Usually, folks like Dr. Ben Rogers, are born that way. But even Rogers, a Fort Dodge chiropractor, says he’s an exception to the rule.
Talk to just about any member of the Des Moines River Valley Antique Tractor and Engine Club and you’ll find an old farm kid reliving his youth, but Rogers didn’t grow up on a farm.
“My folks, neither one of them were farmers, but I used to work for a farmer walking beans,” Rogers explains.
The farmer was Jack Wiese near Barnum, and he happened to have a grove where some old engines had gone to rest, as well as rust. Even at 10 years old, Rogers was enticed.
“He said to me, ‘If you can get that engine out of the grove, you can play with it,” Rogers recalls.
Little by little, Rogers began digging the Fairbanks Morris-type H engine out of the grove. He was by now 11 years old and moved the engine just four inches at a time to get it where he could begin to work on it.
Rogers knew nothing about engines, but the challenge of getting his hands dirty and figuring it out was irresistible. Wiese was there to guide him, but he also believed in letting kids learn by doing.
“He kind of let me do it on my own,” Rogers recalls. “I was self-taught on a lot of it, but he helped me here and there.”
Rogers was 13 years old when he got the two-horse engine running again, and has been hooked ever since. He’s never dated the engine, but says they were produced between 1904 and 1916. His was used on an elevator, but it could also have been used to grind or shell corn.
Today, he estimates that he has more than 100 antique engines, and he still enjoys the challenge of figuring out how to get an old engine humming like new.
“I think it’s the sound, and seeing something that hasn’t run in a lot of years, and getting it running again,” that’s most appealing, he says.
Roger has everything from old threshing machines to small engines, which just goes to prove that you don’t have to be an old farm kid to get a kick out of making old engines like new again.