ENGINES, ENGINES, AND MORE ENGINES


| January/February 1957



3501 Bristol Highway, Kingsport, Tennessee

The purpose of this humble article is not to give a history of, nor to explain the working, operation and care of a steam engine. I look forward to the time when someone will make such interesting and needed contribution. In this, permit me, please, to be more personal and, sentimental.

NO PICTURES OF THE PAST are more vivid in my mind than are those of steam engines, steam threshers and steam saw mills. 'I thought I heard a whistle toot away off somewhere this morning,' says someone. Well, yes you did,' says another, 'I heard it myself, and they say the steam thresher is coming to Nelse Brown's.' And sure enough, the threshing season has opened up in old East Tennessee!

Don't speak. Just a minute, be quiet. I'm listening to music of long ago. I hear those steam whistles as the sound echoes through my soul to this day, and I see those slowly moving wonders of beauty and power; I hear their rumbling wheels, whirring belts, tattooing sprockets, and grinding gears as they roll again across the picture-tube of my mind.

One of my first impressions was when with two older sisters, Flora and Bertha, we inspected a steam saw mill on the farm of grandfather, Robert Hale Gray, where I was born and lived. The crew was absent; the big steam portable was cold. After looking the situation over, turning a few try cocks from which water drained we came to the unanimous conclusion that the thing might 'explode' and quietly abandoned the idea of further exploration, leaving the big giant in mystery and stillness.

At another time I ran over to grandfather's big barn where they were threshing and before getting inside the barn lot, a dangerous boar called 'the biting hog' attacked me, got me down and was biting at my shoulder when my aunt Rebecca ran to my rescue and clubbed off the vicious beast, cutting short what might have been for me a tragic experience, as well as my anticipated pleasurable experience with the threshers. After cleaning my clothes, cleansing my shoulder and treating it, I soon passed into a boyhood haven, for this was the day of hoop skirts and bustles and seated on my aunt's bustle, my arms clinging to her shoulders and my legs wrapped around her waist, we sailed around the house again and again, onto the front porch, through the hallway, and being a split-level house, dropped down into the kitchen, with, it seemed to me, the speed of Citation or Nashau and banqueted on butter bread and jam.