Gassip from the Back Shop

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.

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