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 Leona (or Nonie) his stepmother and a host of aunts, uncles and his grandparents.

Ruby Lee or Granny Ruby as I called her was still a big part of our life growing up. She lived in Austin and we visited 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 her house and visit.

One day she and I made a plan for me to pick her up for a visit to Smithwick, where my folks lived. 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 would be a good chance for her to spend a couple of days with my parents, Bonnie & Cecil.

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 Granny Ruby 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 out to Smithwick. She always liked to go with me 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.

When we left her house that day, we drove up a ways and turned on the street to go by the project, I could see emergency vehicles everywhere. 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. As I got closer I could see that one of my big excavators had caught fire. It was a 220 Poclain with an air cooled 10 cylinder engine. 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 Granny 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 Granny it was”.

Sometime later, with concern in her voice, she said “Ron, don’t you think you should have stopped to make sure everyone was alright”. All I said 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 Channel 24 news that night 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.

A Newspaper Clipping from The Fire

2 thoughts on “The Fire

  1. I clearly remember that day after unloading that excavator I left jobsite turned on steck Blvd and wandered where all that black smoke was coming from.


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