35222 La Flora Drive Yucaipa, California
Today was such a fine one in Prairie Center. The breath of Spring was present everywhere, it seemed, with the last of the snow just having been melted away and all the farmers were getting their seed and planting equipment in good condition for the next month's work. The first stop on my home to noonday lunch was at Ran-kin's Livery Stable. Here I found three old acquaintances amongst several other teamsters, and these folks were getting their harness repairs at the old leather maker's shop. Mr. Lee's reputation was known far and wide for being one of the finest saddle makers and harness makers in the entire country. Odd, sometimes, when one stops to think about it; some of our most skilled hands come from the smallest towns.
As I trudged on down the board sidewalks another block and make the turn past old Mel Hanson's foundry, I was quite surprised to see a neat double standing by under full head of steam with a wisp of smoke twirling from her stack. She was certainly an early bird, and appeared to be looking around for a separator companion. And as I drew nearer the sound of loud and disgusted conversation broke upon my ears from within the shop. For a moment the thought entered my mind that Old Mel must not have done right by somebody; but this must be impossible since he had always remained on the most amicable terms with everyone in the course of his machine and foundry work for all the farmers. Actually, when I stuck head in the front doorway, I found that Mel was doing only the listening.
It was Ben Fleisher, a neighbor some six miles out, who was quite perturbed. 'I bought this old B-P from that chap over in Woodland last fall,' exclaimed Ben. 'And when he showed me this engine he had put a brand new Pickering governor on it, as the old one was badly worn out. But soon as the weather opened up and I could get over to get her, I found that he had put the old governor back on and tried to make me think it was the only one that had ever been on this engine. I guess he must put that new governor on any of his old engines that he tries to sell, like a goat leading lambs to slaughter.'
'Well,' consoled Mel, 'I suppose being an old steam man doesn't automatically ensure any of us a free passage into Heaven. If there weren't a few gypsies amongst us too, life would be pretty droll, wouldn't it?' 'Well, fortunately no one became injured when those old gears lost mesh a few times, but think what might have happened under the belt!' said Ben. 'I will mill you out a new set of bevel gears by tomorrow,' Mel replied, and then prudently added, 'When a man buys anything he had best take his wares right along with him.'
(Author's note: The experiences related in Gossip from the Back shop are based upon incidents from true life, and are intended to carry anecdotal bits of appreciable information. A more detailed work is coming up in a symposium 'The Man on the Smokey End,' under separate edition.)