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
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