Look Out Below!
My dad told me this story from his childhood in the 1930s. He was between ten and twelve years old at the time, just at the age to be big enough, strong enough, and dumb enough to get into trouble. In that day and age, exploring the countryside was an acceptable pastime, and great adventures were to be had in the aspen forests after dark. One night, he and a friend took it upon themselves to bother an old bachelor who lived a mile or so away. The man had wronged them in some way, and they wanted revenge. Bear in mind, at this time, there were no lights other than lanterns and moonlight.
They found a discarded steel wheel (called a bull wheel according to my mother) that had driven the belt of a grain binder. Over a number of nights, they pushed it quietly to the top of a small hill behind the bachelor's shack. It was heavy, and it took all their strength to move it. They figured it would make a really loud BANG if they rolled it into the old gentleman’s house. What a great laugh that would be!
They sneaked over one evening, levered the heavy wheel to an upright position, and took careful aim. This was going to be fantastic!
They gave it a shove, and the wheel began to move. As it lumbered silently down the slope gathering momentum, the boys jumped up and down in gleeful anticipation.
The best laid plans . . .
In the boys’ imaginations, the wheel would simply make a really loud noise as it banged into the side of the shack. Imagine their surprise when the wall barely slowed it down. It smashed through the side of the house, rolled across the living room, and rammed against a pot-bellied stove. If the stove hadn’t been there, it would’ve destroyed both sides of the building.
The old guy screamed their names as he charged out of what was left of his house. Apparently, he had a pretty good idea of who was responsible. The boys lost no time hot-footing it out of there, and promised each other they wouldn’t tell anybody, ever. It was seventy years later that I confirmed this with my dad’s co-conspirator. Both had grown children of their own before they talked about this particular adventure.
Most of the people involved in this little prank have moved on to greener pastures in the sky, so the truth can finally be told, and I thought it was too priceless to let it die in obscurity.
Fortunately, the old guy was fine, but I think it gave the boys as much of a fright as it did their victim.