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I'm going to begin this column with a Christmas story. I know it is the first of the 1988 year issue, but I also know you get it a month before that, and this story is good for any year. It leaves us with a lot to be thankful for and perhaps with some inspiration to shape up a little ourselves in the New Year. This story is called Sit Next to Me, Please, by Robert Rockwell, and is taken from Guideposts Christmas Treasury.

'It was dark when we arrived at the home for boys one evening several years ago, but there was enough light to see the eager youngsters crowded on the porch and inside the doorway. Parentless boys, or one-parent boys, they were. With avid interest they watched our approach. But the forty-mile drive had been a tiring one in heavy traffic after a strenuous work day. Frankly, I wasn't too happy about the whole thing.

The trips were projects of our local Kiwanis Club. The last time I had been asked to make this trip, I made an excuse, reasoning to myself, 'I send them a check each month. It isn't necessary to put in an appearance at the banquets.' However, the time had come when excuses wouldn't do, and it was embarrassing to refuse. I was a board member and board members were expected to attend.

'Going to join us tomorrow night?' came the inevitable inquiry from a friend.

'Why, yes, Bill. May I pick you up?'

I did. And here we were at the home.

'This always is a big night for the boys,' Bill whispered as we walked to the porch. 'It's almost embarrassing the way they enjoy our coming.'

Two youngsters, aged seven or eight, disengaged themselves from the other small fry and attached themselves to us.

'Will you be my company?' a solemn-eyed towhead pleaded uncertainly as he tugged at my coat.

'Sure thing, fella!'

'My name's Jimmy. Jimmy Thompson. What's yours?'

I told him. Mean while the wide-eyed evaluating gaze was unnerving. Emotions began to stir under the layers of fatigue.

'First time here, isn't it, Mister? Want me to show you around?'

'I'd like that.'

He took me on a tour of inspection and importantly pointed out the gymnasium, the library, and his dorm a narrow room lined with two rows of small brass beds.

'This is my very own wardrobe. See?' Pride was evident in the tone, but the boy seemed to be having some difficulty breathing. Had we climbed that last flight of stairs too rapidly?

He opened the door of the not-very-wide metal cabinet and I was appalled at the insufficiency of his worldly goods. Guilty thoughts intruded as I mentally compared his inadequate possessions with the large, garment-filled closet and crammed toy chest of my own son.

'There's the dinner bell! We gotta hurry!' Jimmy exclaimed. 'But let's not run, 'cause I've got asthma and I don't breathe good when I hurry or get excited.' Then he stopped me for a moment. 'Sit next to me at the table, willya Mister? Please sit next to me!'

Of course I sat beside him. Bill was at the next table elbow-touching his small host. The guestless boys meanwhile turned their wistful glances continually to the tables boasting adult visitors.

By the time dinner was finished, Jimmy and I were buddies. He had revealed that he was fatherless, that his mother worked in a supermarket and came each Sunday to take him home for the day, that he wasn't much good at athletics but that he'd developed a 'good breath in' chest', and that he'd like to become a ballplayer. Once, when he thought I wasn't looking, a slender hand lingered on my arm for a moment.

'This boy needs a father!' I anguished. 'He's overflowing with love and there's no one to receive it!'

'Will you come again next month, Mister? If you do, I'll save a place for you. Right next to me.'

The pleading eyes were almost too much for me. I was having trouble with my breathing. Me! The smart guy who didn't want to give up an evening of television to come here! Who thought generosity was in a checkbook. Why, this tyke had given me more in an hour than I could give to the home in a hundred years! How selfish I was to consider money alone an adequate gift. Why does it take so long for most of us to learn that the real gift is of one's self?

'Promise you'll come next month?' The request was wheezed.

'Scout's honor,' I replied. To myself, I said, 'I'll be here, Jimmy. I wouldn't miss being here for anything, because you will be saving me a place. Right next to you.'

Who knows, maybe someone will yet have time to show a gift of one's self in some relative way. Merry Christmas!!

First is a letter from CORNELIUS F. PAULUS, Route 3, Box 79AG, Douglas, GA 31533. It is self-explanatory: 'The May/June issue carried information on injectors as used to feed water to steam boilers. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to look through a set of 'The Century Dictionary', copyright 1902, published by The Century Company, New York, NY. In Volume 4 was the following, and I quote directly from the book: 'injector (in-jek-tor); it is essentially a jet-pump, in which a jet of steam is continuously changed by rapid condensation to a water-jet, the molecules of which are obliquely directed toward the longitudinal axis of the jet by the conical nozle through which the steam issues. There results from this a jet of water very much smaller than the steam-jet from which it is condensed, but retaining the same velocity. The entire energy of the jet is thus applied to a much smaller area than the cross-section of the steam-jet, this area being inversely as the density of the water is to that of the steam before condensation. Thus, a considerable part of the pressure upon the area of the steam-jet being concentrated upon a much smaller area by the conversion of the energy in the water-jet into work, the latter is competent to force other water into the boiler. A check valve prevents back-flow. Adjustability of the steam-nozle and various modifications which increase efficiency and render the injector more convenient in use have been added by other inventors.' (Please note the spelling of nozle that IS the spelling as used in the volume referred to after all, it was printed some eighty-five years ago, and things do change, I suppose this really was not a dictionary in the sense used today, but actually is what we would now call an encyclopedia). It occurred to me that this is a simple explanation of the workings of a steam injector, without going into the actual computation of the operation.'

A short letter comes from FLOYD SCHOLTES, 1108 Washington, Bel-levue, IA 52031: 'I would like to say a few words about the Case 110 that Wayne Kennedy wrote so much about in the March/April IMA, page three. For his information, that piston rod was replaced by the late Justen Hingtgen and made up at Dubuque. The old one was pitted so he replaced it.'

STANLEY E. FUDGE, 603 Paris Avenue, Rockford, IL 61107, writes: 'First of all I would like to say how much I enjoy the magazine. It is very interesting. I have a complete library of Iron Men Album since 1965 '

'I have just acquired my second engine, a 20 HP Reeves cross compound, #7628. I am hoping some of your subscribers in Steam Land could enlighten me with some history of this engine,'

Following is a letter to Jack Huff, Wall Lake, IA 51466, from TED H. STEIN, 412 West Second Street, Streator, IL 61364. Ted thought you folks might like to share the information: 'Dear Jack, Your Albert City report caught my interest. You mentioned the Thieman tractor got around the mid west but no mention of the Thieman Ensilage Harvester maybe I can help you out. Dad bought the earliest field machine I know of somewhere around 1928. It was used every year to about 1960 or middle Sixties. The silo blower is still at the silo although it may not be usable this year without major repair on the feed mechanism as it started to jump last year according to my older brother, Bernard. The silo blower in use nearly fifty years not bad! Or maybe I should say abuse also.'

'Now, to get back to the field machine, I believe it can be made complete to original status without a great deal of improvising even though it was converted to a Ford Model A engine in the early 1940's. The original Ford Model T engine is there and I think all the wagon box extension side boards. At this writing Bernard mentioned he let someone have the tank filler neck out of the original gas tank so this is probably the only known part short. This neck was the same as that in a Ford Model T radiator and cap.'

'Now, don't jump in your Model T Flivver and motor to Streaton expecting to inspect the machine as it is on the home place near Fort Madison, IA. If you or anyone is interested in this machine, I will arrange photos and mail them. I like to see old machinery preserved so the younger generations can see the way we used to do it.'

'I am enclosing a copy of a picture taken in southern Montana before World War I. It appears to be a Rumely Oil Pull tractor, but I did not know they were made that early. Perhaps someone could identify it properly,' writes PAUL SCHAFER, Route 2, Lancaster, MO 63548.

The following comes from VINS GRITTEN, 100 Country Club Court, Danville, IL 61832, entitled HOPE SCHOOL, Hope, IL, 1914, eight grades, one room, one teacher 'Grade School Drop-Out':

'This is my schoolhouse, and students, where I started to school, September 1914. I went to school one week and decided that was enough.

You see, I had been helping our engineers and my dad run the steam engines, and I knew that I was needed. So one Monday morning I went to the schoolyard which was just across an alley in Hope, and I played with the other kids until the bell rang and school took up, then I went home.

Mother asked what I was home for and I informed her that I didn't need or intend to go to school anymore. She said that I would have to go and took me by the hand and marched me across the schoolyard until we were almost to the schoolhouse door and I broke loose from her. She tried to catch me to no avail. She did get close enough to talk to me. She explained all the reasons but I still resisted. Finally she began using more positive language. I had a dozen reasons why I shouldn't go in the schoolhouse. I remember the teacher coming out one time to offer his help but my mother said she could handle the situation.

Anyway, after fifteen or twenty minutes of this I could see that I was losing ground so I said I would go if I could wear my cap in the school-house. No deal! I had to save face some way, so I said if she would take me home and wash my face, since I had been crying, that I would go back in. She did this and I went in and took my seat. Had to be one of my most embarrassing moments. End of story.' (Vinsen Gritten is the last child on the right in the front row).

Following is another story from VINS GRITTEN of Danville, IL, and it is 'A Sawmill Story':

'My grandfather operated a sawmill. In those days they would move the mill into a wooded area and set it up and it might take several weeks to saw the lumber out. Since they might be many miles from home they had a bunkhouse on wheels that they moved with them where the crew of four or five men would eat and sleep.

Grandpa had a half-brother on the crew that we all called Uncle Labe. He was a comic and would keep people entertained. He was always coming up with funny stories stories about the Spanish-American War and his many other experiences. He was just a funny man.

Uncle Labe was the chief cook and you can imagine their menu didn't vary a lot; lots of beans, meat, potatoes and gravy. On one occasion he ran low on groceries and he kept telling my dad and grandfather that they were running low, in fact very low, on food. But they kept putting off going to town after groceries. So one day they went into the bunk-house for dinner, and Uncle Labe had one bean tied on the end of a string hanging from the ceiling over the boiling teakettle one of the many antics of Uncle Labe. It got results! (Pictured left to right Uncle Sam, Uncle Tom, Aunt Ollie, Aunt Maud. Uncle Orval, Grandpa, Aunt Myrtle, Earl my dad. Don't know the men in the back).'

A letter of appreciation and a plea for assistance comes from GEORGE R. MILLIMAN, 5892 Ballard, Wolverine, MI 49799: 'Many thanks to you for printing my letter in the Sept/Oct 1987 issue of the best steam engine-/gas tractors and old gas engine magazine in the country.

Now, I have a problem that I need help with how to set the valves on a Duplex steam pump built by the Fred M. Prescott Steam Pump Co. of Milwaukee, WI, #4619. Data is 3' x 23/8' x 3'. Anything about this pump would be a great help, or I would like to purchase an instruction or operator's manual.' Help him out fellas, if possible.

'Enclosed is a picture of a 22 HP Advance engine, #9572, with LaFever boiler,' writes BLAKE MALKAMAKI, 10839 Girdled Road, Concord, OH 44077. 'This machine is owned by Nick Trudick of Burton Station, OH, and is filling silo at Crist P. Miller's farm, near Middlefield, OH. There was no gasoline or diesel used here just some real horse power, both iron and flesh. Silo was filled in less than eight hours.

Following are some pictures from the files of HASTON L. ST. CLAIR, R.R. #1, Box 140-A, Holden, MO 64040: No. 17-James Gudde with his two spans of little mules pulling the wagon that Joe Bowman, blacksmith of Warrensburg, built. No. 5-'This is George Poe with his first model engine. George was a certified welder so when I built my -size Reeves, he built my boiler for me. I did his machine work for him. He still builds engines.' No. 9-680 years old, and a witness to all the wars since Kublai Khan, this giant finally went to war itself. It was probably the biggest Douglas Fir tree ever harvested a monster which stood 256 feet high in the forest. Sprouted in the year 1265, this patriarch was 227 years old when Columbus discovered America. Its growth through nearly seven centuries had given it a girth of thirty feet at the stump. This enormous tree contained 71,546 board feet. No. 14-'This is Webster Mooney and his '/(-size rear mount double cylinder Nichols & Shepherd engine. Webster is a good friend.'

Instead of closing with some words to ponder, I offer the following. Enjoy!

'It is said that there are three ages of woman: Youth, Middle Age, and 'You haven't changed!' But change is the name of the game. Consider. We were before frozen food, penicillin, polio shots, radar, credit cards, and ball point pens. For us, timesharing meant togetherness, a chip meant a piece of wood, hardware meant hardware, and software wasn't even a word. We were before pantyhose and drip-dry clothes. Before ice-makers, dishwashers, clothes dryers and electric blankets.

We got married first and then learned to live together. How quaint can you be?! We wore Peter Pan collars and thought a deep cleavage was something a butcher did to a pork chop! We were before the white wine craze, disposable diapers and the Jefferson nickel. When we were in college, pizza, Cheerios, frozen orange juice and instant coffee were unheard of. We thought fast food was something you ate during Lent!

In our day cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mowed, coke was something you drank and pot was something you cooked in. We were before day-care centers, house-husbands, babysitters, computer dating, and the term 'making out' referred to how you did on an exam!

There were five and ten stores where you could buy things for five and ten cents. For just one nickel, you could ride the bus, make a phone call, buy a Coke, and candy bar, or buy enough stamps to mail one letter and two post cards. You could buy a Chevy coupe for $659.00 and gas at an all-time low of eleven cents a gallon.

We were not before the difference between the sexes was discovered, but we were before the sex change. We just made do with what we had! And we were the last generation that was so dumb as to think that you needed a husband to have a baby!

Now consider what we did when we were college students back in the old days: we had house-mothers and big sisters; we had chapel daily, a required course in Bible, speech and English composition. We wore hats and white gloves, had maids and white tablecloths, linen napkins and candles! All were a part of everyday life. All long gone! We also had girdles with garters on them, petticoats and serge bloomers for gym! We mailed our laundry home and it came back with brownies. We had fountain pens with bottles of real ink; we had stockings of real silk with seams up the back that were never straight! All long gone.

Unlike the remote-control dancers of today, we knew how it felt to have your partner hold you close and double dip. We had Shakespeare, saddle shoes and cars with rumble seats. And when Glenn Miller played 'String of Pearls', we melted.

In the springtime of my senility, I am a misfit. I don't like to jog; I don't like to pump my own gas, I'm not 'into' veggies or yoga, Zen or punk! My idea is to walk with a man and not jog with a Walkman!

I seek silence in a day when silence is as rare as a Guttenburg Bible. How embarrassing.' (Anonymous)

As we begin our walk into the New Year of 1988, let us go with more thought to what our God would have us do and not to procrastinate so easily get our values straight and our eyes on the proper path. I love each of you. God bless, and let me hear from you.