Nearly all my engine running was done in the river hills and river bottoms along the Mississippi River in southern Missouri and Illinois. Going down a ledge rock road was something to go through, especially with a steel separator and wide drivers on the engine. The engine canopy would rumble and the drivers crunch every time you dropped off a ledge until you felt ashamed of the noise you were making. Even though you were out in the open spaces. About two-thirds of the time you would have the throttle shut off and be trying to let her down off the next ledge with the reverse lever, easy like. About the time your eyes go burning real good from sweat running in them, a small gob of pretty hot cup grease would land on the end of your nose, then to add insult to injury, the knob on the steering wheel would crack you one on the hip bone. Then you wished you had listened to what Ma said about threshing machines and life as lived by threshermen.
But when it is in your blood it's like being knocked around by a woman you're in love with, you'll always come back for more.
The bottom runs were more profitable and nicer getting around but if you figured you were really hot stuff get up in the hills with a single cylinder side-geared engine. Then you were sure to learn things, especially about yourself. A good bucking engine would teach you to use your head and not fly off the handle, or take crazy chances as I have seen fellows do.
Barring sand patches and soft places anyone could run a twin engine in good shape. We usually burned soft coal in the bottoms. Up in the hills it was wood of all shapes and kinds. At one place the crop owner brought out a load of fence posts and a pole ax about as dull as he thought I was dumb. He thought I would chop them and take care of the engine too. With an easy 'hold it' to at to the wagons I asked him to pardon me, while I belle red out a loud guffaw in his face. Whereupon he hide himself with two hard tails hooked to a wagon over to the next neighbor and came back with some of the best wood I have ever fired with.
He was pretty honest about it though, he said he thought I was dizzy enough to start chopping. I told him I would be watching for flies in the meat at dinner. He gave me a slap on the back and we both had a good laugh. He turned out to be a pretty good fellow, but to this day I wouldn't trust him in a horse swapping.
Well the boiler's about full so I'll drop the draft door and get for the house. Yours for bigger and bushier tales next time.