Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

Case Engines

The morning line-up firing up. Courtesy of J. F. Mermoud, 835 Westwood Drive, Ballwin, Missouri 63011.

J. F. Mermoud

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According to the latest news from the city of Dayton, Ohio, it appears that a new gang has taken over the control and ownership of the city transit system. We speak of 'gang' meaningfully, in that it looks like the next step will be to get rid of the wonderful electric trackless trolley system throughout that city. It just looks like these so-called modern 'engineers and experts' simply can't be happy with something that's already tried and true, clean and economical to run, as well as almost fool-proof in operation and maintenance. Although we did hate to see the wonderful old electric street cars go, that ran on the tracks with a nostalgic clickety-clack, some years ago, the fine electric trackless trolleys are at least next best. They are silent, have the fastest get-away of any public conveyance I ever saw, and the sparks from their overhead trolleys and electric motors actually put out the element of ozone which purifies the city atmosphere. Besides, the electric trackless trolleys don't have the extra parts the diesel busses require, such as transmissions to replace, etc., etc. They are simple, powerful, speedy, and clean the very finest thing in this age of so-called ecology. And yet, in an era when political ideologists are crying their eyes out for pure air, if we are to survive, the new Dayton Rapid Transit Authority 'take-over' is already planning to scrap the fine machines for diesel busses that will further pollute the city atmosphere. Those opposing this move have even revealed that the new ruling transit body has gone to such extremes as destroying all parts-replacement sheets and data pertaining to the electric transit trolleys, in a secret maneuver to prevent repairs of existing equipment and hasten conversion to the diesel pollution.

Even though the city of Dayton already has the expensive overhead trolley system in working condition, they still prefer to rip all this fine transit equipment out for something that's worse, noisy and dirty and, in performance, can't equal it in any way, shape or form.

Modern politicians keep crying for some kind of mass transportation, as a needed solution to solving our overcrowded highway dilemna. Yet none of these super politicos ever seem to be historically cognizant of the fact that we once had in America the finest mass transportation systems in the world when the rest of the nations were still travelling by canal boat. We had the complex system of steam passenger trains, keeping schedules no diesel has ever matched yet. And the sleek, comfortable, fast and clean electric interurbans which served the smaller towns and country between the larger cities. What our modern politicos should really be crying about is that, years ago, other fellows like them had all these advanced modes of mass transportation torn up by the roots and covered over so completely that no trace is barely left to remind us they were here.

When my 'Mommy' took me several times to the city of Dayton, Ohio, on the big electric interurbans, the thrills of the wide curves over the beautiful countryside, the swishing of the electric power poles past the car window, the climbing up over the tall wooden trestle, the rumble of the inter-urban air-pumps and the plaintive wail of the air-whistle, all lent memories that haunt me to this day. And I never have forgotten the thrills of the big red and green cars that arrived in my hometown of Union City, Ind., which I paused many a time with my wagon or on my bicycle just to observe. To the south of the interurban lines, running down the main thoroughfares, there were the many steam trains arriving and departing on schedule. We had sights and sounds, the perfumes of ozone and coal smoke and cylinder oil all about us. And no one ever got lung cancer from it all. The kids of today never had it so niceor so thrilling as did we. Railroad historians, looking back nostalgically, sum it up in only three words-they call it 'the glory days'.

Then came the modern age ripping up the interurban tracks, tearing down the fine overhead trolley system, the historic power stations, the little village depots and finally selling the big, sleek interurban cars as common junk. Gone was a great and glorious era of superb mass transportation, only to be followed a few decades later by the scrapping of the wonderful, powerful and fast steam locomotives. The planners of this new and 'unexciting' age made quite sure that no remnant of those great days would remain to remind us of the grandeur and glory that was. They dismantled the trackside water tanks, razed the picturesque village and country depots, wiped the slate clean, making dead sure that the ghosts of the electric and steam transportation systems would never rise again. Next came the diesels, polluting the air, killing fruit trees along the way, spewing oil and setting fires in wheat fields for miles and miles.

They all said, 'If we could eliminate the dirty steam locomotives and pull the trains with diesels, we'd clean up the country.' Now they are crying their eyes from their sockets, begging for billions for some kind of effective mass transportation system to decongest the highways, while the ecologists weep over the fact that the air has become so foul that man's survival is at stake.

One wonders at the wisdom of modern civilization. After years of occidental medical science, which we prided in as the world's best, we now are looking to ancient oriental practices, such as acupuncture in a desperate attempt to seek cures for some of the human ills we've never been able to cure. I've just been reading recently about a very old Asian method of healing, called Zone Therapy. It treats human ills and diseases through the soles of the feet. The charts show that every spot on the bottom of one's foot is intricately connected by its nerve ends and the lymphatic system, to related parts of the upper limbs, trunk, shoulders, neck and head throughout the rest of the body. The suggestion is made that one person can treat another, by having him remove his shoe and sock, and probing the bottom of the foot with the fingers, using a pressure similar to pressing a thumb tack into soft wood. Trying it out, we discovered that, from day to day, one can find a spot or spots on the bottom of another's foot that will cause great pain. The point of pain locates the center of disturbance which, if gently and thoroughly massaged, will bring relaxation and healing to whatever is wrong throughout the rest of the body. And we found that it really works. One spot that will be sore, is directly related to trouble in the digestive system, another spot on the bottom of the foot, being sore, will effect the eyes, the neck, or vertebraes throughout the spine. The relief and improved feeling one may experience from only a few minutes of this Zone Therapy, even practiced by an amateur, can produce wonders quite rapidly. I never have forgotten what my mother once said. She suffered from foot trouble so much. And she often made the statement that, 'When your feet hurt, you hurt all over.' How her words have rung true, since I've been reading and practicing Zone Therapy in only its simplest stages. How she would have loved to read of this ancient, but effective method of massaging one's feet for healing. And lately I've often thought of how soothing and helpful it would have been to her.

Whenever one is plagued by any bodily pain or ill, it often becomes such a preoccupation, such an obscession, that he will do almost anything to alleviate it. In fact, it will often determine a person's thinking to the point that they weave a sort of philosophical web, like a caterpillar's cocoon around their misery in order to survive and live with it. Such is the importance of finding true methods of genuine healing, whether it comes from modern medicine and science, or some ancient, almost forgotten culture of the past.

While attending the engine shows this summer, I often was in deep thought about a big job that lay ahead of me. When I built my depot shop, I had gotten a little hasty and moved a lot of 'stuff' into the building without finishing the overhead. Suddenly the awful thought came to me that I sooner or later would still have to wrestle with the problem of putting up some kind of ceiling. And with all my junk now in there, how was it ever to be done?

Deciding I wanted tongue-and-groove barn siding, as the proper decor for my ceiling, I at once ordered sufficient footage of 16-foot tongue-and-groove boards to cover the 40 by 28 space overhead. The big stack of lumber that I had now added to my shop floor, for seasoning this summer, didn't in any way alleviate the congestion. How was

I ever going to get all those big, long boards nailed up overhead? That was my big problem, as I buried my chin in deepest contemplation of my portending dilemna. I had never before put up a ceiling. Now and then I would pose the question to some of my 'friends' at the reunions. But they all begged off as 'not being very good at nailing boards overhead.' I caught their hints, and never asked again.

It was just before Tri-State at Portland, Ind., that I thought I'd try to nail the first board overhead, as a trial. My good wife, though patient and willing, gave out after trying to hold a couple of those heavy 16-footers in place while I tried nailing them up.

I managed to get two rows of boards up on my ceiling. Then we had to take off to attend the big Tri-State Gas and Tractor Show, the last few days of August. My wife had to start school the very next day after that show ended. But the following week we tried again, and finally wound up nailing the sixth row entirely exhausted and very discouraged.

Finally, Omer Swartzendruber, an Iron Man I had written up earlier this spring, came by and saw my dilemna. He was the only man I didn't ask to help. But he volunteered to come over and hold the big boards, if I would saw and nail them in place.

When he arrived a few days later, he was carrying something like a big wooden cross. As he came climbing up over that hill, carrying his 'cross', he looked like an angel in overalls to me. He said the big, wooden contraption was a ceiling leveler he had made just for this occasion. He then went back to his truck and fetched a couple of heavy floor lights he had also made out of engine gears. He even bought a new hammer for me to pound the twenty pounds of nails with, plus various kinds of nail-sets which I found to be most helpful. And last but not least, he carted up two heavy yellow pine boards and set them up on wooden trusses for scaffolding.

Swartzy said, 'Joe, I'll hold the boards and help all I can, but you do the sawing and nailing. That way, if there's any mistake, you can't blame me for it.'

I replied, 'That suits me.'

We started setting up our equipment, and began laying out the boards. I did the marking and sawing and nailing as agreed, while Omer helped hold the boards in place. More than that, he handed me every tool, hammer, square, pencil whatever I neededright on the split second. He helped move my junk from one side of the shop to the other to make space for our work as we went. He moved the lights as we needed them. I kept sawing and hammering nails, and marking new boards which he promptly handed me as we proceeded. And we went right to town. In a few days we had most of the ceiling nailed up. It seemed like a miracle, to be able to look up and see that ceiling overhead. And all the time, whenever the work got hard, and our spirits would dip low with the problems at hand, Swartzy would start singing some religious hymnhappy as a lark. He lifted my spirits as we dragged along. Anything I needed, while working overhead, Omer Swartzendruber would hop up and down, at 77, on those scaffoldings, like a cricket. (Gobbles vitamin pills till he rattles.)

When the job was finished, I asked Omer what I owed him for his help. He replied, 'I told you that all I wanted in pay, was for you to come over and learn to run my steam engine.'

I haven't gotten over to his place yet, to 'pay him' by running his steam engine. But his help was so great that I forced him to take some pay, which he promptly reminded me would go into his missionary work.

Is it any wonder my wife and I call Omer Swartzendruber our 'Angel in Overalls.'

I have been reading a story about a 78 year old man in Texas who has spent the last ten years helping poverty-ridden people in his area. Daily he takes his old truck and gathers surplus food from the stores and markets, clothing and other needs, to help the poor. One store manager said, 'We know what that old fellow does to help people. We save our second-day bread and other food for him. We give him wood scraps and cardboard boxes, which he uses to repair old houses for those who can't afford the help.'

One picture shows him building a coffin for some poor family's child that had just died. Each year he arranges for sick folks to get operations from cooperating doctors, with the help of whatever financial donations others might give.

The local radio announcer said, 'He's the nearest thing to a holy man we have in these parts. God is using that old man.'

Like Omer Swartzendruber, he is busy helping others at an age most people retire and sit in chairs and complain about how lonely life is. Like Omer Swartzendruber, he is also a religious man.

When interviewed one day for a news story, his only reply was, 'I do what the Bible and Jesus say we should do.'

Helping others to have a fuller life, can make our own lives fuller. Jesus said, 'I have come that you might have life, and have it more fully.'

Reams of sermons have been pounded out from pulpits, telling of the complicated things us sinners must do to come into God's grace. But the Good Book doesn't preach it that way. Need is crying out for our helping hands, everywhere we turn. We needn't travel by way of expensive cruises to the Holy Land and fondle the ancient scripts in order to be holy. When life becomes empty, bore some, painful, the Kingdom of God is within and around us to sustain and redeem us.

This poor old Texan is a man of poverty himself, yet he shares what little he has to bless others. It is estimated that he has enabled three hundred poor little children to get operations to correct hare-lips and cleft palates alone.

Think of the blighted lives he has helped to restore, by helping these maimed kids, not to mention the other families he has kept from starving.

What a blessing only one poor saint can become! And then, when we become discouraged and start to complain, let's think of what we could be doing instead with the spirit of God moving in our hearts.

It could help you in deciding whether or not to buy that next Cadillac. But remember if you do decide to buy it, the world won't read about your doing so. Instead, people will still be marveling how one poor old man, nearing the end of his earthly life, allowed God to pick up the pieces and put them back together into one grand experience.

'I was hungry and you fed Me naked and you clothed Mesick and you visited Me. Whatsoever you did to the least of these you did it unto Me.'