Our section was a timberland country. Every farmer had a woods and everybody used wood as fuel so it kept us busy buzzing wood all through the winter.
It was some life getting around in the woods with a steam engine. We would get mired down, get stuck. Everything freezing up and had to work hard to keep up steam with all kinds of green wood.
In 1910 I was the first in our territory to buy a gasoline engine. I bought a 12 HP United and mounted it on a high wheeled farm wagon and the saw buck on a two-wheeled trailer hooked up back of the engine. Now we were really set to buzz wood. Now we could go anywhere. If two horses could not get us there, four would. No water tank to drag around. No water to haul, no more pump pipes and hose to freeze up.
However, our troubles were not all over yet. We did not have a Chevy or a Ford to run home every night. We stayed with the farmers all week. There were no modern homes with hot air furnaces. The best they had was a cook stove and a wood heating stove. Most of the farmers had their spare beds up in the attic under the rafters. You did not have deluxe innerspring mattresses to lie on. You slept on a sack filled with straw or corn husks. 'Ach De Leber strosack.' You covered up with a feather bed or tick as they were called. Oh! Those darn feather ticks, many a night I slept with my coat on and woke up with a layer of snow on my back.
My gas engine had a make and break ignition run with four dry cells. On cold mornings the spark would not be too strong. We would heat the carburetor and manifold and really get warmed up swinging the flywheels until it would finally take off.
By this time I found out that ether was highly explosive and if you gave the engine a slug of it, it would go or else. So I got a bottle of ether. I did not know how much to use. So I gave it a big slug, turned on the switch and gave the flywheels a twist and BANG-BOOM, it took off with a bang loud enough to be heard in the next county. Man, now we had our starting trouble whipped.
So now I heard that this ether was the same stuff they used on people to put them to sleep when they wanted to work on them. Why, I thought, won't that work for me to put me to sleep in those cold beds. So I took my bottle of ether along to bed. I got everything ready to dive right into bed. Then I took half a dozen or so good whiffs of the bottle, jammed the cork back on, took a dive into bed and pulled the covers over, 1-2-3-4-5-6 gone. Oh, what a beautiful night's sleep. Now I had my sleeping troubles whipped.
I did not have to worry that I would not wake up early enough in the morning. The farmer would take care of that. He would be there at 4:30 to get you out. Then you got up and went out and gave your face an ice water shampoo. Then take 3 or 4 good slugs of whiskey then light your pipe and sit by the heating stove still the good farmer's wife called you to a good breakfast. Fresh sow-belly, buckwheat cakes with molasses and good hot coffee as thick as syrup. Then light your pipe, go to the woods, give the engine a slug of ether, give the flywheel a twist, bang and you are off for another day of buzzing wood.
If you can't sleep, here is a remedy that works. If you want to say your prayers then say them first as you will not have time after you have taken your whiffs.
Here's to all you old timers and Happy Bygone Days.
Let's keep up the steam.
We asked readers to suggest articles they had particularly enjoyed from past issues that might occasionally be reprinted. John R. Heath of Sullivan, Ohio, sent us a number of suggestions, including this one, which is reprinted from the July/August 1958 issue of Iron Men Album.