As you may know, I had some trouble with snow recently. The next day I went over to visit my neighbor Tom. He did some welding for me. Tom said the snow was unusually difficult to move, but that is not to say he failed to prevail. Click on the thumbnails below to see his machine. The pony engine had sprung an oil leak but he had already torn it apart, built a new gasket, and had it running again by the time I got there. Not that I would have been any help had I arrived earlier.
In the book Visiting Tom, I wrote about this machine. Here’s an excerpt (the indirect quotes make more sense in the full context of the book – in short, it’s me writing and Tom talking):
Near the gas tank, deep in the weeds, detached from the front end of the 1943 Farmall M tractor that will push it come winter sits Tom’s homemade snowblower. He fashioned the thrower paddles from forty-inch lengths of three-inch well casing split in half and deployed in twin fan-blade arrangements that turn counter to each other. They spin on shafts and bearings taken from an old hammer mill, and the housing is made from the rims of a bull wheel from a grain binder. The chute— Tom calls it a spout— was constructed from blower pipe robbed from an old threshing machine. I wanted it to throw snow fifty feet, he says, so I took a piece of string twenty-five feet long, pegged it at one end, and used it to draw a radius on the ground. Then I bent the spout to match the radius.
That first year I powered it direct off the tractor. But whenever it’d start chewing through real deep snow, the engine would bog and the revolutions would drop and I’d have to constantly step in the clutch and let it cure itself. The manner in which he employs the word cure is a reminder that poetics are not strictly the purview of poets. To remedy the bogging issue, he fitted the blower with its own engine.
Yah, it’s a thirty-seven-horse Wisconsin. It was off a silage chopper. Got it for thirty-five bucks. The valves were stuck, so I pulled the heads and broke’em loose. When it was time to put’er back together I didn’t have a new head gasket, so I painted the old one with aluminum paint. That was forty years ago, and it’s still runnin’. I rigged it so I can reach the clutch and throttle from the tractor seat.
- Michael Perry, Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace.