The Story Behind Our First Oil Spill
A COUPLE of women were responsible for our first oil spill. This was long ago, and, except for my vivid memory, has been forgotten. This is no great feather in the feminist hat, but history must be respected.
The first woman was Carrie Buker, who invented the stop sign. She was an Oliver from Getchell's Corner, living a widow in the old Buker place just beyond the sawmill on the Rabbit Road.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays Carrie took her butter to town. She had a gray mare that would go along in her sleep, and then Carrie would go to sleep. Folks that way kept an eye out. One day Carrie was asleep, and the horse was asleep, and as they went past the side road into Leslie Grover's woodlot the horse walked right up onto a pile of cordwood Leslie had yarded there. When the horse woke up, she was frightened and froze. Then Carrie woke, and she wasn't altogether unperturbed either. She began to cajole
the horse, if that's the word, and gently suggested in a soothing voice that the animal back down.
It was now that Horace Macomber came along with his high- stepping Hanover trotter with the high checkrein, and Horace was some astonished to find Carrie with her horse and buggy up on Leslie Grover's woodpile. "My sakes, Carrie," he said, "Whatever are ye doing up there?"
Carrie said, "Well, Hod, you can believe me - I'm trying to get to town."
It was on another day, however, that Carrie came along, again dozing, and at the crossroads just above our place there was a confrontation with Bemis Tuttle, who was coming downgrade on the other road with a two-horse jigger and a load of bricks. Bemis had a brickyard.
A load of bricks doesn't halt readily, at least on a downhill cant, so Bemis tipped over his load and Carrie was thrown, butter and all. The consequence was that Carrie asked Sim Pratt, the road agent, to put up a warning sign at the four corners, and Sim did: "STOP & LOOK." Today that crossroads has a four-way flashing red light. So you might say the oil spill was brought about by Carrie Buker.
The second woman was Madge Goodall. Madge lived on Ramsay Hill and taught school at Faith Corners, so she drove back and forth past our place and always stopped at Carrie Buker's sign at the crossroads. Madge had a 1917 Model T, and it was a triumph of female equality to see her crank it. Regarding the oil spill, on this particular day Madge was on her way home and she came past our place with a late October sunset full ahead of her, blinding her vision. She moved her hat to shade her eyes, squinted, and
went up the hill in low gear. (A Model T had but two forward speeds.) At the stop-and-look sign she stopped and looked.
Now by infernal chance, Harry Hall was coming up the hill behind Madge, and Harry couldn't see a thing, either. Harry sawed shingles, and he was taking a load to Webber Corner. Harry had a truck probably nobody remembers - a Lippard-Stewart. Maybe they were a military vehicle in the First World War. They had a maximum speed of 10 m.p.h. on the level, but also a governor to slow them on a downgrade.
Thanks to the sunset, Harry rammed his truck into the stern of Madge's Ford and jolted it about 15 feet beyond the stop-and-look sign. Harry set his brake and stepped down. Madge began throwing shingles out of her back seat. And then Wyman Given came running down to see what made the noise, and Harry said to Wyman, "She backed into me!"
So you can really blame the oil spill on Carrie Buker and Madge Goodall. Oh, yes - the oil spill.
Well, nobody recalls the specifications of a Lippard-Stewart, but the radiator must have held 10 gallons. This was well before Dupont, and radiators were winterized with denatured alcohol. Except that it was cheaper to use kerosene oil, which Harry had used. And now the radiator of the Lippard-Stewart was in Madge Goodall's back seat, severely wounded.
It was a good 10 years before the smell of kerosene oil dissipated itself from the four corners, and it was a reminder to all who passed that Carrie and Madge had set up a booby trap that led poor, innocent Harry Hall astray. Almost every day somebody in the neighborhood would say, "She backed into me!"