R.R.2, Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada N4G 4G7
Well, it all started one winter afternoon sitting in Gord's shop next to the wood stove. It had been an open winter and showed signs that snow might finally show up. The atmosphere in Gord's shop was one of complete freedom. Those who chose to drink brought their own and did just that, and it was the same for smoking and chewing tobacco. The floor was covered with woodchips and sawdust with as many people crowded around the stove as showed up. Freedom of speech was respected there more than most places. Politics and sex were touched on occasionally but weather and reminiscing were the main events.
But the afternoon in question led most of us into a scientific experiment that will be long remembered. The conversation was on steam boilers and all aspects had been touched, when the longitudinal seam was being bandied-about, butt seam vs. lap seam. Now it wasn't about which was best, but rather whether the lap seam was safe.
It just so happened that back in the bush Gord had an old upright double boiler out of some old cheese factory long gone. He had bought it at a sale years ago to make a tank out of it. That hadn't taken place, so hence it just sat there.
Gord swore up and down that it would take near one thousand pounds to blow it up. Well now, if it could have been tested with water hydrostatically all would have been fine but the boys decided that being a steam vessel, a true test must be with steam.
So long as the weather was holding and it wasn't raining tomorrow they would meet back at Gord's bush. I was to provide the gauge and Clark would bring the steamer. And it was discussed how we could step up the pressure by ten times so we could achieve the thousand pound bracket. A triple stage turbine pump was to be used.
Next morning all arrived ready to do their part. First a hole was to be dug four to four and a half feet deep and three feet around, and a mound three feet high so only the top of the eight foot boiler was visible. It was close to three feet around and in very good condition; the hand hole gasket was rusted right in it and all leads were closed with pipe plugs. A inch line from the turbine was fed into the top of the boiler.
It took so long that some of our less enthusiastic participants abandoned us and went home. Around one in the afternoon we had the 200 feet of line hooked up over the hill into the pit to the boiler and there wasn't a leak anywhere. At first the gauge climbed fast but around 175 pounds it started to slow down. The first hour we were at 225 pounds. We had to look at the gauge with binoculars.
By five o'clock it was well over 900 and climbing very slowly. If we had reached 1000 we would have stopped but someplace between 950 and 1000 the bottom of the boiler cracked and she left!
Well now that was all fair and good had that been the end of it, but it wasn't! It left just like a rocket, snapping off our inch steel elbow at the top. Until this, everything was under our control, as we figured when it blew no one would be affected.
The back woods here wasn't far from an Air Force base and they spotted it on radar! They scrambled a couple of planes to track down the 'invader'. Unfortunately the path it took wasn't straight up, in as much as it was headed for a large town southwest of Gord's woods.
Lord only knows what the pilots told the tower, and we were not about to ask questions. We never heard for sure if they tried to talk it down or even shout it down as it was losing altitude very fast, heading right for town.
Now Someone must have been watching over us because the old boiler splashed down right in the middle of the old sewage lagoon. Many people claimed to have seen a UFO and the Air Force didn't want to talk about it. And at Gord's shop nobody but no one cared to talk about it as they could be sued. Hence the conversation was kept in guarded company. ..
(Rick wrote this fictional story a number of years ago.)