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Stovebolt Fever
There is no cure

20 February 2010
# 2760

Owned by
Kevin Katzenberger
Bolter # 22665
Billings, Montana


1946 Chevy 2-Ton


More pictures of my old truck

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From Kevin :

Well, where do I start? Our family homesteaded in Chouteau County, Montana in 1909. My Father was born and raised on the farm and today we still own the ground, someone else farms it for us.

In the early 50's, our place was growing and expanding and instead of buying new vehicles, they bought used to hold costs down. I am not sure of the date they bought the 1946 Art Deco Chevy 2-ton but it is safe to say we have owned it for the last 55 years.


Nothing like a good tale

My story begins over 30 years ago.  Back in the wee dim long time passed (1978), I was a 17 year old kid on the family farm in Montana.  Life was good back then.  Not all the responsibilities of parenthood that surround me now.  I am now a Grandfather of a wonderful baby boy.  My diversion from all this is working on my old truck.  But first the genesis of this story.

Last fall I intended on bringing an old 1929 Chevy 1.5-ton truck off the farm to use as a backyard decoration. The truck was pretty much a basket case as far as restoration goes, but it had been in the family since it was new. I was going to pick up a few Yucca and Prickly Pear from the farm to plant around it and make it an arid garden feature.

When I arrived at the farm, the truck was gone -- along with an old REO and a smashed 1955 Chevy pickup.  Someone had liberated the vehicles sometime in the previous 12 months. The things people will steal!

The gentleman that leases our farm (a wonderful steward of the land and good friend) had no idea who could have taken them. They had been parked in a spot about two miles from the house and were not visible from the road.

I made the decision then to remove all our old trucks left on the farm (four in all) and bring them all to my home 230 miles away. One of these trucks is a 1946 2-ton grain truck with a seized-up 235.

Now for the rest of the story…

In the spring, we did a lot of cleaning on the farm. Equipment repairs were done over winter as was shipping the previous year’s harvest. We owned a grain elevator that we used to store and ship our grain.  One of the chores to be done was to clean the “pit” at the elevator. The old “international Elevator” is very small by today’s standards but at the time was a tremendous asset.  Elevators need sidings on level ground so rail cars can be moved easily. The ground that the railroad chose, years ago, happened to be on the end of a dry lake bed. The area was never under water but the water table was fairly high. The pit (the bottom of the elevator) was below the water table in the spring. There was always spillage in the pit and after it soaked up the spring moisture, the wheat and barley mix would ferment and create this black ooze.  Wonderful stuff…

The way to clean the pit, was to drive a truck (the 1946 Chevy) onto the scale and one guy would don the hip waders and a shovel and climb down 12 feet’ into the stinking quagmire. Another guy would drop the old five gallon Texaco grease pail down on the end of an inch-and-a-half sisal rope. The rope had knots tied in it every 18” or so to aide in lifting the bucket.

Once the bucket was full, the man above lifted the bucket (trying not to spill on the man below) and dumps it in the truck. The ooze would leak out and run back down in the pit. One could almost get lit off the fumes.

Needless to say, neither job was a great experience. To be fair, my Step-brother and I swapped places to share the fun. We loaded about 40 bushel of rotten grain onto the truck that day. A very long and tiring chore to say the least.  Once loaded, we still had to get rid of the mess.  As was the usual scenario, we went to the local bar owner (the only bar in town), who happened to also own some pigs.

The offer was made by two underage young men for 40 bushel of pig feed in exchange for two $7 cases of OLY beer. Now I don’t know if our smell had anything to do with the haste that this transaction went down, but, in less than 10 minutes the deal was sealed and away we went to the hog lot. This was 7 or 8 miles from town and on a creek bottom. 

The old truck made its way down the highway at the cruising speed of maybe 50 mph. Cold beer in hand and the wind blowing the smell away. We were feeling good.

Once at the hog lot, we raised the hoist and dumped the load. We drove maybe 50 yards and pulled out the 22 rifle and stared shooting gophers and drinking more beer. The owner was all for the extermination.   "Just don’t shoot the pigs." 

The time went quickly. We drank enough beer that those little buggers were getting tough to hit. So we decided to leave. Supper would be ready soon and we were 16 miles from home in a slow truck.

As we were about to leave, I noticed an old sow ate a bit too much fermented grain and was staggering around and feeling pretty happy.  She made her way to the creek for a drink and fell in. Unable to master the task of getting up, she laid down in the creek and was blowing bubbles with her snout.

We couldn’t leave her to drown. We managed to find a farmer’s second best tool, bailing twine (we all know duct tape is tops).  Bunches of used twine hung on a board on the side of one of the buildings. We fashioned a rope out of it and tied one end around her hind feet and the other on the axle of the '46. We eased her up the bank, out of the water, and unhooked her.

Not wanting to be privy to another porcine suicide attempt, we high tailed it out of there and headed for home and a hot meal. Now as I said, we had a couple of beers in us and were getting hungry. The highway grade out of the creek was about 6% and over a mile long.  With my right foot firmly planted on the floor, we made or accent. We maybe made it a half of a mile before we heard that awful sound under the hood. The truck lost all power.

I shoved the clutch to the floor and rolled to a stop. Everyone that owns one of these motors knows just what happened and why. Stupid kids.

These were the days before cell phones so there was only one thing to do ... walk.  About a mile up the road, someone picked us up and took us to town. I phoned my Dad to come and get us. He was eating but would come get us (stupid kids) as soon as he was done.

The ride home on the end of a tow rope was long to say the least. We were tired, hungry, smelly, and the hangover was starting already. At home, after a shower, we stuffed ourselves with leftovers. In the days that followed, I promised Dad I would help fix the truck.

We did get it tore down but other things pulled our attention away from it. Dad moved to town. I graduated and left the farm. The truck sat in storage. Those days turned to months and then years.

It has now been 32 years. Dad has been gone 14 of those years, but I’m now going to fix it. 

Maybe I’ll have a beer first…

This was "the truck" in which I learned to "drive truck." I believe I was right around 12 years of age. I hauled branches out of the shelter belt, garbage to our dump, gravel from the pit down the road, and other tasks.

One such task was cleaning out the "pit" at our grain elevator. Spring of 1978 I was 17 and knew everything. We hauled the load of rotten grain down to the local bar and traded it to the owner for a couple cases of beer (remember the age). In turn, we hauled the load to his hog lot and watched the pigs get drunk on the fermented grain. One old sow fell into the creek and we thought she would drown. We tied baling twine around the swine (okay cheap pun) and used the truck to pull her up the bank. She was safe but I’m sure she wasn’t feeling too good the next morning.

We then headed up a fairly long grade in the highway and being impatient about getting home for dinner, I rode the gas a little too much. We all know what happened. Needless to say, we had a long walk and missed dinner.

I told Dad I would help fix it. Days turned to weeks, turned to months, turned to years. The engine replacement never came to pass and it sat in the storage shed up to about five years ago. The gentleman farming our place needed the space and hauled it to the old gravel pit with a few other rusting hulks and there it sat until I rescued it last fall.

I am now in the process of procuring parts to restore it. It has taken 32 years but I’m going to finish the job. Dad passed away in '96 at the age of 78 and I feel bad about not getting it done sooner but that’s water under the bridge.

Dad had been an avid car collector for many years. After he retired from the farm, he managed to restore / fix up more than a dozen of his 50 plus vehicles. All were prize winners at State and International meets. He was working on a 1927 International truck when he died. He was not only a mechanic, he was an artisan. I hope to have a fraction of his talent restoring this truck. I owe him that much.

This past fall I rescued four trucks from our farm in central Montana. Two were in a storage building and two were sitting in a coulee. I was going to pick up a 1939 REO and a 1929 Chevy but I was too late. Someone stole them along with a wrecked 1955 Chevy 1/2 ton. I really wanted the '29 Chevy as it had been in the family since it was new.

The first trip I brought home a 1937 GMC. It hasn't run in years but my Father bought it in 1947 and used it a a general purpose rig for 20 years. The next trip I brought home a 1945 Dodge that was last used on the farm in 1974. Dad bought it when it was only a couple of years old.

Trip three brought home my baby, the 1946 Chevy 2-ton. Allowing me the chance to fix my mistake.

The last trip we made was for a 1939 Chevy bought new by my Mother's uncle. It has been in the family ever since. My Brother restored it in 1967 when he was 15. I'll try again now that I'll be 50+.

But for now, the first thing is getting a new motor for the '46 and rebuild the truck from the ground up.

I so enjoy the pages of the STOVEBOLT. It has been an invaluable resource for me. Keep up the great work.

Kevin (jammer) Katzenberger

Yes, it is in reference to the Katzenjammer Kids. I grew up with the moniker and it has stuck. It could be worse…

My endeavors have lead me to acquire too many "Big Bolts." ( There is no such thing as TOO MANY ~ Editor )  I currently have 10 full trucks in my yard along with four cabs -- 1939 Chevy to 1959 GMC LCF.  In the shop is my Brother's 1939 Chevy, my 1946 Chevy 2-ton, 1967 K20, and now the 1966 Chevrolet LCF L60.



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