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
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
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
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