Road graders, really OLD Road graders

Nothing to do with the post, just my favorite toy.

Nothing to do with the post, just my favorite toy.


I was building a road to the Homesite Charlie had won in a drawing while he worked up north. A friend was having some difficulties and no longer in the construction business so told me I could use the old Road grader he owned. The stipulation was, I had to start it and drive it away. No one offered assistance and I found there were 3 shutoff switches between the batteries and the starter. That part alone took me almost all day.

I did get it started and luckily for me, the blade was raised already so I didn’t have to try figuring that part out, just yet. I found a gear that it would move in without killing the engine and headed out toward the Homesite location up the Elliott.

I took the back roads as I didn’t know what the regulations were for someone driving something like that on public roads without a clue on how to operate it.

That weekend, Charlie was home from working up north and we went out to do some work on the Homesite. He admired the old Road grader, started it up and had me get up in it with him to ride along, I thought.

He drove it about 100 feet, raising and lowering the blade, tilting the whole deck and using all the array of gears and levers like a maestro. Then he stopped the Road grader, jumped down, told me to have fun and left. Sheesh, if I had known I was supposed to be the operator, I would have been paying attention.

Road graders are a lot of fun, but the newer ones are not be as rough on the Operator. The one I ran was gear driven, an OLD Wabco 440. No hydraulics but many levers and pedals. There were levers on the dash and ones up through the floor that you used your knees or thighs to press side to side while working the dash levers with your hands and the foot pedals with your feet, of course. If you didn’t release the knee levers quick enough the lever beat the insides of your legs black and blue. Gear driven is immediate pain for neglecting to pay attention.

Charlie tried to convince me to try operating a dragline, but after watching them on the river bank tipping up when the bucket snagged something heavy on the river bottom, I said “no thanks.”

Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.