623 Columbia Drive, Marietta, Georgia
As I was walking home past old Mel Hanson's shop a few Friday evenings back, he hailed me with one of his gruff hearty salutes and asked, 'Say, how would you like to exercise your little bay trotters out in the morning?' At first I was a bit puzzled at his inquiry, thinking that may be he was going to challenge me to a fanciful race with the old Huber which he had just fired up after having put in a new set of flues. But it developed that he had just made a new set of rod brasses for Andy Heacock's Aultman double under mounted return flue job, and Andy was out some twenty miles north of town threshing out the Cross-S Flat farmers. During the period of about a week when Andy had sent in one set of broken brasses for a pattern, he was running light on one side and doing some rack oats threshing in order to conserve as much expense and time as possible.
Of course I was delighted to avail myself of the purposeful opportunity to get out and watch the threshermen in action, and was on hand with my side-spring buggy and the spirited bays at seven o'clock the following morning. Mel handed me the new brasses all wrapped up in a piece of gunny sack, and I gave the team a bit of rein and headed them out towards the Flat. After driving some three hours, I halted operations and
stood up in the buggy seat to see if there was any sign of straw smoke or dust which would locate the machine. But all was clear and quiet so I drove on for another hour and finally intersected one of the main roads which passed most of the farms in that area. Here I was delighted to find quite fresh crowfoot tracks which would indicate that the old boiler and her entourage had probably moved that morning and it should now be easy to track her down. After examining the cleat marks in the soft dirt road, I surmised that my quarry
had struck it over eastward so I pulled the trotters around and took off after the threshers. There was a straw pile aside me, so I felt they must be ahead somewhere.
But after I had traveled past a few more straw piles in the course of an hour, I noted that the tracks seemed to be fading out as though made some days prior. Gee whiz! How could this be? Was Andy's calendar backward? At the next farm I stopped and asked Bill Hutchins whether he had seen the outfit going down the road, and if so, was it running back
wards. 'Yes,' he replied, 'Heacock's outfit went by here the other day, headed westward. But I don't know if he was running backwards or not. Come to think of it, smoke did seem to come out of the back end of his engine.' The hired man agreed to this, and I began to think this was just not my day. But I set out to retrace my path and after some time noted that, sure enough, the cleat marks were becoming fresher again even though they appeared headed the wrong way. At this point I became undaunted, however, and kept on going until after a few more miles I became surprised to see signs of threshing over in Archie Johnson's field. Gosh-a-Friday, by his tracks Andy must have backed all this way with his reverse out of whack!
'Tarnation, where have you been all morning?' jokingly chided Andy. 'I had to pass up Hulbert's flax job over yonder while Old Betsy is disconnected on one side with a cylinder full of hot water and a valve blocked clean ahead.' I was hardly hearing a word he said, but was looking at the drivers on the old engine. 'Good grief,' I exclaimed, 'what has happened to the rear
wheels on this old kettle?' 'Why, you idjit,' replied Andy, 'the pinion gears were wearing thinner than paper so I put in a new pair. But the bull gears are good for a few seasons yet if 1 switch the drivers around like you do your shoes on those club feet o'yourn.' Yes sir, I could see that those crowfeet wheels were certainly going to do some unwinding for a while, and decided that I would use some wrench-faced bloodhounds on the next tracking job.