Stories about great old iron finds and the Stationary Engine
List Old Iron Transportation Network are the stuff of SEL legend. Here's another tale. Those of a sensitive disposition
should go back NOW before they reach the point of no return.
Sometime after Portland 2001 Mike Royster and I were swapping emails and talking about the old iron quest. I told
him how I've been looking for a Fero Air Pump. These were air compressors built by my dad and granddad in Wilkinsburg,
PA back in the 20's and 30's. I mentioned that at that time their largest customer was the Gulf Oil Company who
was buying them for use in their growing nationwide chain of service stations. Well late in January Mike sends
me a copy of an advert for a Fero Air Pump. He HAS my attention. It was an advert that I had, BUT If there was
an advert, perhaps there would be a compressor lurking about?
Maybe it was because Mike is the head beagle of the Royster Oil Company or perhaps it was because he was keen on
Brunner air compressors (the main Fero rival in those days), or just maybe my dumb luck, but Mike put a "Wanted"
ad in the local Agricultural Review down in North Carolina. And in early March I get an email from Mike saying
that he's had a call. From a guy with a Fero Air Pump. And it's still in good working condition. And he's willing
to sell it. AND the price is reasonable!!! I call the gent, we chat for hours and seal the deal. He had bought
the compressor at an auction in 1972 and had used it in his truck body building business on a daily basis ever
since. He said the valves could stand to be redone someday as it was leaking a little. But as far as he was concerned
it was still the best built compressor he'd ever seen or heard of. 8-))
Since Mike lives not far away and would be coming to Coolspring, Mike and I decide that he should pick up the compressor
and save Dave Rotigel and I one of our infamous road trips.
Well with one thing and another, demands of business and whatnot, Mike and the seller just aren't able to connect.
Time passes. Coolspring comes and goes. Finally a few weeks back Mike calls him again and the guy says he's
changed his mind and he doesn't want to sell it after all. Mike contacts me seriously panicked. I get in touch
with the seller. When Mike had called, the seller was having a REALLY bad day. He was building a major addition
to his shop where he builds truck bodies. The cement mixer had just tipped over (ground gave way), concrete was
hardening, a wrecker was trying to upright the mixer, the steel delivery truck was being turned away, and Mike
called... Great timing huh? Anyway, the seller agrees to have Mike have another go at picking up the compressor.
This is the email I received from Mike a few days ago. Because of the potential involvement of a 14-year old girl,
the names have been changed to protect Mike. 8-))
This is my story, not necessarily a happy story or a good story, just my story as it happened to me. It could
be called "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished." I also think of Tom Hank's new movie "The Road To Perdition",
'cause Hell is sometimes what we face on earthly matters.
Nevertheless, this is my story as it happened to me; and it's not a pretty one.
As you are aware I was influenced by your plight of wanting a Fero compressor so I made it a point to find one.
Then we made all the arrangements to get it, then it would not suit him or he was busy etc but finally agreed
to do so. In speaking to Von several times I noticed he was "moody" to say the least. In retrospect,
maybe "bipolar" would have been a more keen observation. Regardless, as of your last phone conversation
he was ready to trade and I was going to throw in a good but used Brunner (what a wonderful compressor) to sweeten
the deal. So Monday the 29th I called him and made arrangements to see him on Wednesday, and I would also call
on a client a few miles down the road. No Problem! In fact, I would say he was happy to hear from me, almost
So Wednesday I set out in the truck for a 75 mile jaunt for "Feroquest." The sun rose as normal, the
day was fair and fine, and all was well with Michael, 'til shortly after 9. Following Von's directions was not
an easy task, as he lives quite a ways off the beaten path. No road signs, just landmarks and lots of trailers
and big dogs. The roads were getting worse, changing to dirt pig paths by the time I realized I was in the middle
of nowhere. Finally, I saw a rusted old sign saying "Friendly Weldings". Looking off up the path was
a scene straight out of "Tobacco Road". There was an old 100 year beat up wooden farmhouse, paint falling
off, boards hanging out, half the shingles gone, busted glass windows home place. I ventured further feeling like
the priest in "The Exorcist" wondering what I had gotten myself into. As I neared the house I saw people
all over the front porch and BIG dogs everywhere. Nearing the porch now, I could see a 500 pound woman on a sofa,
breasts hanging out, as she was suckling what appeared to be an 8 year old boy! Most of the 7-8 kids were naked,
boys and girls from 2-16 years old, running around the dirt yard chasing each other with a dead cat!
I could not decide what to do for a moment, and just sat there staring out the windshield. I am sure this was
the critical moment when the "Fight or Flight" reflex is screaming loudest, and I listened to the wrong
one again! The woman waved one of her big meaty arms at me and yelled "Git Out", so I did. Just then
I noticed the German Shepherds (three of 'em) eyeing me. I did NOT see the Pit Bull until I felt it on my leg.
Odd,that I did not realize the screaming was my own voice. Fortunately one of the boys beat it off me and I only
ruined my pants and have four very neat puncture wounds in my left calf. The bleeding clotted in no time, thank
you for asking. The big woman stated " Ol' Dixie don't mean no harm" and of course those words, coming
from a 500 lb. semi-naked nursing mother with one tooth and a mouthful of snuff, gave me great comfort. "You
here to see Von?" she bellowed. "Yes Ma'am" was all I could say just staring at those massive mammaries
and that huge baby. It was at this point I noticed the smell. Pungent rotten decaying matter and the buzz of
flies. It was then I saw the dead dog on the end of the porch. "Von's out back, Suzie will take you to the
shed." So I turned around and this 12-14 year old stark naked girl says "Foller me". She was or
could have been cute, if the dirt was removed from her and if she was somewhere else, far away. However, here
I go following a well-developed naked girl through the wooded path to the "shed". Uncomfortable? Me?
Oh no, it's just an everyday occurrence here in the South to be traipsin' through the woods in 100 degree heat,
dog bitten, with a naked girl I just met. Fortunately, we made no small talk and she pointed the shed out and
left me; in the middle of a poison ivy patch, of which I am allergic. I walked down the path to the shed and saw
the welding sparks flying so I stood where I could be seen and turned my back to the flame. After a few minutes
he quit and called out to me in a not so friendly tone "Whatchawant?" I politely explained who I was
and the compressor saga and he came off his perch and out from under the welding mask. Von is about five foot
three, 86 pounds, handlebar mustache, gray Elvis style hairdo, three teeth (all on top), and a mouthful of chewing
tobacco. As we exchanged the obligatory handshake I noticed he was missing the outside two fingers on his right
hand. He must have noticed (my mistake) my reaction and simply stated, "damn pit bull got em".
It was at this point in looking back I can see my critical mistakes. I had more than enough warning signs, yet
I remained on my quest, knowing I should have left. Yet I digress, back to the events. We made small talk and
examined his welding (which was very good) but he was a man of conviction and opinion, which he stated often, especially
about Yankees, foreigners and politicians. I was graceful and artful at dodging all conflicts. After taking a
tour of the shop and listening to him rattle on about crooked politicians and how he was suing the county because
of zoning and how the city council cheated him out of a building lot in downtown Cleveland and how he would, "BY
GOD", get even with "them lying crooked sumbitches even if it meant killin' a few of them bastards to
make his point!" Well about now I am thinking, "I should have let Arnie come here" and "how
soon can I leave?" but he had yet to show me the compressor. Finally I steered the conversation to it and
his face lit up and he actually smiled that big three tooth tobacco dripping grin and seemed genuinely happy for
Over in the corner, there it was and on examination it was in great shape and had compression. We loaded it up
and he offloaded the Brunner and was not happy, once again. "Y'all are cheatin' me on this deal" he
I had already given him the money, and had explained how this was a working compressor at no cost to him and it
was really a good deal, plus I had spare parts should he need any. The smile was gone now and his beady little
black eyes were showing his displeasure when he stated, "Well if you got spare parts, why didn't you bring
'em?" I used every argument and fact I could to calm him but basically I was a worthless piece of excrement
and you were a Yankee thieving sumbitch. But, I still had the compressor. He turned and walked off and when he
came back he was carrying two plastic greasy glasses of water. He did not say a word, but just stuck out the nasty
glass to me and said "Let's cool off a minute." So not to offend him further I held my breath and found
the cleanest part of the glass and took a big sip of that cool water. In retrospect I should have seen it coming,
that I would be tested to see if I was worthy of this pilgrimage. However, I am a bit naive and didn't see it
coming. It was moonshine, not water. I felt the burn after I had taken that big gulp. It burned from where my
tonsils used to be to the point my doctors last exam ended. I could not breathe for a second, but I did not cough
or throw up either. I just took a breath and looked him in the eye and said. "Smooth." That did it,
we were friends again and all was joy in Mudville.
I was now a brother of the highest Masonic degree and could do no wrong. Or so I thought. Now that we were friends
he asked me for a business card and gave me one of his. If you are not sitting down now, this is a good time to
In looking through my card case I was out of business cards for the oil company, nor did I have any hit & miss
cards. I did have my one card I never give out cause I find them embarrassing even if they were free, cause it
says Mike Royster, City of Shelby, City Councilman. I was not thinking when I gave him that card. His face turned
beet red and his countenance was of Dr. Jekyll to that of Mr. Hyde. The next few events happened so quickly I
can not recall them in exact detail but this is what I do remember. He balled up his fists and started cursing
about "damn cheatin' thievin' politicians" and I was one too. He was in my face, well actually my chest
due to his stature, spittin' tobacco juice all over my shirt with each epithet launched and hurled at me. As I
was easing my way around to the drivers side of the truck, he hollered "Here dog Here" as loud as he
could. While I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I knew this was not a good thing and it was meant for
me. I jumped in the truck but before I got it going, he picked up a 3 lb. shop hammer, and with a swing as straight
as that of John Henry, smashed a blow to the Fero compressor that shattered the crankcase. I peeled out of the
place, dogs at the wheels, him cussin', and me not looking back.
I have your compressor, what is left of it. I also have a dog bite, torn bloody pants, poison ivy, and a memory
and story I will never forget. I hate you for it, you should have been there. Really.
Give me an email and let me know if you want this for parts or what.