‘OLD MIKE’

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RAYMOND LAIZURE
'OLD MIKE' in his last days.

RFD No. 3 Cadiz, Ohio

The given name of one of the best Steam traction engines that
ever turned a wheel in this community. ‘OLD MIKE’ an 18 HP.
Gaar Scott that was the rating, but would develop 22 HP. Not very
handsome and had its own particular faults, as all of them had. One
was that it took two men to reverse it going down hill. But a
person soon forgot its looks and faults, after being around it a
few days, and realizing the power it had. If something suddenly got
tight out at the mill, Mike would keep it turning or throw the
belt.

The Engine first came into my sight one hot Summer day, while
plowing corn, with the Side wipe and an old white Mare that had
recently escaped from Alcatraz. I could smell the smoke and heard
the Engine coming down the road. They stopped by a bridge in the
valley below, to take on water. I snubbed the old white Outlaw to a
Dogwood bush, not caring if she was gone when I returned. When I
arrived at the scene, they were using the crosshead pump to fill
the boiler, the artistic paint job of red and green commanded
attention, along with the stately Elm trees which lined the road
banks. After looking the Engine over, I thought to myself, that
something worthwhile had been added to the community. I also took
notice to the Big Tiger on the head tank.

Folks around declared, it was a well known fact, that a person
didn’t have to know anything to off hear on a sawmill, so they
came after me, and I landed the job without any difficulty. Every
time I would start away with a slab, I would come face to face with
that Cat on the tank, naturally I couldn’t figure what prompted
the makers to come up with that trademark. We had just started to
saw one morning, when the packing let loose in the Governor base.
The force of the steam past the loose rubber made a squalling sound
that could be heard for two miles, and kept it up till noon, as the
throttle leaked, and no shut off valve. If there had been any
wildcats in hearing distance, their feet would of went in reverse.
Mike was hard to cool off, as it had a large short boiler with
jacket, and I have seen 69 pounds of steam many mornings when we
returned to work. A one armed man could of fired it and set on the
tool box half the time.

After several years sawing, they made a sad mistake by trading
the engine off, for five or six old Jersey cows that were on their
second trip around the world, and badly in need of a set of uppers.
Along to boot was a popular make of tractor of those days, which
caused more vile language than anything that had appeared on the
scene up to that time. By jacking up one hind wheel, and repeating
the 23rd Psalm backwards, if the moon was in the last quarter, it
would mostly start. But no one seemed to have legs long enough to
disengage the clutch, and the second Day at its new home it had a
chance to prove its ability by tearing down about half of the yard
fence, and made kindling wood of the old Plymouth Rock Roosters
Mansion which formerly stood in the corner of the yard. Luck was on
the Rooster’s side, as he had just left home on one of his
regular trips to the truck patch for worms, and narrowly missed
being wheeled off to the Morgue.

Along with this up and coming oil eater, came an overcoat, to be
put on at sundown. The agent remarked there were Bumblebees in a
box on the side of the motor, and would refuse to sing if moisture
got on their vocal cords. Not many days passed until a sneaky
thunder cloud approached from behind a knob, and down came the
rain. The Bumblebees kicked up their heels one at a time, and the
smoking contraption got choked on kerosene, and passed out dead as
a Mackeral.

In the silence, Old Mike could be heard barking away on another
sawmill. Years passed, then one day a man came and prevailed on me
to go and get the Engine to heat Tar for the roads. I took off
early next morning equipped with two old pipe wrenches and three or
four Dog sandwiches and a pint of Arbuckles coffee. I finally came
in sight of Mike sitting on a hillside amongst rocks as big as the
Engine. Also in a locality entirely new to me, after looking the
situation over I discovered the Engine had been there a long time,
and no water in it. Also to my amazement the water had to be
carried a good city block, up hill at that. After a complete
search, the only thing at hand to transport water was an old eight
gallon milk can that had been left over from the Boston Tea Party,
and only had two bullet holes in it. The water had to be emptied in
the top of the dome. I carried till noon, and had visions of my
horse power dwindling away. I kept looking under it to see where
the water was going, about four o’clock, it came up in the
glass, and I flopped down in the weeds, vowing never again a round
like that, while I was in my right mind. With good wood, I had
steam early next morning, and cased Old Mike around the rocks and
down the hillside. There was a creek to be crossed, and the Boss
said he would run a cable across the water and hook on with his
truck, but we didn’t start both at the same time, and he tore
about half the rigging off the truck, and left me and Mike to run
our own business. The Governor belt was in the tool box, and I had
previously yanked the throttle clear open, which later proved I did
the right thing. My how the mud and water flew. I looked for it to
jump out of the socket in front, as it had on one other occasion,
but it finally came snorting up the other bank. I had been on my
own so many times before, I was used to it. After a couple of weeks
work, I bid Mike goodbye, and thought I had thrown my last shovel
of coal in it. Some years later a Sawmill moved in below my place,
and I thought that evening I investigate the outfit. To my
astonishment there stood Old Mike, big as you please. But it must
have been in the War of 1812, as the tanks, cab, coal boxes, chunk
out of smoke box door, and numerous other things, besides some
Graduate had ruined the crown sheet. The platform was wired on, and
the jacket half torn off. A friend of mine told me afterwards that
he and a buddy were moving the engine through town one day, and the
whole platform fell off, and them with it. One man had his foot
caught, and a gain the other fellow got himself gathered up, Old
Mike was making for the front porch of a nearby residence. More
years passed, then in my travels one day I spied the engine
discarded and sitting in silence. Some green stuff changed hands,
and Old Mike came marching in my driveway. I pulled the clear Chime
whistle I had heard so many hundreds of times ring through the
valleys, and this thought came to mind. I wondered if the Bull
Frogs who spent many a long summer night croaking in the mill race,
close to the Sawdust pile, would recognize their old friend. I
belted it to my sawmill but it had become too weak from abuse, by
Certified Experts. In the end it may have made some junk man happy,
but with regret Old Mike, a Faithful servant gone!

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