Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
"Hey, Mike," George Lindquist said down at the Spearfish Lake Cafe the next morning. "You still interested in those guys that used to run dog sleds around here?"
"Yeah," Mike said. "You hear of one?"
"I found one," George explained. "It took some asking around. You still want a story on him?"
"Who is it?" Mark asked.
"Old guy over in Warsaw," George explained. "Must be close to 80. Worked in the mill, but he ran a trap line on the side for maybe twenty years, all with a dog team, and gave it up about the time snow machines got popular. Jim Horton. You know him?"
"The Jim Horton that's on the village council?" Mike asked. Lindquist nodded, and Mike went on, "Sure, I know him. He's in the book."
"What book is that?" George asked.
"Oh, right after the Warsaw fire, I got the wild hair that I might be able to write a book about the fire and sell it, so I spent a lot of time interviewing people that were involved with the fire. Let me tell you, we tend to remember the firemen, and Bud Ellsberg and the railroad hauling in all those fire departments on flatcars when the road bridge was out in the middle of that snowstorm, but there were a lot of unsung heros that I never found out about until after it was too stale for the newspaper."
"Jim was one of them?" Lindquist asked.
"You bet," Mike said. "Like I said, just one of many."
"Well, don't leave us hanging," Mark said, putting down his coffee. "What did he do?"
Mike shook his head, then realized that he might as well tell the whole story. "About a day into the fire, about the time that the main plant started burning, they'd pumped the water tower dry, and were running straight off the village pumps. Well, Jim had his head screwed on, and realized that they'd been going wide open for a while, and that maybe he'd better check on them. He discovered that the biggest pump, an old one built back around the turn of the century, had bearings that were running red hot. Well, Jim knew that they didn't have enough water to begin with, and if they lost that pump, they'd lose half of what little they had. To make a long story short, he spent most of the next two days on his belly with an oil can in his hand, trying to lubricate the bearings to keep that pump going, knowing all the while that if it seized up while it was running, there could be impeller parts coming through the pump casing right where he was laying."
"Wow," Mark said. He'd been a paratrooper, and knew a little about courage. Jumping out of a plane was one thing; spending two days in a situation like that was something different. "It didn't blow up on him, I take it."
"No," Mike said. "Funny thing about that, though. After they got the fire pretty well out, and the water tower pumped full again, Jim saw that he could finally shut the pump down. So, he did, then went home and slept for a day or so, then decided to go over and see if he could fix whatever was wrong. He threw the switch, and nothing happened. The pump was locked up tight. It never turned again; they scrapped it the next spring. They lost enough of the town as it was, and they could have lost all of it, if it hadn't been for Jim keeping that pump going on its last legs."
"I never heard about that," Lindquist said.
"Lots of people never heard about that," Mike said. "There's probably not a dozen people, even in Warsaw, that know about it. There's lots of stories like that. Most people around here never heard of the girl from Lordston that broke her back trying to keep the D&O train going, and a retired fireman from Coldwater got out of his wheelchair, no kidding, to play a key part in her rescue. That whole thing was an epic by itself, but I never heard about it until it was too stale for the Record-Herald. That's why I decided to do the book."
"Did you finish it?" Lindquist asked.
"Yeah," Mike said. "I sent it off to maybe a dozen publishers, and never got a nibble. 'Not enough national interest, ' one of them said, so I finally said the hell with it."
"I'd love to read it some time," George said. "Do you still have it?"
"I've got a manuscript, and I've got it on disk," Mike said. "Unfortunately, the disks are formatted for Apple, and I don't have one of those any more."