25277 Rancho Apple Valley, California 92308
When I worked for the Dana Construction Company during the
1960s, I was sent with a 966 Cat tracked loader to a small ranch on
the east side of Apple Valley to clean out an above-ground
irrigation reservoir. I was told that Roy Rogers had bought the
ranch and the reservoir was overgrown with brush and weeds.
There was a small house on the property, a few outbuildings, a
horse corral, and field of about five acres of alfalfa. While doing
the job, I met one of Roy's nephews, Jim O'Dell, who was
living in that house with his family and working as Roy's
caretaker there, and Jim and I became good friends over the years
When Roy bought the bigger ranch alongside the Mojave River, Jim
bought the house and property over the hill and down in the canyon
from where I live, and became my nearest neighbor at that time. His
kids and mine were about the same age and we saw a lot of each
other after that move.
About 1972 or '73, Jim came over and told me that Roy had
his old Cat D-8 IH dozer (in the 'old days' we called that
model a 'slide-bar 8') hauled up from his previous ranch in
Chatsworth to his 'new' ranch and no one could get it to
run. Jim knew I worked as an operator who could do a little
mechanical work in a pinch, so asked if I would go to the ranch and
see what was wrong with the Cat.
He told me that he had gotten the starting engine running, but
when he put the starting engine in gear with the diesel engine and
engaged the clutch, the diesel engine would not turn over. I was
told the Cat had not been started in seven years, so suspected that
someone had not thought to cover the exhaust stack, rain had gone
down the pipe and rusted one of or more pistons to a cylinder, or
cylinders, and that later proved to be the case.
We went out to the ranch one day and talked it over with Roy. He
wanted to know how much it would cost him and I told him Jim and I
would do the work for nothing, but he would have to pay for a set
of top-end gaskets, which were about $45.00 then. I also told him
the work would be spread over a long period of time, because I had
to haul water to my place every weekend (with my Model 'A'
truck) I worked steadily at construction work, and, in my spare
time, built my own home.
The next time Jim and I went out there, with tools, took the
manifolds and heads off, took the block side covers off, and
decided which of the pistons was stuck by rocking the engine. Took
that rod bearing cap off and started the starting engine. Engaged
the two engines and slowly cranked that piston and its cylinder
liner out the top of the engine. Luckily, only one was stuck.
I brought the heads and that piston assembly home. I had a pipe
frame in the backyard that I hung round metal plates on, so I and
friends I competed with, could practice combat shooting there. I
hung the piston and cylinder on that by wiring the rod end to it,
and soaked them with penetrating fluid, and every time I would walk
by it for the next few days, I would give the line a good whack
with a single jack hammer. It eventually fell apart.
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