The Fire

Madeline was going through a bunch of old stuff in her cedar chest a while back and she ran across this newspaper clipping of a piece of construction equipment we had one time that caught fire.

I wrote a story about this incident long ago. In fact it is even in The Angora Chronicles book. Just don’t want anyone thinking I exaggerated the “degree” to which the fire was. This photo shows it so well.

The Story About The Fire:

Ruby Waggoner was my dad’s mother. She and my grandfather had divorced when Cecil was very young. He was raised by his dad, Theron and a host of aunts, uncles and his grandparents. Ruby Lee, Grannie Ruby or Grannie was a big part of our life growing up. She lived in Austin and we visited her often. She was one funny old gal that laughed a lot and made the rest of us laugh. Any time after I was grown and had projects around north Austin, I’d stop by even if for just a few minutes. She and Madeline had a wonderful relationship when we were newly married and were starting our family. She would visit her and take a basket of ironing and they spent many days like that.

One day she and I made a plan for me to pick her up for a visit to Smithwick. I was going that way and knew I had to go back in a couple of days and could bring her back home. She was no longer able to drive, her eyesight was pretty well gone. She was well into her eighties by then. This was a good chance for her to spend a couple of days with Bonnie and Cecil, my parents.

This happened in 1985. I had a project laying a wastewater line up the middle of Shoal Creek in North Austin. This wasn’t far from where Grannie lived, so about mid afternoon I left the crew working and drove down and picked her up. As we left her house I told her we would drive back by my job to check on things before we headed to Smithwick. She always liked to go with to see all the big machines work. She was very mechanically minded and truly understood how things worked. She had grown up on a farm. She and her second husband had farmed a piece of ground along Onion Creek just south of Austin, with her doing the lions share of the hard work.

We left her house and drove up a ways, then turned on the street to go by the project, I could see emergency vehicles everywhere. As I got closer I could see that our big excavator had caught fire. The jobsite was right beside channel 24, the ABC affiliate’s studio. The news cameras where running, gathering a good story for the evening news.

I could see the operator standing out from it and he appeared to be doing okay, so I just drove on past and headed for Smithwick. About 15 miles down the road Grannie Ruby said “Ron, I thought you said we were going by your job”. To which I said We did”. Nothing else was said for several minutes, when she said Ron, that was your job where that machine was a blazing wasn’t it”. I said, Yes Grannie it was”.

Sometime later, with concern, she said “Ron, don’t you think you should have stopped to make sure everyone was alright”. All I could say was “it didn’t look like anyone was hurt and I didn’t figure I needed to be on the 6:00 news”.

After dropping her off, she told my parents she didn’t really know about me. She thought maybe I should have been at least a little more concerned about things.

They called me to tell me what she said. I told them to watch the 24 news to get the full story. As it turned out a hydraulic oil line burst next to the exhaust manifold and that was the end of that 100,000 lb hunk of iron. And no one was injured. It was insured and I got more for the machine than it was probably worth.

The Austin Statesman Newspaper Clipping the Next Day.

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