Farm Collector

Thats the way I heard it

The plant engineers waited for zero weather, blocked up solidly
underneath with ice, tore away other supports, kept a crew on hand
to see that the ice melted evenly, and let the big engine settle
inch by inch, week by week into place.

And a Milwaukee man said, that in one of the big breweries
there, a governor ‘gave out’ and a huge engine reved up to
a point where a multi-ton fly wheel disintegrated, wrecked all four
floors of that wing, killed several persons, and spilled enough
beer to float the Delta Queen.

A somewhat similar accident is said to have occurred here in
Evansville, Indiana, when an engineer was tuning up a three-hundred
horse power double engine belted to a pump on an Ohio River dredge
boat. He got the valves set right for one cylinder, but missed it
on the other. When he opened the trottle the engine rocked back and
forth a couple of times, started with a surgelocked and stopped
dead except for a dozen pieces of the big flywheel which tore
loose, ripped through the bottom and the super structure, and made
a shambles of the boat.

One big piece crashed through a room where a night watchman was
sleeping, and gave him such a scare that he gave up whiskey and
cussing and went to church every Sunday the rest of his life.

A railroad man I knew told of a buddy of his who was riding the
cow catcher around a curve at the top of a steep grade somewhere in
the mountains. I believe it was in one of the Carolinas. Suddenly a
cylinder head let go and shot like a Mike missle up through the
brush, and into and out ofan innocent looking old wooden shack on
the mountain side. While he watched, spell bound, two men scampered
out of the shack and disappeared in the woods like squirrels.

When the train crew investigated they found a big still and a
batch of ‘cawn licker’ cooking off in the building But the
moonshiners were not heard from for days. They thought the revenue
men were shooting at them with cannons.

In northeastern Ohio a farmer told me that at an early-day silo
filling he and another man had been delegated to ‘tromp’.
For hours they had walked back and forth inside the big red wooden
silo, keeping the ensilage that rained down on them packed tight
and firm.

At the end of the day they were working inside the dark inverted
cone that formed the roof before they noticed that the uppermost
opening of the ladder was covered and they had no exit. One of them
tried to ‘stick’ his head out the little dormer opening in
the roof, through which the blower pipe had been placed, to tell
the crew to shut down so they could dig themselves out.

He couldn’t get his head through the hole, but he could see
that it was getting pretty dark outside, too. Some lanterns had
been lighted and the farmers were rushing the last wagon loads
through to finish the job. He could not make himself heard above
the howl of the cutter. The ensilage kept forcing itself in. He and
his partner ‘squalled and bellered’ at the top of their
lungs but they had apparently been forgotten by the rest of the new
in their hurry to get the job done.

They were soon forced into a tiny space in the very tip of the
cone and scared to death. He is sure that they both cried a little,
and he thinks he may have done some of his praying aloud because
his mouth was full of green corn.

Finally, with scarcely a cubic inch of space left, they lay on
their backs, placed their feet against a strip that held the
shingles, and pushed a hole in the roof. They crawled through,
dropped to the barn roof and slid off a shed to the ground, with a
stream of silage following them. He said the stuff ‘worked’
out of the hole in the roof for days.

Except for a couple of bad cases of claustrophobia, the trompers
were not much damaged. But he tirmly believes that if that silo had
had a strong metal roof they both would have been ‘smothered to
death, and buried alive’ (or the other way ’round) and he
has never been able to figure out a dignified way in which the
bodies could have been reclaimed for proper interment. He believes,
though, that if they had been left to marinate long enough in the
fermenting ensilage, enbalming would have been uncessary.

Wherever there is an engine, there’s an engineer, and
wherever there is an engineer, there is a story. But whether the
story has been glamorized a bit is always a question. No attempt
has been made to verify or document these little yarns. But,
again-That’s the way I heard it!

  • Published on Sep 1, 1964
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