Backyard Junk

| November/December 2000

6668 Bunch Road,Terre Haute, Indiana 47802

After 28 years of working as a conductor for the railroad, I've seen a lot of people's backyards, the total length of Indiana from Hammond to New Albany. Some things you see are wonderful while others are disgusting, but that's life.

It always amazed me the difference between the front and back of people's homes. The front may look like a park but the back is full of junk. The junk is what this story is about.

Linton is a small mining town in Greene County, Indiana. The railroad I work for passes through and I, not of retirement age, must go along for the ride. North of Main Street about half a mile is a small block house with two old outbuildings behind it. I've passed this home a thousand times and had never seen anything of interest until about three years ago. While passing I noticed a section of tin had fallen off one of the outbuildings. Looking inside, to my surprise, I saw a 30-inch steel wheel looking back at me. For a year I looked at this wheel and wondered what it was connected to.

That fall, while returning home from a gas engine show in Elnora, I stopped at the small block house. There I met a lovely lady named Florence who owned the wheel. I explained my purpose for stopping and also why I had an intimate knowledge of her backyard. She was wary at first, but after learning the railroad connection we were soon like old friends. She then explained that the wheel was attached to a McCormick-Deering tractor and had been in her family for years. Her husband had built the building around the tractor, and to my surprise it did not have a door. By calculating from the time of her husband's death, the McCormick hadn't seen sunlight in 20 years, and yes, it was for sale.

Being a hit and miss man myself, I was unsure of how to proceed. I took her telephone number and said I would call back. After talking with some tractor guys I felt I had a pretty good idea of what it was worth. The only thing I had failed to do was see if the engine was loose. We talked by telephone and again, I was surprised by her knowledge of antique tractor pricing. I explained that the price she wanted was in the ball park, but first I must see if the engine was stuck. Three days later we stopped the train long enough to discover the engine was okay. Have you ever wondered why trains stop with road crossings blocked? Now you know.


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