Thats the way I heard it

| September/October 1964

4401 Church Road, Evansville, Indiana

Big Mort and his hired hand were building a heavy cattle-wire fence across the prairie when his wire stretcher broke. So Mort fired up his Keck Gonnerman, hooked on to one end of a long section of unrolled wire, and at the very first yank he pulled up twenty-seven (more or less) fence posts to which he had already stapled the wire a quarter of a mile back down the line. Mort had a poker face and very little sense of humor. Later he was heard to say, very seriously, that his old Keck 'was a awful good threshin' engine, but a dam pore wire stretcher.'

Now I don't know whether that's a true story or not. But that's the way I heard it! I have several note books full of stories that have been told me by machine men from just about all over the country. I'm sure some of them are true as the Gospels. But I have a feeling that some have been ornamented, embellished, and revised just for fine art's sake. But there is something intriguing about sitting on an old, sizzling, slobbering steam engine and listening to the operator dress up a story to fit the occasion.

A lanky, bewiskered Texan once told me with tears in his eyes and half a pound of Beechnut tobacco in his mouth that he once steered 'a leetle too fur to the left', and had had to jump off the platform and watch the best engine he ever owned sink, lock, stock, and smokestack in a bed of quicksand, with only a series of big fat 'plops' on the surface to indicate the final resting place of his beloved Case 65.

I suppose that could have happened. I never lived in quicksand country. But this old boy was a little hard to go along with. Not ten minutes later he assured me that he had 'seen the day' when he could uncork a pint of any kind of whiskey you wanted to give him, hold the neck of the bottle in his teeth, put his hands in his pant's pockets, spread his legs apart like a sawhorse, 'rare' back his head, shut his eyes, and without drawing a breath, could polish off the liquor, spit out the bottle, and go on about his engineering as straight and sober as a Massachusetts judge.

After hearing that, it was easy to believe that he might have been a leetle too fur to the left. Probably about two hundred yards.