Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Monday, July 24, 2006

Old Steel From "The Aulde Sod"

God, have I been remiss? Actually, I was in the old home country, Helena, Montana - Land of Enchantment (and Glenn Close - she actually is in Bozeman), the Teds, Turner and Kaczinski and all them Californicators who move up to the North Country with nothing but a trust fund and a dream. The occasion of the visit was the 80th birthday (!!) of my sainted Mother. It took me out of the action, such as it is, for longer than I would have liked but, I got to hang with the Mommy and the kids got to see their Grandma and vise versa.
The big news, at least for this venue, is steel. Months ago my old high school buddy Cowboy Dan (Yes, the name is the inspiriation for the song but, no, the song's not about him - or me either... and yes, I have a Rock Star in my family, God help me). Anyway, Cowboy Dan alluded to old agricultural steel he had laying about the place and this knowledge greatly motivated me to take a five-year-old and a six-year-old on the 800 mile sweltering jaunt through the magic that is Cental Washington (where the jackrabbits carry lunch boxes) to see the G'ma. She footed the bill as well which helped.
Before we get to the CBD metal let me show you what was in my late Dad's shop:Beginning at the left, we see a chunk of mine rail track, hugely pitted and possibly not usable as scrap, but which was brought to light by yours truly from the Drumlummon Mine back when I was in high school. Morons that we were, we were in the habit of ingesting various drugs and touring abandoned mines - idiots.
Next, we move over to a collection of rock drills ranging from 1/2" to 1" hexagonal that my Grandpa had accumulated to use as various digging bars etc. They're leaning against a piece of railroad iron that, as a lad, I used to pound nails flat upon before fixing tiny little hilts to make GI Joe sized sabers.
Here's what CBD gave me. Beginning at the left, a buggy axle (that's not an axle infested by bugs - but you knew that) and some of the springs from same. In my Mom's reprinted Shears and Sawbuck catalog of 1902 I found something similar. As you can see, I've only got, roughly, half of what's there but who am I to quibble, if the procurer of such takes his cut? What really frosts me is that I could have had the whole works for ten bucks back in the day. Ah, born too late.
Further to the right is a collection of spring-shanks for a duck-foot, gang plow, a random chunk of spring steel that Dan-o found on his new dream property and a plowshare shim. Damned good steel and glad to have it - just not as sexy as the rock drills and the buggy gear.
I also scored an anvil for my lad. About a year ago I horrified all and sundry by making my six-year-old (he'll be seven next month) a forge. Of course this isn't a "real" anvil. It's the ass-end from a very old vise that my Grandad used as an anvil.


In any case, it's something for the boy to beat on as my anvil is too high for him (or he's too short for it - it depends on my mood).
Lastly, there's a bit of a story: Helena, being a mining town and having more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in 1890, there was a great demand for masonry. One of the substances needed to stick rocks and bricks together was lime. It was burned from limestone in a series of kilns just south of town which were built anywhere from 1865 forward. The picture shows one still intact with the nearer one in ruins, probably due to the earthquake of 1935. Anyway, on the side of the ruined one I found a few chunks of metal, used for reinforcing iron, sticking out of the hillside and I purposed to get some of it. It proved too hard for a hacksaw but, I spied a crack (see photo) and through judicious application of force, broke a chunk off. The surprise is that it is a wagon tire, which was easy enough to see from its profile. But more interesting, is that it is steel, forge-welded to wrought iron. I don't know what vintage this makes it but, it was a piece of scrap (hence its being used in lieu of rebar) when the kiln was built and possibly came across the country to get where it rested. Other kilns have pieces of wagon spring sticking out at odd places but they're a bit precarious to get to. besides, those are relatively intact structures that I wouldn't want to screw up for the tourists. In any case, it was a good and productive trip and look forward to lots of historic, Helena photos next post. That is to say: the next time I'm willing to melt in my office to bring you these treasures.

2 comments:

HD_Wanderer said...

Central Washington? Now that's my kind of country. Hot, dry and filled with sagebrush and rocks.

Anonymous said...

What words... super, remarkable idea

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