The Engine Wasn't There!

| September/October 1960

1961 West Side Drive, Rochester 24, New York

Back in 1899 in the days of wind, water, muscle, and steam power, an engine was humming merrily along with a wrench tied to the safety valve, so some say, and the threshing was proceeding at a lively clip on a farm near the sleepy little town of Hamilton, New York. The day was a pleasant one and Dan Stokes, owner of the rig, surveyed the scene with satisfaction as he sauntered over to a position beside the engine to replenish the water.

He reached for the injector valve handle but -- the engine wasn't there. He looked up through the cloud of steam to see the engine going end over end over the barn spewing steam and fire. The front wheels dropped off, crashed through the roof of the barn and injured two men. The remainder of the engine continued on and in landing plowed a big furrow and partly buried itself in the ground on the other side of the barn out by the road, its crown sheet another victim of low water.

The two injured men were taken out of the barn before it, the equipment and the grain burned to the ground. One of the men (name forgotten) recovered. The other, a Mr. Leonard White, a neighborhood friend of my mother's people, died that night. No harm was done to the owner standing beside the engine as it was being catapulted up, other than to knock his hat off in passing.

With his wrecked engine on the wrong side of the barn, two men injured and the barn and equipment in flames, hatless old Dan summed up the situation with an utterance that has endured as a local classic, 'G-d, never saw it do THAT b'fore'.

My father in company of his parents went over to view the ruins and, being a young engine operator, he was interested in two things there, the engine and a young lady in company of her parents. The young lady was mostly interested in the young man and so here am I to write this story.


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