Growing Up on Muddy Creek


| July 2002



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Oil boom

Clacks and clucks leave indelible stamp on memory

A model-train maker has come out with a whistling billboard that captures the wail of the Oil Belt Railroad locomotive as it announced its approach to the community of Applegate, in those long-ago days along Muddy Creek.

The Oil Belt line meandered down across the Ambraw from Oblong, skirting the Dark Bend and then slipped past Kings, Cranston and Applegate before it finally arrived in Bridgeport. The short-lived line ran within two miles of our farm and because of the train's unpredictable schedule, its passing was marked as somewhat of a milestone.

The sounds of the wailing whistle, the click-clack of the slightly unround wheels on the uneven track and the throb of the old 4-4-2 engine as it labored up the Millerville grade etched themselves into my memory.

The oil boom produced a number of sounds like those linked to trains that are lost to modern technology. Another such sound was the peculiar exhaust of the huge one-cylinder pumps. Farmers were always altering pumps by using various-sized tin cans to give their engines a recognizable sound - so they could check them by ear without going out into the cold.

The 1 ft.-wide, 200 ft.-long leather belt slapped as it turned the 10 ft.-wide bull wheel to pull the shackle rods and pump the oil. In spite of various crude applications, the wooden rod supports sang a shrill song with every beat of the well pump: they seemed to say, 'A dollar more...a dollar more...a dollar more.'

Other country sounds lay dormant in my memory bank until occasionally triggered, often by some completely unrelated event. The deep-throated 'It's a Booick, it's a Booick' of old Uncle Bull Frog recently was captured and broadcast on TV by General Motors. When I heard it, I immediately recalled the high-pitched, broken-record voice of the Guinea hens' cackle, 'Caddiac, Caddiac,' seemingly advertising Uncle Bull's competitor. Those of us who grew up in the country were exposed to many sounds foreign to our city cousins, including the crowing of the cock, which announced the dawning of each new day. Charley Brookhart's old Rhode Island Red cockerel usually started the concert with his 'Cock-a-doodle-do.' Next, came Lloyd Peple's old Chanticleer running his musical scale, and finally MaMa's grand old Barred Rock rooster, a family pet with two-inch-long spurs, whose dignified call completed the morning ritual.