Donald Mayes plays a major role in Tired Iron of the Ozarks, Branch 37 of EDGE&TA. As this paper will evidence, he deserves all the honor and accolades we can give him.
Don was born June 5, 1935, in a two-room home at the Mountain Home community in Northwest Arkansas. After five generations, the land the home was on, with some acres added, is still owned by the Mayes family.
Don’s interest in engines came early in his life. In 1944 or 1945, when Don was about eight years old, a man in his neighborhood, had a small Briggs and Stratton engine he had rigged on a pump jack to provide a reliable water supply for his wife. After the availability of electricity made the gasoline engine powered pump jack obsolete, Don asked the man to sell him the engine. He bought the engine for one dollar. Don gained lots of knowledge about engines by removing parts one at a time and replacing them. Finally he was able to repeatedly dismantle the engine, rebuild it, and get it to run. This had to be the beginning of his lifetime involvement with engines and everything mechanical.
The major move for Don’s involvement with old engines came in 1980 when he saw a program on television about hit and miss engines at Pawnee, Oklahoma. He had seen this type of engine as a youth and was intrigued by them. He decided he wanted one. The first engine he purchased was a 2 H. P. Sears Economy hit and miss. He still has the engine, and it still runs. Don now has over 70 engines and keeps a record on all of them. His extensive research on each engine makes him a “go to” person when anyone wants to know about a particular brand. His favorite engine is a 1929 Stover 2 H.P. he uses to power his Stover saw.
An important part of Don’s involvement with collecting has been his membership in Tired Iron of the Ozarks. In 1992, Don came to the attention of a couple of members of the newly organized Tired Iron. They encouraged him to join the new club as a charter member, and he has been an active member ever since.
Don serves as an ambassador for Branch 37 and EDGE&TA. He enjoys traveling each year to several festivals and shows to display a spectacular trailer load of his engines. Don also displays examples of his extensive collections of antique tools, jacks, hog oilers, com shellers, cast iron implements, household items, and blacksmith tools. He also has a collection of five tractors.
Two years ago Don accepted the responsibility of building and equipping a blacksmith shop at Tired Iron. At Branch 37 shows he demonstrates his blacksmithing skills. The well-equipped shop is a major attraction at Tired Iron shows.
Finally, Don is well known throughout the state for his years of searching for diamonds at the Arkansas diamond mine at Murfreesboro. Don first went there in 1977. On the first trip he found none, but on a trip there a week later, he found two. Over the years, Don has found about 300 diamonds. Magazine, newspaper, and television reporters regularly interview him for their features about Arkansas diamonds. His diamond collection has been borrowed for display at the University of Arkansas Museum and for special events at the Murfreesboro mine. Most recently, Don can be seen in a Travel Channel feature on the Arkansas Diamond Mine State Park. In Arkansas, Don is probably the most recognized member of Tired Iron of the Ozarks. He is a valuable member of our club.