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.

I’ll never forget the suffering and pain I had to endure for
the next few days, and it took most of the rest of the summer to
regain our facial adornments.

That was the fastest working depilatory I ever heard of, but I
wouldn’t recommend it to ‘Yon Beauty Queen’.

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