| May/June 1962

Bronson, Michigan

The following is a factual incident which happened to me, proving the old adage; 'Pride always cometh before a fall'. I was about 10 or 11 years old so it happened not too long after the turn of the century.

My father had operated steam engines and threshing machinery since long before I could remember and at this particular time he had a 16 H.P. Rumely engine and a 32 x 50 Case separator and was threshing on a farm owned and operated by Rudolph Yunker, about 3 miles from Lima, Ind. The setting arrangement was such that the engine set fairly close to the house and there were the usual number of kids on hand to watch the operations. Beside some of the women, who were on hand to help with preparing the dinner, were, at the time, out on the back porch enjoying the activity.

Wm. Mast, who was my father's engineer, had just fired in a plug of soft coal and the black smoke was rolling out of the stack when he got a signal from the separator to slow down. He partially closed the throttle, leaving the engine to idle, and then went toward the separator in the barn to offer assistance. As soon as he had left, I climbed up on the platform and sat down on the bunker of the right side, under the cab and another boy, about my age, helped himself to the left side bunker. There upon, I proceeded to meddle with some of the valves etc., for his benefit and also the ladies on the porch, meanwhile cautioning him that he should keep his hands off. About this time the pop valve started to sizzle and Mr. Mast came back and dropped the damper, then picked up some necessary tools and returned to the separator.

There we sat for some time on those bunker seats, up under the cab and, I must admit, as I remember it, I felt like Casey Jones, very important, while the engine idled slowly along with the black smoke rolling lazily out of the stack. Shortly, having gone through all the fake girarions I could think of, I decided that I would demonstrate checking the fire, with the possibility of tossing in a little more 6oal, not withstanding the fact that a fresh supply of coal had already been stoked in and the safety valve was sizzling. Further, I had never learned that, without a draft, soft coal gas will collect in the firebox. So down to the platform I jumped, leaned down to have a look in the fire door and pulled the furnace door chain. There was an instantaneous explosion which sounded to me like a dozen cannon as the flame and hot gases enveloped my head literally blowing me clear of the platform to the ground. The flame and explosion so frightened the other boy that he jumped down off the other bunker to make his escape. He landed directly in front of the open fire door just as a second explosion occurred hitting him smack in the face just as it had to me, and he came hurtling down off the platform and right on top of me.

These two explosions neatly removed the eyebrows, eye winkers and most of the hair from both of our heads. Our faces were burned and our eyes were rimmed as red as beets. A couple of kids who had been watching us from the ground tore out of there like scared rabbits and never did come back, but the women, although frightened, came running out and, as we were blinded, led us into the house, bathed our eyes and faces in sweet oil, bandaged our heads as best they could then had a horse hitched to a buggy and took us three miles to the Doctor in the village.


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