — was but I cannot be certain that my memory is accurate. The message was, of course, “The President has been shot.”

The remainder of the school day is blurred. I believe that no more classes were held and I have a vague memory that students who walked to school were allowed to leave. Maybe we all were. I’m fairly confident that I drove to school that day. I was sixteen with a car and a driver’s license. What else would I do? I do remember that by the time I left school, whenever and however that occurred, the message was no longer that the President had been shot; By then we knew that the President was dead.

The time between hearing that the President was shot and learning for certain that he was dead could not have been long. Other points of uncertainty were not so easily or quickly resolved. Who did it? Was the country under attack? Were we, in our tiny Ohio town far from both Dallas and D.C., safe? With the exception that New York replaced Dallas, those are the exact same questions I had on a September morning nearly thirty-eight years later. The world in which the terrorist attacks of 2001 took place was not, however, at all the same as the world of 1963.

The basement of the school building in which I heard the news had sealed containers of “rations” stacked along the walls. With their Civil Defense markings, they were visible reminders that this was a designated fallout shelter. The first anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis was not even a month in the past. I recall learning, only a couple of years before, a new prefix: mega. I didn’t need it to discuss megapixels, or megabaud, or even megabytes. I needed it to try to comprehend the power, in megatons of TNT, of hydrogen bombs being tested in the friggin’ atmosphere. The Cold War was not as nebulous as the War on Terror and I think it was somewhat scarier. Has there ever been a more accurate acronym than the one referring to Mutual Assured Destruction?

I do have some memories of the evening. A buddy and I went driving around because that’s what sixteen year old boys with cars did. The world was closed. Games and dances were canceled; Restaurants shut down. The buddy had a little battery powered tape recorder. This was well before cassettes or even 8-tracks. It used very small reels. It was pretty much a toy which we used to make Dickie Goodman style “break-in” recordings that were even worse than the ones Goodman did. That night, as we drove through the one city (1960 population 10,585) and some of the small towns in the county, we made comments and observations into the recorder. It is long gone, of course, but I’ve often thought of just how interesting it would be to listen to that tape today. It might offer a unique look at rural Ohio on the night of the assassination or it might just be filled with stuff like “Holy cow!. Even Frisch’s is closed.”

The weird uneasiness continued through the weekend as facts and rumors tumbled out. Lee Oswald was arrested. The shooting of a cop, J D Tippit, was somehow related but it was not at all clear how. Then Oswald was shot and things got even more confusing. I’ve convinced myself that I watched Jack Ruby gun down Oswald on live TV but the scene was shown so many times I can’t be sure. Two things helped; The eventual realization that the office of President of the United States had been transferred just like the rule book said and the fact that Walter Cronkite was in the newsroom. I think it a pretty safe bet that I’ll never trust any one the way I trusted Walter.

Ansonia High School 1964 yearbookPresident John F Kennedy was officially pronounced dead at 1:00 PM CST; The same time as the posting of this article. The scan at left is of an introductory page of my high school’s 1964 yearbook. I imagine something similar appeared in the yearbooks of thousands of schools across the country. I believe the picture is a closely cropped version, with the background removed, of the official one at the beginning of this article.

Book Review
Fallen Timbers 1794
John F Winkler

Fallen Timbers coverEveryone loves a winner and, in 1794, the United States Army finally became one. In his earlier work, Wabash 1791, Winkler tells of the new nation’s first military campaign and the disaster that resulted. Fallen Timbers 1794, describes the campaign that led to a victory at Fallen Timbers and ultimately to the Treaty of Greenville.

The 1791 Battle of the Wabash, more commonly known as St Clair’s Defeat, essentially destroyed the United States Army. In 1792, congress created a new one. To lead this new army, The Legion of the United States of America, President Washington chose Revolutionary War veteran Anthony Wayne. Wayne did things quite a bit differently than did St Clair. He made sure his troops were trained and equipped before setting out and he placed a series of defensible forts so as to protect his supply line. Perhaps more importantly, he understood the Indian methods of combat and devised tactics to counter them. Like St Clair, Wayne had difficulties with supplies and contractors but it seems that now it was not only greed and incompetence that fueled them but an actual conspiracy aimed at causing his failure.

As he did in Wabash 1791, Winkler sets the scene for the campaign by describing the “strategic situation” and with chapters on the opposing commanders, armies, and plans. In many respects, the world situation was still much like it was in 1791. The United States was only a few years older and only a tiny bit more stable. Britain’s support and encouragement of the natives may have actually increased and neither France not Spain had vanished from North America. In fact, French elements were very much at play, often for the worse, inside the young nation. Of course, there were also plenty of homegrown problems. That previously mentioned conspiracy was one of them and, in the westernmost reaches, open revolt was a real possibility. These were the days of the Whiskey Rebellion. Less than three weeks before the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a crowd of 7,000 threatened to march on Pittsburgh. It was less than two months after the battle that President Washington personally went into the field to put down the uprising.

Three dimensional maps, like those that helped in understanding the Battle of Wabash, do the same for the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Other maps, along with period portraits and modern photographs, help understand the people and places involved. Peter Dennis’ wonderful paintings, one of which is used for the cover, provide realistic visualizations of specific battle scenes.

Winkler’s book on the Battle of the Wabash had nowhere near the shortcomings of the battle it described but he did manage to improve on it a little with Fallen Timbers 1794. I resorted to the word “scholarly” in describing the front end of Wabash 1791. It was justified, I offered, because it presented a lot of information that made later portions of the book flow more smoothly. But in this latest book, I never did get the feeling of slogging through mounds of dry facts that I had before. I have no way to quantify this and it may be simply that less preliminary facts are required or that they are less dry or that I am better prepared. Any or all of those could be true but my gut feel is that Winkler has refined his language and maybe even the structure to produce something more easily read.

During the last few years, any time that the average person felt like devoting to history was spent, more than likely, on the Civil War sesquicentennial. I have absolutely no disagreement with that but still thought it nice that, here and there, the bicentennial of the War of 1812 got some attention. The territory in dispute in 1812 was not all that different than what was being fought over in 1791 and 1794. Some of the nations and even some of the individuals involved were the very same. To the War of 1812 and especially to the Battle of the Thames, the battles at Wabash and Fallen Timbers were “prequels”.

Fallen Timbers 1794: The US Army’s first victory, John F Winkler, Osprey Publishing, February 2013, paperback, 9.8 x 7.2 inches, 96 pages, ISBN 978-1780963754

The Annie Gathering

Greenville signsThere are big doings in Greenville, Ohio, this weekend. Some are associated with the Annie Oakley Festival and some are associated with the Gathering at Garst. The Festival includes a parade through downtown but essentially takes place at the Darke County Fairgrounds on the south side of town. The Gathering takes place on the grounds of the Garst Museum towards the north side of town. Since the museum houses something called the National Annie Oakley Center, you might think the Festival and the Gathering are just two aspects of a single event but that’s hardly the case.

Annie Oakley Days ParadeAnnie Oakley Days ParadeThe parade is completely the responsibility of the Annie Oakley Festival as is a shooting competition, using air rifles, whose winner earns the title Miss Annie Oakley. In the lingering drizzle, I failed to get a picture of this year’s winner, Courtney Osborne, but I did get a picture of the 1970 winner, Patty Nisonger Padula, who was this year’s Grand Marshall. I was watching the parade with my uncle in front of his store and he told me that Patty had been an employee when she won in 1970. He had been her driver in the parade in another black convertible, his 1962 Corvette. The parade included a couple of high school bands, several classic cars, many Shriner units, and much more. A most appropriate entry was the group of female horseback riders most of whom were riding on side saddles.

Gathering at GarstGathering at GarstThe rain had moved on and the sun was shining by the time I made it to the Gathering at Garst. The museum was surrounded by tents selling various craft items and small antiques and there were a number of food tents as well. A field across the street was filled with “living history”. It included some additional vendors and some big guns which were fired once in a while.

Annie Oakley FestivalAnnie Oakley FestivalI also stopped by the fairgrounds to check out the Annie Oakley Festival. There were vendors selling food and other items including some crafts. There was a small car show and bus tours, included in festival admission, depart from the fairgrounds to visit related sites such as Annie’s grave.

In the beginning (1963), the home of Annie Oakley Days, as the festival is commonly called, was the museum and its grounds. That lasted for thirty-some years until the festival moved to the fairgrounds for a number of reasons including more space and access to electricity. It had the last weekend in July all to itself until the first Gathering was held in 2011. A Bob Robinson article, written shortly after that inaugural Gathering, indicates that, while both were calling themselves successful, neither was completely comfortable with the other.

The Gathering is free but parking is $4. There is a fair amount of parking available on nearby streets so some (like me) avoid the charge by walking a bit. Parking is free at the Festival but admission is $3. Advance $2 passes were available from some area merchants. Both events offer various forms of entertainment including concerts.

I’m guessing that both can call themselves successful again this year. However, as someone who attended the first Gathering and several Festivals, I have little doubt that the Gathering is getting bigger and better attended while the Festival is shrinking along with its crowd. Only time will tell whether both can survive. I hope so. I like that living history stuff but I like even more the parade and the Miss Annie Oakley contest. Is “The Annie Oakley Gathering at the Garst and Darke County Fairgrounds” too long to fit on a tee-shirt?


Annie Oakley's BootsAnnie Oakley's BootsEven with its $8 admission fee, the museum gets a lot of traffic during the Gathering and Festival. I’m a member but had not been inside for awhile. In fact, it seems that I’d not been in the museum proper since sometime prior to attending an Annie Leibovitz exhibit in October. That exhibit included a photograph Annie L had taken of a pair of boots at the Garst Museum. I resolved to look at the boots, made for Annie O around 1915, a little closer on my next visit. I expected it to be sooner than this but doing it in the midst of the Gathering/Festival is more than alright. Taking a photo of Annie L’s photo was not permitted but I will admit it’s a wee bit better than mine. Hers was helped by getting the boots out from behind the glass but I think there might be a little more to it than that.