When wheat harvest season came in June, it was time to get out the Allis Chalmers SP100 self-propelled combine. It was stored over at the McNary Farm. There was a shed there big enough to hold it. Dad was always particular about keeping the tractors and implements indoors as much as possible.

Since this machine was not used much in cold seasons, we never put antifreeze in the cooling system. Instead, after it was put in the shed in the fall, the water was just drained.

This involved opening the plug on the bottom of the engine and removing the radiator cap. Except in that winter the radiator cap must have been left ajar.

As I said, wheat season came and we went to the McNary farm to get the combine. A couple of trips to the well at the remains of the old house there, the radiator was filled, the machine cranked up and dad drove it the six miles back to the Beaver Farm.

I think it was the next day he started combining the wheat. He had made no more than two rounds in the field before the engine overheated. We pulled the cap off the radiator and it looked like we had been cooking mush in there. Apparently, a squirrel or other rodent had been storing grains of corn in there all winter.

On the trip from the McNary Farm, it had had time to “cook.” Then, when the combine went to the field to work, that was all she wrote.

Now, I have commented a number of times on my dad’s poor social skills and his great handyman/mechanic skills. This is one of those times again.

After cussing and kicking the combine a few times, he got down to work. He quickly drained the radiator (getting slightly burned a couple of times by the hot water), unbolted it and took it to the shop. There, with a torch, he heated up the solder seams at the top and bottom of the radiator and removed the top and bottom caps.

Then, he devised a flat piece of sheet metal he could run down each of the dozens of channels of the radiator to push all the mush out of them. After he was satisfied it was clean, he soldered the top and bottom caps back on and took it back to the combine and reinstalled it. We filled it with water, and it ran the rest of the season just fine.

Looking back on it, I’ll bet that whole job took less than three hours from start to finish.

Dad was amazing like that. He had the social skills of a poorly trained rhinoceros, but he could fix anything. He wasn’t afraid of hard work and he had acquired the skills to do it.

I may have told this story before. During the Depression, Dad had managed to get himself hired at Hobart Brothers in Troy, Ohio. Mr. Hobart had decided to experiment with building steel houses (he was crazy about anything you could make that required welding, of course).

He had Dad and some of the other factory workers out working on these houses. My uncle told me this story late in life: Dad had written to him back in Indiana and told him there was work in Troy, come on over. My uncle took the bus and went to Troy. He (my uncle) said when he showed up, Dad was welding a seam in a floor of one of these steel houses.

To do that, he was lying on his back, crab-crawling across the floor and welding the seam above his head from the bottom side. My uncle said he took one look at that operation and went home!

I don’t even have a clue as to how you get filler metal (welding rod) to stick in an upside-down position like that. If I tried that, it would all fall out on my welding helmet.

So, when living, you wouldn’t want to invite my dad to a party, but if you ever had anything break down, he is the person you would want to have around for sure.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.