The Book - Bart Beck

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About Bart Beck

WHEEL SCRAPER

When I was about 18 years old, I took a job on a County road building project. My job was to drive a team of horses that were hitched to a Wheel Scraper. At that time they didn't have Bulldozers, front-end-loaders, Pans, Power Graders, etc., on County road building jobs, in fact most of that equipment was not invented yet. About the only power equipment in use, at that time, was the Steam Shovel. The Steam Shovel took care of the big cuts, Wheel Scrapers did the moderate ones and the horse drawn graders did the finish grade work.

First off let me explain how one of those Wheel Scrapers worked. A three sided steel pan, open in the front, was mounted between two wheels and was pulled by two horses. By manipulating a lever that extended out to the rear, you could let the pan down and as it was propelled forward the dirt was forced into the open end. When it became full, you pulled the lever down, which raised the pan. You then proceeded to the place where you were to dump the load. The unloading part was simple, you just tripped the lever and the pan would roll over forward and dump the dirt out.

No telling how many years that old team had pulled one of those scrapers or some similar piece of equipment. They sure knew more about it than I did. Not only that, they soon found out that I didn't know anything at all about it. Almost immediately, after starting my first day, I found that to properly execute the loading operation, four hands were required, one for each of the reins, and two for the hoisting lever, and I was equipped with only two.

To make matters worse, those two old horses were just smart enough so that they would move right along until I got all involved with the loading operation, and then they would stop. Then I would have to, bodily raise the load and latch the mechanism. It would have been impossible for them to start the load again, with the pan down. To raise the pan with no forward motion was much more difficult than it would have been when the machine was in motion. That is, it was more difficult for me, but much easier for the team.

I don't remember how I got around the problem, but I must have because I worked there until the job was completed. I remember that, on my first day, I carried my lunch in a metal dinner bucket and put it next to a tree where it would be in the shade. When I opened it, at lunch time, everything inside was covered with big black ants. After having argued, cursed, and struggled with those horses and that Wheel Scraper, all forenoon, I was hungry enough to eat anything, so I brushed off all of the ants that I could, and ate the rest of them. They aren't so bad if you chew them up real fast so that they don't bite the inside of your mouth.

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