Gus Wilson, burly proprietor of the Model Garage, was awakened at five
o'clock one Sunday morning by the persistent ringing of the telephone beside
his bed. Sleepily, he lifted the receiver.
"My wife's having a baby," an excited voice said, "and I'm in a jam. Can
you come right out?"
"Wrong number," Gus said wearily.
"You need a doctor, mister, not a mechanic." He hung up and slid back
under the covers.
"Brother!" he groaned. "Now they call me for babies."
The phone rang again.
"Don't hang up on me, Gus," the same voice pleaded. "This is Tom
Bascom, groundskeeper at the golf club. My wife's having a baby and I was
at the hospital with her yesterday and most of the night.
The golf tournament is today, and part of the greens aren't-"
"Give me that phone, Bascom," an outraged voice cut in. "Gus Wilson,
eh. Well, Wilson, if you don't get out here and fix this blasted mower I'll
fire this nitwit, Bascom, baby and all!"
"Be right with you," said Gus, throwing back the covers and reaching for
his pants in a single motion. He knew that young Bascom could not very well
afford to lose his job at the club.
As Gus swung his car into the circular driveway before the golf club tool
house in the early-morning light, he was greeted by an unusual sight, Sam
Abernathy, wealthy chairman of the greens committee, tastefully checked out
in golfing attire, was heaving on the starter rope of an ancient,
gasoline-driven mower. Tom Bascom, a slender, sad-faced young man, stood
"Blast this confounded contraption."
Abernathy roared in a voice that startled the sparrows in the trees.
"Morning, Tom," Gus said cheerfully.
"Howdy, Mr. Abernathy-what's wrong?"
"What's wrong!" Abernathy bellowed.
"The tournament starts in less than three hours, and this idiot, Bascom,
is having a baby-I mean he hasn't mowed the putting greens around the sixth
and seventh holes. As chairman of the greens committee, I would be utterly
disgraced if . . .
Drat it, man, get busy and fix this thing."
"Touchy engines in these old gadgets," Gus remarked, placing his tool
kit beside the motor. "I wouldn't blame Tom."
"Not blame him!" Abernathy waved the starter rope excitedly. "Why
hasn't he kept the greens in shape?"
"Ever have a baby, Mr. Abernathy?"
Gus inquired as he unscrewed the spark plug from the engine and laid it
on the cylinder head. "Sort of unnerves a man, they tell me."
Gus wound the starter rope around the pulley and yanked it. A fat spark
jumped across the spark plug points. Gus rewound the rope and whirled the
engine again, placing a thumb over the spark plug hole to test the strength
of the compression produced.
"Don't piddle around, my good man," Abernathy said impatiently. "Get on
with the job-and Bascom, if those putting greens aren't mowed as smooth as a
baby's cheek by eight o'clock I'll-"
"Baby's cheek," Bascom said dreamily, moving toward the clubhouse.
"I've gotta phone the hospital and find out what's happened."
"Come back here, you idiot," Abernathy yelled after him, but Gus thrust
the end of the starter rope into the chairman's hands and said: "Pull, Mr.
Surprisingly, Abernathy pulled. As the motor spun, Gus noticed that oil
was being forced out the bearings of the horizontally hung main shaft ends.
Crankcase breather stopped up, he thought.
"Fetch me a pan of gasoline, please, "Gus said casually, as he knelt by
"Got to clean out this breather."
"Fetch you a pan of . . .!" Abernathy echoed indignantly.
"Look here, Wilson-drat it, what can be keeping that nincompoop Bascom?"
A grin came to Gus's leathery features as he broke out a rag and brush
from his kit. The portly and dignified chairman of the greens committee had
moved to draw gasoline from a drum into a drip pan.
"Thanks old man," Gus said.
As a matter of principle, Gus cleaned the air filter as well as the
breather pipe and breather screen, checked the gas tank for fuel... Not
wanting to take the time to remove the plate covering the flywheel magneto
and breaker points. Gus checked the timing by peering into the cylinder
with a pencil light. The spark occurred close to top dead center, as it
should. Satisfied, he replaced the plug, shut the choke, cracked the
throttle and spun the motor. He couldn't get a pop out of the mower engine.
Tom Bascom now appeared again.
"The doctor told me," he said worriedly, "that my wife and baby would be
all right-but how do I know? Maybe I'd better go to them."
"Of course she'll be all right!" Abernathy exploded. "Go to the
hospital? Not on your life. Get your mind on your job, man."
"Tom," Gus asked, "how long will it take you to get those putting green
"A couple of hours at least," Tom said.
"And it's nearly six o'clock now."
"Maybe," Gus told him, "you'd better get another mower, and let me take
this one to my shop-might save time."
"Another mower!" Abernathy broke in.
"Don't you know it's Sunday with everything closed up? Besides, I doubt
if there is another mower in town that could handle this job, I pay Bascom
to keep these greens in shape, and by Harry I'll have his hide if-hey, where
do you think you're going, Bascom?"
"Sorry," Bascom mumbled as he ran toward the clubhouse.
"Better phone again."
"There are some things, Mr. Abernathy," Gus said dryly, "that you can't
buy, on Sunday or any day. Now about this motor, I'll do my best to fix it
without taking it in to my shop."
"All right, all right," Abernathy said plaintively. "But hurry."
"When a man gets in too much of a hurry," Gus said, digging out his
pipe, "his brains take a vacation." Nevertheless, he told himself, I'd better get a move on and get this
contraption popping before Abernathy's golfers show up and begin belting
rabbits out of the tall grass around those putting greens. Now I know I've
got a good spark here, timed about right. If I've also got a gas mixture,
I'm bound to have an explosion-so, I haven't got a good gas mixture.
Thinking about this it dawned on Gus that when he cranked the motor with
the choke closed, it didn't have the wheezy sound it should have if gas was
He pulled the gas line and found a screen at the tank which was clogged
with grass cuttings. With this screen and the carburetor cleaned, the motor
started with the first turn. But it only fired a few times and died. Gus
found himself frantically winding the starter rope around the pulley and
yanking, while he fiddled with various adjustments. This thing, Gus told
himself, has more tricks than a Toonerville Trolley-what's wrong with it
now? He glanced at his watch. Six thirty.
"Gosh-darn it," Abernathy complained, "you've got it running-keep it
We'll be playing competition golf here in a little over an hour. Where
is that fellow Bascom? I'm going in there and boot that telephone off the
"Spin the engine for me, will you?" Gus said calmly, handing him the end
of the starter rope.
Abernathy looked about despairingly, took the starter rope and pulled.
Gus touched the top of the spark plug with the tip of a neon-tubed
screwdriver. Brilliant flashes of hot spark shot through the tube as the
motor fired several times, wheezed for several more revolutions and died.
"Ah!" Gus grunted. "I knew it had to be something tricky."
Bascom thrust his head out of a window of the clubhouse. "The doctor
hung up on me," he announced loudly.
"Come out here, you nincompoop!" Abernathy bellowed back.
Like trying to concentrate in a madhouse, thought Gus, his eyes wary now.
He had noted that the spark flashes in the neon tube had appeared only
while the engine was actually firing. They had vanished as it wheezed to a
halt. It seemed as if the spark had disappeared simultaneously with the
last turn of the starter rope, as it left the starter pulley.
Gus took a look at the crankshaft bearings and found that they were badly
worn and loose. As the breaker cam was on this shaft, the looseness,
coupled with a worn cam follower, caused the points to open only when the
upward pull on the starter rope raised the crankshaft up to the limit of its
top bearing wear. As soon as the starter rope unwound from the pulley, the
shaft dropped down to the bottom of the bearing wear, bringing the cam too
far from the follower to open the breaker points. Thus, the motor fired
only during the time when the starter rope was being pulled, exerting its
upward pull on the shaft.
An over-close setting of the breaker points brought about a temporary
repair. Gus quickly reassembled the parts, gave the engine a spin. It ran
"All okay for now," he said.
"Thank heaven," said Abernathy.
At that moment Bascom burst out of the clubhouse. "It's a boy!" he
yelled. "Weighs eight pounds."
"That's wonderful!" Gus wrung Bascom's hand warmly.
"Congratulations!" Abernathy actually sounded as if he meant it. "Now
would you please get this mower out on the greens before the boys begin to
show up, Mr. Bascom?"
"I never expected," Gus told his helper, Stan Hicks, when they opened the
Model Garage on Monday morning, "to hear Sam Abernathy call Tom Bascom
'mister,' or to say 'please' to anyone. That mower certainly had the old
boy up in the air and all spraddled out."
"I'd like to have been there," Stan chuckled. "I hear Bascom called him
out to the club at four o'clock. And he's got a temper like a caged
"The best part of it," Gus said, "was that the more he howled and yelled
the less attention Tom paid to him. He had about as much chance of
competing with that baby as he would with a San Francisco foghorn. That
darned lawn mower was as tricky a job as I've struck in a long time. I
suspected everything but the main bearings."