It was late autumn. The cold days had arrived and the earth was donning her winter robes preparing for a few months' rest and showing her indifference to the storms and vacillating pranks of the weather that were forthcoming.
The harvest was over. The grain was in the cribs. But for a true born thresherman there was no time when he did not have his thoughts turned to his occupation.
During this time of year the General approached me and casually stated that he believed his old Advance Engine was worn out.
I readily concurred with the General's opinion, not because of my broad knowledge of engines, but because I had several encounters with the old iron brute on the firing line and I knew the engine would have to be rebuilt and owing to its age I did not think it would pay.
The General then explained that there was a Mr. Thomas, of the Emerson Brenningham Co., who had a Geiser engine that would suit him. He inquired if I would go with him to look at the engine.
Accordingly the next morning we boarded an interurban car headed for Indianapolis. On the way out I developed a case of car sickness and upon arrival I steered the General to the office of my friend Jim Cooper, who was manager for The Huber Mfg. Co. I was well acquainted with the Huber sales and office force and I was so sick that I laid my head on a table and appeared to take no interest in the proceedings around me. But I heard George Graves (who was a cross between a walking skeleton and a corpse) ask Jim Cooper if I was drunk. Cooper stoutly denied that I was drunk and offered evidence that he had been around with me many times and had never seen me touch a drop of intoxicating liquor. The General settled the argument by saying, 'H--no. He's not drunk.'
Cooper went to the drug store and got some aspirin tablets. When he returned he ordered me to take two and a large glass of water. That put me on my feet.
We tarried around the Huber office for some time. I was trying to regain my equilibrium but the General was becoming suspicious and whispered, 'Don't try to sell me a 'D--- Huber'. I didn't care if he bought a Huber or a D. June upright at that time, so I accompanied him to the Emerson Brenningham office and we arranged with Mr. Thomas to go and look at the Geiser next morning.
The General suggested that we go to a hotel. 'Not to-night', I advised him. I went to the telephone and called a friend. I abruptly broke the news that we were coming to his house to spend the night. He accepted the proposition readily, but, as though giving the matter a second thought, he ventured an inquiry.
'Are you sober?'
'Sober! What do you mean?' I flashed back indignantly.
'Not you. The other fellow.'
'Perfectly sober,' I vouched.
'Sure, come on over. Glad to have you over night.' And thus we spent the night among friends in West Indianapolis.
Next morning we learned that Mr. Thomas had been under the care of a doctor. This accounted for some of the delay. In the afternoon we arrived at Foutaintown and arranged for two livery rigs to take us to see the Geiser engine.
As the driver, Mr. Thomas and the General stepped into their vehicle, I stood admiring their horse. It exhibited a marked degree of activity by lifting his feet and prancing while chomping the bit. As the strong and well-fed animal tightened his traces and started at the command of the driver, I thought of a line from Browning -- 'I galloped, Dick galloped, we galloped all three.'
I entered the other rig beside a driver and after an interval of clucking and a good sound tap from the whip that had been cut from a tree, our equestrian motor began to move. It finally settled into a slow dog trot. I then began to appraise the outfit. Previously I had not particularly noticed the horse, but as we rode along I carefully scrutinized the animal. I was reminded of Rosinante, the broken-down hack of Don Quixote.
I also noted the clouds were hanging low and knew snow would be forthcoming.
'We had better turn around and go back if we expect to arrive at the station by the time the others get there,' I suggested.
'Get up,' the driver exclaimed and brought the wooden whip down on the bony sides of the horse. The blow sounded rather hollow.
'They must be coming back,' I ventured.
Whack, whack went the whip, but the only results it got was the thud of contact with the horse's ribs.
After the driver stood up and dealt some powerful blows upon the horse we finally arrived where the engine was located, four miles south of Fountaintown.
'Did you get lost?' the General questioned and his face reflected a sheepish smile.
'Lost the D---,' I returned sarcastically.
'Look the engine over and tell me what you think of it,' the General suggested.
I looked at the clouds, then at the old horse. I decided I would have to give the poor brute time to catch his breath, so I walked over to the engine. Good gearing, square fire box, flues O.K., no stay bolts leaking, but the smoke box and pipe need paint, I advised the General.
'How does she run?'
'Like a watch,' the previous owner declared.
I looked at the horse and noted it appeared to be breathing normally.
'Let's get back to the station,' I nervously suggested.
We started back. The other rig left us as it began to snow. We were not progressing with too much speed but the snow was increasing in volume. I always enjoyed a gentle snow storm but I would rather be inside or comfortably situated. I finally could see the buildings at Foutaintown. I stopped debating a question that had been in my mind and shouted, 'Whoa!'
'What yer goin' ter do?' the driver inquired.
'Going to walk,' I informed him.
Foutaintown lay about a mile away. It was a glorious walk. The exercise warmed my blood and I assumed the role of a champion for I was leaving the horse and driver some distance behind. I could hear him shouting words of vengeance upon the animal. He was exerting all known means of horsemanship to keep me within his vision. As I entered the station I heard the children yelling at the driver as he passed the school house about a quarter of a mile back.
Before train-time the driver came into the station breathing heavily, of course he wanted his pay. Mr. Thomas handed him a dollar and I said 'Thanks for the buggy ride.'
When we returned to Indianapolis we found the city reasonably calm. The wind had moved a large cloud over the city and then deserted it. The snow was falling as though a large ship had anchored above and was unloading a cargo of pop corn upon the city. I was somewhat addicted to the habit of eating pop corn. The thought of that confection suggested hunger. The gleaming light from a downtown restaurant urged me to suggest that I was hungry. Mr. Thomas suggested that we eat. The General glanced wisely at the restaurant and concurred, 'Yes, something substantial.'
'A T-bone steak,' I ventured audaciously. I longed to even up the score that I thought had gone against me that day.
Accordingly, we devoured a T-bone steak and I rather think Emerson-Branningham paid the bill. At least neither the General nor I did.
Did he buy the Geiser engine? No! He turned around at a later date and bought a 'D--- Huber'.