CLEAT TRACKS IN THE SANDS OF TIME

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Howard Yates
This is a Frick Engine owned by Floyd Atkinson. Courtesy of Howard Yates, Rt. 1, Odessa, Missouri.

127 S. Douglas St., Bronson, Michigan 49028

Then, there was the time a few years later when, as a young man
of around 12 summers, I was the victim of a two pronged accident,
or accidents which might sound rather comical now but which I
prefer to call peculiar, as they were anything but comical to me at
the time.

The first of these happened at my uncles farm home when a couple
of pairs of meddlesome hands (my brothers and mine) were trying,
without permission or knowledge of our uncle, to lift one of those
new-fangled contraptions which they called a lawn mower down from a
bench, where they had it stored, for closer inspection and probably
a few adjustments. Well, somehow the thing got away from us and
fell, the sharp edge of one of the iron wheels landing edgewise on
the nail of the big toe of my right foot. The impact was so great
that, besides hurting me terribly, the nail turned black and it all
came loose except at the root, from where it stuck straight up. My
mother tried to keep it banag-ed but to no avail as it always came
off, and I’ll never forget how it hurt when I tried to follow
the other kids through the stubble fields, barefooted as was the
custom those days.

Now, you probably wonder, just what is so peculiar about that?
Lots of people lose their toenails through accidents. True, but
that is only the first episode of this two pronged accident series,
the second one of which brings out the ‘so called’ comical
slant.

The following week my father was to thresh wheat for a neighbor
who had stored some of his grain bundles in one of the hay mows of
his bank barn and the thresher was to be set on the barn floor,
with the blower extending out the back end. I was there as usual
an, – as usual, barefooted.

The approach up to the big barn doors was an exceedingly steep
one so that they used the engine to push the thresher up as far as
the bridge, which extended from the barn doors out about 12 feet.
The bridge was of several pole stringers planked over, and its
capacity for extra heavy loads was questioned, so the front trucks
of the engine were stopped at the planks and a team of horses was
hitched to the rear end of the thresher, on the barn floor, to move
it in farther. A call went out for every man to ‘lend a
hand’ and the engine was uncoupled.

Believe me, I felt like a man as I took a position between two
big brawny men at the right rear wheel of that machine; and when
the orders were given to ‘Heave Ho’, and those horses
fairly lay on their bellies as they pawed the plank floor, I
forgot, for that moment, the sore toe on my right foot and, –
incidentally – the position of my left foot.

It could have been worse, – I might have lost my foot. As it
was, – while I was ‘Heaving and Ho’ing’, that big steel
wheel moved slowly backwards and came down squarely on the extreme
end of the great toe of my left bare foot, tearing the nail out at
its very roots.

Now, if you were to see a kid hobbling around with both great
toes banaged, sore and nail-less, would you call that comical,
peculiar, or just a ‘helluvaraess’? Dimmed by the years it
seems comical now, but I’ll tell the whole wide world, for ME
it was anything BUT for the rest of that summer.

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