GOSSIP FROM THE BACK SHOP

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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.)

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