EXPERIENCE AT AN EARLY AGE

1 / 3
R. D. Waggoner of Ottawa, Illinois, and his Craft Mill. See his letter.
2 / 3
R. D. Waggoner of Ottawa, III., making Clean Smoke. See his letter.
3 / 3
20 hp. Minneapolis of Mr. R. D. Waggoner, 7 miles northeast of Ottawa, on Illinois Route 71, Ottawa, Illinois. See Mr. Waggoner's letter.

Ottawa, Illinois

JUST HOW OLD OR HOW small I was when I was struck by steam. I
wouldn’t know. My older brother rigged me up on a box so I
could run a 10hp. Russell engine and my father considered running a
piece of machinery a serious job. On the other hand if us boys
wanted to go swimming, or just go, all we had to do was walk over
and close the throttle. No questions asked, or ‘No, I will file
the saw.

Being the fourth of five sons, I think he had his hands full,
teaching us all to run the engine, sawmill, threshing machine and
always to be alert and careful. At one time we had a 20hp. Nichols
& Shepard which we used a lot for sawing and I considered it
very good. It had the old link reverse, but for sawing we had what
we called a sawing block. This was an attachment permitting the
removal of one eccentric strap and rod and all reverse linkage.
This made quite a simple engine for sawing. It was always a thrill
however, to see the old reverse going on again as that meant road
work, threshing or moving time.

My father thought he had had enough threshing, but in 1913 I
pushed back in again, very graciously. I was at home on the engine,
separator, sawyer, edger operator, off bearer, had a little C
Aultman Star engine I had painted up for trading stock so I traded
it in on a new 27×46 Frick thresher with self feeder, wind stacker
and all, this trade with my father’s signature, of course, and
he was in again. The next year he got a new 22hp. Twin Frick
engine, a beautiful engine to operate. My job in the family set up
was to fill the vacancies. I sawdust boy, water boy. Of course the
engine suited me best, so in threshing I was usually on the engine.
If there was any place to get an engine stuck in, I have been there
with an engine. I think the worst place to get stuck is in sandy
soil that over a period of years grown a good sod. To get
‘unstuck’ only meant to go ten feet and get stuck
again.

On the old N & S I have seen three teams of oxen and a team
of mules in the lead and still stuck. One day I saw that engine, my
father was at the controls, slide sideways off the road down the
side of the hill, stopping perfectly on another road below. After
looking things over and noting no damage he pulled the throttle
open and went on down the road. I have seen that engine take hills
with the front wheels sometimes in the air. My father taught us to
stick to the controls. In my time I hardly knew that he knew how to
run a traction engine, but one day we had a very good run and we
were moving the mill out of the hills and back to civilization.
This was near …..which is just 13 miles from Gatthinburg in the
Smokey Mountain National Park. We had a big run that day as I
mentioned before, we had crossed 12 bridges and broken 12 bridges.
Now the 13th one we dared not break for several reasons, one being
that there would be no N & S left. All precautions were taken,
even the road commissioners were notified and were there. This was
one of those long wooden bridges and very old. Sure did not look
good, but my father said ‘It will hold’, so that was it.
The worst was prepared for. I think we did everything but put a
cork bobber on so we would know where the N & S went down in
that mud bottom creek. My brother and I had been doing a little
planning on our own. As I recall I was to steer and he would handle
the controls. When everything was ready to pull the throttle, my
father stepped up on the platform and said, ‘You boys stay with
the mill, I will take it over alone.’ This was when we learned
our father could run an engine better than we for that was the
longest wait we ever had. I never knew that engine could be
throttled down so slow and not stop on dead center. That was his
way of telling us not to pull the throttle and k the bridge out
from under us and the engine. Well, that bridge sagged and cracked
under that 10 ton load plus my dad’s 140 lbs. As I recall now
that bridge was some 50 feet across and that was just too big to
break.

Getting back to Iron Men and today, I have a 20hp. Minneapolis
engine No. 8619 and Craft sawmill. I took it to Pontiac to the
Central States reunion and while there sawed some 4000feet of Burr
oak lumber and enjoyed every bit of work connected with it. What I
enjoyed most was the good neighbors putting their engines on the
mill, which to me is a wonderful practical test of smooth power,
with no damage to engine or boiler especially if they burn wood for
fuel. In my time I have fired more with wood than coal. I feel if
more fellows knew more about firing with wood there would be no
other fuel used in a Hobby boiler.

O’ yes from the IRON-MEN ALBUM one learns things after
reading them three or four times. Just the other night I read the
Mahoney article appearing in the Jan.-Feb., issue. Then I went back
and dug up the old copys to see if Avery really did make a
separator with the tailing elevators on the left side. I would not
have known yet if I had not looked at Mahoney’s overalls and
noticed the watch pocket on the wrong side too. A little trick
photography, maybe or perhaps just to see if the old timers were
still alert. I enjoyed the article very much because it is a real
life story and real pictures.

P. S. If you turn the negative over, please do not print them up
side down as that barrel on the front has water in it.

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