GOSSIP FROM THE BACK SHOP The Case of the Mysterious Valves

| July/August 1964

Route 1, Box 1015, Yucapia, California.

Courtesy of O. R. Aslakson, New Rockford, North Dakota

When I speak of cases, the first thing that comes to mind is one of those dear old smoky monsters chugging along the farm road and tooting for the water boy to hurry up with that tank wagon, else they just wont make it to Alvin Peterson's before nightfall. Ever see a big steam outfit camped along the roadside for the night, from one job to another?

But this is a bit off the track for this run. I am telling you about old Charlie Anderson, the superintendent, chief engineer, and pooh-bah of the back stairs of the municipal water pumping plant which had managed to keep up the local supply for nigh on twenty years when the population numbered less than two hundred and was now in its twenty-fourth hundred count.

Charlie was an old Swede, and a good one, of course, who had put in several seasons on a thresher engine, steam if needs be said, but who was fortunately on hand when he became overtaken by a game leg and the little town needed an engineer to handle the two new c. c. Corliss engines which were direct-connected to positive displacements pumps. Since this type of engine had many peculiarities not found in any sort of mobile engine, it because necessary for the vending contractor to furnish a master mechanic guide for Charlie during the first month of actual operation.

Charlie at once perceived that his new job was a real specialty; one in which none of the other fellow threshermen in the vicinity would give him any competition. Not if he could help it, at least. For what would he do were he to become suddenly displaced from this enviable position. He was allowed a helper, of course, to unload the coal gondolas from the spur into the bins adjacent to the boiler room. It was a daytime operation, so fires were simply banked at night and the building locked up. It was a twelve-hour job, though, seven days a week. So the city dads had requested that Charlie make an apprentice of his assistant in order to cope with any eventualities.