Maybe Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel was a guy kind of book for kids. It was my favorite, and I think I still have a copy of it somewhere in a dusty corner of the attic. Mike and his perpetually smiling anthropomorphic steam shovel, lost in a cloud of dust, digging frantically away to finish the cellar hall for the new Pottersville town hall. Mulligan and I were alike, long on energy and a little short on organization. Mulligan and his old shovel won the bet and the contract and finished the job before sundown, but they found themselves stranded in the bottom of a very deep cellar hole with no way out. They had forgotten to dig a ramp. But the day is saved by a little kid who has a bright idea of leaving the steam shovel in place, making it the new boiler for the school, and giving Mike, who isn't getting any younger, the job as custodian. The final frame shows Mike in his rocking chair next to his trackless steam shovel, enjoying his twilight years.
This morning I went down to the cellar and admired our brand new bright red H.B. Smith boiler. It was warm and toasty in the cellar because all the pipes are temporarily without insulation, and if I had had a rocking chair handy I would have dragged it downstairs, got a cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle and whiled away a lazy Sunday morning, listening to its quiet roar. I admit it, we had neglected our steam boiler, and missed the last two yearly cleanings, and this year the repairman threw down his tools in disgust, and said no, it's got to go. Frozen and rusted bolts, a buckling clean-out door, and bondoed junctions. A machine all ready to gas us one night with a carbon monoxide leak.
And if the old boiler had to go, the asbestos had to go, and now everything is gone, and our bank account is a lot lighter. But the new boiler is a beaut, and they left behind the real prize, the rusty old boiler that I am busy dismantling. Now it is wrench work, later on it will be sledgehammer work. And when I get tired out and in need of a change in strategy, I can always sit down next to my new boiler whose builder's plate still says Westfield but is made in Ohio and have a cup of coffee and think about what I am doing.
This was the old boiler this morning first thing, after I stripped the housing and controls off it and started hitting it with a sledge hammer. Hit number five there was a dent, hit number six a piece of the wall dropped away. The wall is thin, and cast iron is brittle. More brittle than people, thank god. Now its in little pieces ready to go to Locust Street. Demolishing it ourselves saved us $200.