Thats the way I heard it

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The picture is the Old Case 15 just as it was found at Guntersville.
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Picture of the Case 15 drive wheel laying on the ground for many years. Notice the two trees growing through it. The sections have been sawed and left in the wheel on the fully restored engine.

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

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

He talked to me for two hours and I never believed a word he
said, but was utterly fascinated by every story he told me. If he
had ever bothered to learn how to write he could have made a

Even harder to believe is a story I heard in Pennsylvania of a
very young engineer who was moving an Avery undermounted with only
a water wagon attached. Just as he got the big drive wheels on a
wooden bridge, that end of the structure gave way, and sank evenly
and steadily down a vertical twelve-foot bank and came to rest at
the bottom of a dry creek. The bridge did not break up, and the
other end was left on its bank, forming a steep ramp with the
engine at the bottom, headed upward.

But there was a little problem. The coupling had broken, and the
tank wagon, which was not on the bridge when the drop began,
crawled right over on top of the engine, got a half nelson on the
boiler, and settled down as firm as the hump on a camel.

The kid, who had closed the throttle and jumped, looked the
situation over, couldn’t see too much damage done, got back at
the controls, and with the tank wagon still riding
‘piggy-back’, did a little hill climbing. When he got his
two-story rig on the road again, his first big problem presented
itself: How do you get a traction engine out from under a water

In a Detroit factory, so an engine man told me, a giant power
plant had to be lowered from the second to the first floor. But the
engine was so heavy that no construction company would bid on the


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