Dick Hunt's Blog

January 2, 2010

Hot Seat in the Ranch Truck

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 4:27 pm

Hot Seat in  the Ranch Truck
by Dick Hunt, April 7th, 2008.

In 1935 my Father bought a slightly used  one and a half ton six cylinder Chev. truck with a seven foot by ten foot wooden grain box on it.  The previous truck was a 1927 four cylinder  one ton with a much smaller box.   I well remember going with my Uncle, Matt Mork to haul grain in that older truck.  He smoked a corn cob pipe in those days and always wanted the “pull up windows” shut to keep us warm on the road.  I nearly choked with the billows of smoke.
By the time we had the larger truck I was qualified to drive and over the next five years I hauled hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain – barley, wheat and oats.  We normally sold the wheat through the local grain elevators as it was a  good source of income and in those days was quickly paid for by the grain companies.  Dad owned a threshing outfit and in addition to our own crops we threshed for numerous neighbors, each of whom would supply a team, bundle rack and driver as part of the crew.  The owner of the threshing outfit  charged a fee per bushel for the custom work done for  neighbors.
When we were threshing for others, they were expected to feed the crew the noon and evening meals.  That in itself was quite a chore  for the ladies as there could be anywhere from ten to 20 men on the crew.  Initially my Dad never intended to own a threshing outfit.  He loaned a man the money to buy one, which consisted of a large Case 110 H.P. steam engine, a 36/48 inch grain separator, a water wagon and sundry other items necessary to the operation of the equipment.  The engine was fired with whatever was available. We used mostly coal which we mined ourselves right from under the hill on which the Ranch Headquarters stood.  We also used some wood, though that was scarce on the prairies.  And though it was risky, due to the danger of fire in the stubble, we fired the engine from time to time with straw from which the grain had already been separated.
Our own barley and oats were always stored in granaries, (sometimes called “bins”) for use in feeding the cattle, horses and hogs that were our major source of income.  I hauled grain to the elevators for the neighbors right from the threshing machine and they paid Dad so much a bushel for the hauling.  My brother, six years my senior was always engaged in the operation of the threshing equipment. He had a natural  affinity for mechanics which was well employed for many years.  Eventually, in 1927 our Dad sold the steam engine to a man who wanted to plow native sod for grain growing and he pulled a “12 bottom plow” covering 14 feet per sweep.
From then on it was a smaller crew that covered the ground in our neighborhood and it was simpler and quicker to move from place to place.  The top speed of the steam engine was one and one half m.p.h.  The second tractor was called a Case Model K, 18/32. I was too young to drive the truck until 1936 when Dad bought the second Case internal combustion tractor, called a Model L.  It was much more nimble, was mounted on rubber tires had more power and served us well for many years.
Back to the 35 Chev truck.  It had a six  cylinder engine and a cooling system that was slightly too  small to keep it cool in heavy hauling  in hot weather. I used to remove the engine hood and let the breeze aid in the cooling process.  The Fuel tank was under the passenger seat and it was necessary to lift off the seat to fill it.   In cold weather the wind used to whistle up around the seat and it was cold in the cab.  So we packed the space around the tank with burlap sacking to stop the draft.
One cold day I filled the tank at the gasoline barrel using the “wing pump” and evidently slopped some gasoline over the sacking. Back in the cab and roaring off for another load of grain, I quickly became aware of the smell  of smoke and pulled over and stopped. At that point there were flames coming from under the seat, right around the gas tank.  I threw open the passenger door, and tossed the seat out onto the road, and with bare hands pulled the burning sacking from around the tank and tossed that out too. My action was instinctive –  burn my hands or blow myself into oblivion.  Evidently an end of the  sacking had fallen loose and come to rest on the hot exhaust pipe just below the tank.  And to add to the unknown danger there was a small hole in the side of the pipe with a tiny tongue of flame shooting out onto the sacking.  Who was it who said, “the Lord looks after fools and drunkards” ?
That truck, under the regular servicing and care of my brother  served us very well until the 1955, the year I went off to train for the ministry. The next year my brother moved from the ranch to a farm about 80 miles north and the truck went with him.  I believe it still occupies a space in the farmyard where he and his wife lived the last few years of their marriage.  Alyce passed away about five years ago.  Wilf died march 4th, 2008.

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