| January/February 1964

  • Gossip from the back shop

  • Gossip from the back shop

Route 1, Box 1015, Yucaipa, California

A Sad Day comes along.

Not all my stories, taken from true life, are simply humorous, witty, nor necessarily intended to reveal some little trick or trait of our vanishing trade. This incident centers around a passing event one day in late August when I was stepping off my merry pace homeward for dinner via the board sidewalk that fronted dear friend Mel's machine shop of which I have referred so often. I daresay that were I to be blindfolded upon leaving the office, I could time off every step like clockwork and tell you at just what point I was passing the front door of his shop. A clothespin on my nose could have been included so that I might not get the scent of a bit of oil, ash and smoke around the old foundry.

But on this particular day, Nels Lundin with his wife and two children were all dressed up in dark clothes in spite of the heat and were sitting in their little surrey with a canopy top, paused in front of Mel's shop and talking quite earnestly. As I came within earshot, I perceived that the subject of the conversation involved another old friend, Mr. Christopherson, of Amherst, Nebraska. In the days before Mr. Christopherson had built the Christopherson Machine Shop in Amherst, Mel had gone down upon occasion to reflue and make any necessary repairs on Mr. Christopherson's 110 Case. And before the 110 had come along, a much smaller engine had been used to do custom threshing about that part of Nebraska. And during one of these earlier threshing seasons, it had been the great misfortune of this kindly gentleman and engineer to loose his right hand about the wrist in a belting-up accident. So he came by the 110 with its power steering and some of the folks about the countryside began calling him 'Hoke' after a bit of Norsky parlance, because of his hook-arm.

Now it seemed that as Mr. Christopherson spent more and more time in his shop which was growing into quite an institution, his assistant did most of the engineering on the big threshing rig. But only a few days ago he had gone out into the countryside to see how the harvest was coming along. Things were turning at a merry pace, and quick settings were made between stack setups. As the big 110 was backing around into the belt again after one of these sets, Mr. Christopherson noted a bunch of tumbleweeds, or Russian Thistles as they were called then in that part of the country, were becoming entangled in the front wheels and axle of the old girl. Not that it would have made much difference in her progress, but he stepped up close and with the hook fitted to his forearm attempted to clear the weeds while the engine was still in reverse. Cruel Dame Fate intervened at the point, and caused his hook to become caught in the inner side of the front wheel spokes as the front end of the engine was backing in a large arc towards his position. Some things happen in a flash, a split second. It is doubtful that his assistant could have stopped the engine within that half-moment, especially as he harbored no fears that this old timer could possibly further jeopardize his life and limb. The cruel result was that Mr. Christopherson was drug down and under the heavy front wheel and his body became severed in the pelvic region. All threshing operations now were brought to a most abrupt halt and the good fellow lived but several minutes longer. At least Nature had a kind way of relieving his agony, for she caused numbness to dull any effects of direct pain. These lessons come hard.

So it was, Nels and his family were driving the little span of blacks down to the funeral. Doubtless some of you older readers from down that way may recall some of the unhappy details of this tragic event. But as I have mentioned, and doubtless you may know, all is not pleasure and happiness around the threshing crew.


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