Filling a Thirsty Steam Engine


-By Orv Alveshere-

The Threshing Crew’s Steam Engine
At what age can a young lad join the threshing crew?
Depended upon the age and how fast one grew.
They needed every family member and hired hand
To make sure each threshing duty station was manned.
The huge steam engine was a very thirsty beast;
It held 500 gallons of water, at least!
Some considered the youngest lad as a flunky,
And when needed, they yelled for the ‘water monkey.’

The Worker was a Primate, but, Not a Monkey
The youngest lad asked if the rooster was awake?
(Knowing it was five hours until the lunch break.)
His right hand was wrapped around a hand water pump;
It’s 300 gallons to get ‘over-the-hump’
But, surprise, it’s like ‘uphill’ for the last half tank.
And just a ‘swallow’ when the thirsty steamer drank!
The lad chafed at being considered a flunky,
A pumper or carrier but not a ‘monkey.’

Pumped From the NW Corner of the Well
A year before he had a pony hitched to a cart
When he played a small but very essential part.
Hauling a cream can of fresh drawn, cold, well water,
A welcome sight as the afternoon got hotter.
He passed the dipper to every hot, thirsty guy,
And every thresher watched for the water supply.
This year, unappreciated, just a flunky,
They yelled for water, from the ‘water monkey’.

That Week Was Unique, It Sprung A Leak
There was a roaring sound, coming through the trees;
It didn’t sound like a refreshing summer breeze.
The gruff & raspy sound of the fireman’s voice,
He was telling him, he no longer had a choice.
The bearer of bad news, and with sad tones, he’d speak;
“That monster of an iron horse, had sprung a leak!”
Now he would pump faster and sweat like a donkey,
They needed more water, pumped by the ‘water monkey”.

Getting Pooped From Pumping
Luckily he’d fed, watered and harnessed two teams.
The big steam engine was dry, but, the fireman ‘steams’.
“Get the water wagon out there and pump it full;
Give that water pump handle, a side-to-side pull!”
It was 4 AM and the crew’s good mood was shot;
‘Cause the steamer was cold and the fireman was hot.
By then, the early crew stood and watched this flunkey.
Huffing and puffing, he was the ‘water monkey’.

Not Accused of Monkeying Around
It took four strong horses to haul the water tank.
And each of those gallons, the thirsty monster drank.
This pumping job made him a few coins richer
Than if he was a ‘spike’ or ‘bundle’ pitcher.
A center of attention made each muscle ache
And that happened before the chickens were awake!
“A miserable day, more scorned than a donkey.”
Was how my Dad recalled his work as the ‘monkey’.

                          Surprised, he found the 14 year-old lad
                          between horses, while harnessing them.
                          25 cents an hour for pitcher, team and hayrack.

   (c) 1999 Orv Alveshere