Before starting, you've probably noticed that I've assigned John Doe's name to this little story. The reason being that there is a little bit of theft in this story and I'm going to have to remain anonymous so John Doe it will have to be.
A few years ago I was restoring a little rowcrop tractor that would be in the categoy of 'lesser known classics' (using the Yesterday's Tractor category of orphan or oddball tractors). The cylinder head (flathead engine) was badly cracked and I was in the process of trying to find one. I had contacted a couple of internet contacts but their asking prices were far too high. Meanwhile, I was visiting my friends farm who lives about an hour east of me. Apparently there was an abandoned farmstead not too far from his place that had a bunch of old tractors and farm implements stacked up there in the yard and we decided to go take a look. The owners lived elsewhere and they were leasing the land out to some local farmer who was growing crops on it.
During our little inspection of the various machines on the property I noticed an older Case combine (probably from the 50's) that looked like it had been cannibalized somewhat and upon closer examination, can you believe that somebody had transplanted in the same engine as what was in my little tractor at home? The engine was seized and hardly worth salvaging but it had what appeared to be a good cylinder head. My friend told me that the owners would definitely not be interested in selling any parts from their junkpile, they were just that type of people who never parted with anything. The only solution was to steal it and I thought about how to go about it for a number of weeks after my visit.
I decided that I would make a replacement head out of wood at home just so that if anyone ever visited the property after I stole the head, they wouldn't notice the missing part. I completed the wooden cylinder head over the next few weeks using the cracked one at home as a pattern. I painted it up sort of with a mottled rusty brown pattern that looked like a weathered cylinder head and I even drilled 4 holes in it and threaded in 4 old spark plugs I had on hand.
On my next visit out to my friends about a month later, I went onto the property and removed all the head bolts from the engine and gave the head a whack with a block of wood to make sure it was loose from the engine. The head appeared to be in great shape but I left it there that trip.
During the next trip out, my buddy dropped me off near the farm and I went 'bird watching' with a pair of binoculars and a shoulder sling pouch which contained the wooden cylinder head. If anyone saw me I was sure they would just think it was some nature freak enjoying a nice little hike. My friend and I agreed that he would pick me up when he drove by on the nearby road 20 minutes later. It took me only a few minutes when passing the old combine to remove the steel head and replace it with the wooden one and thread in a couple of bolts to hold it in place. Man, did it ever look real, I even took a photo of it assembled (I had a camera in my bird-watching kit).
Shortly after the pickup on the nearby road was made and I made the trip home with my new tractor part. That old cylinder head was in real good shape and is now bolted down nicely in place where it should be, on a real working tractor and not in some old farm field. Meanwhile, that old engine block on the combine probably doesn't even know that a wooden cylinder head sits atop its rusty cylinders.
I often wonder if anyone has ever seen the wooden head other than me. I'm sure they'd get quite a laugh if they knew the story behind it. I know that I do every time I see that photo of the wooden head on the steel engine.
John Doe, AB, entered 2004-10-31
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