On one of the last trips that my father, Levi J. Stutzman, made up here to visit us and the rest of the children, he related some more happenings of his threshing days in Holmes and Wayne Counties, Ohio. Dad started firing an old 60 Case steam engine when he was 17. The Depression was on and Uncle Noah made do with some cheap local coal, which made for hard firing.
One evening after dark, they moved the rig to another job. They had to go up Number Ten Hill. I can still remember how people talked about this big hill, a long grade! The cheap coal threw a lot of sparks, “by the bushels,” Dad said. It was such a fiery commotion, about a half dozen people came rushing from all directions “to see where the fire is.” They must have witnessed an early spark show!
The old Case steam engine was nearly worn out, so Noah junked it. I imagine nowadays some serious collector would restore one like that.
One night about 1937, the area had a very hard thunderstorm and rain. If I recall correctly there were 17 bridges washed out in Holmes County. A few days after, Dad and Uncle Noah took the 60 Case back out to a job, as they had taken the engine home by itself (probably for repairs). Noah’s boys were riding along on the platform and in the tenders. Noah was steering and Dad firing the engine. As they were passing close by a creek or ditch, all at once Dad saw the road starting to crack open right ahead of the right wheels. Dad jerked the throttle wide open. They often moved with the governor belt off, so as you know, naturally they didn’t have the throttle wide open until he gave it a quick jerk! About that same instant Dad grabbed the steering wheel from Noah, giving it a quick spin to the left. “What’s going on now?” Noah wanted to know. Dad said, “Look back there!” Just then the whole bank and part of the road broke off and rolled into the deep ditch! The flooding had washed a deep cut, undercutting the bank and road. The weight and vibration of the engine was too much for it. Dad said that if they hadn’t turned quickly, the whole outfit would have rolled down the bank!
One thing Dad could never figure out was the fact that Noah’s wife, Mary, never again let her boys go along when Dad was driving. She must have thought he was the cause of the close call. It apparently didn’t scare the boys much, as John now owns a steam engine and I think Joe would like to get one, also.