THE GREAT FIRE

By Bill Grosboll
July 14, 2007

Just another childhood memory that I would like to relate that will, if I tell it right, give an indication of the changing times. Mom, Dad, my two sisters and I had been shopping in Springfield for the day, St. Patrickís Day, March 17, 1951. A rarity that Dad was along, because as I remember it, usually it was just Mom and us kids that went shopping in Springfield. Anyway, when we returned to Petersburg late that afternoon, Dad had stopped somewhere and was informed that the crib was on fire. For those of you not to familiar with farming, the crib was a large building in which ear corn ( on the cob) was stored. This corn represented Dadís hard labor from the previous year and was very valuable, although I really didnít appreciate that too much as I was only age 10.

We immediately began the rapid journey to the farm about three miles northwest of Petersburg. Our driveway was about a quarter of a mile long and when we arrived there, it was lined on both sides with the cars of the locals who had turned out to help fight the fire. In those days, there was no rural fire department and the only fire fighting equipment was a Ďpumperí truck owned by John Schirding. John would respond to any fire, any time of the day, that he felt he could be of assistance and was greatly appreciated by all the locals. I donít remember too much about how the fire was being fought but the decision was made to load the corn into manure spreaders and then spread the corn on the stalk field northwest of the barn so that at a later time Dad could run hogs and cattle in the field to eat the corn and salvage some of the loss.

My uncle, Bill Tebrugge, went to open the gates to the field and noticed that someone had disconnected the electrical wires from the crib and had coiled them neatly in a pile in the access road to the field. I was standing there watching because at age ten and Uncle Bill being one of my favorites, I had a tendency to follow him around like a lost dog. He bent down to grab the wires and immediately went to the ground. He began going around and around screaming. How I knew he was being electrocuted I do not know but I immediately went running to the house yelling (and probably crying) for them to turn off the electricity. Howard Montgomery, without hesitation, went to the electrical panel on the porch and turned off the power to the outlying buildings. I remained at the house and shortly they brought in Uncle Bill, white as a ghost but still alive. Margaret Schirding, who was at the house helping Mom, made the decision that a shot of brandy would be helpful in bringing him around. It must have worked since Uncle Bill is still going strong to this day. One of the neighbors who was helping fight the fire decided that the brandy was just what he needed also and made several trips to the house for a shot. I remember who he was but out of respect I wonít mention his name. Mom and Dad always got a chuckle out of that.

The building was a complete loss but much of the corn, equipment in the building, and nearby livestock were saved due to the good hearted and caring neighbors and John Schirdingís personally owned fire equipment.

 

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