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Topics - James Temple

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Whimsical Weirdness and Foolery / The lost engine
« on: August 15, 2021, 04:11:57 AM »
"I am guessing that if we started a rumor that something was buried there, like WW&F No. 2, the digging would take care of itself.  ;) "
--Gordon Cook

The rumor spread across social media like wildfire: There was a buried locomotive on the grounds of the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Musem -- the mortal remains of engine #2, it claimed. What was more, the area's unique geochemistry meant the machine was perfectly preserved, needing no more than a little oil to be put back in service. And as if that wasn't enough, there was a quirk in Maine salvage law that stated whoever touched a shovel to it first was entitled to the whole thing, private property rights be damned.

It gained many shares, likes, and upvotes before the WW&F Museum arrived with a bucket of cold water. The fate of #2 was long-established fact, they said, having been scrapped in the '30s. The soil would not have preserved it in any case, and the part about Maine salvage law was utter bunk. The rumors, however, only surged -- what, they demanded, was the museum hiding?

The situation exploded when it was leaked that the museum planned to dig foundations for a heretofore-unannounced new car shop -- right where the rumors claimed the engine was buried. A mighty howl went up from foamers across the country. This, they knew, must certainly be a devious effort to deprive them of an engine of their very own, and all the denials and protestations of museum representatives only served to further confirm their conclusions.

As the day of excavation approached, foamers descended upon Sheepscot from all over, bearing picks and shovels and demands. Soon the mood was tense, with an immense mob crowding and jostling in the parking lot. The museum president desperately counseled common sense as he backed closer and closer to the site, until at last his nerve failed him and he fled with a cry of "it's all yours!"

What followed was the most fervent, industrious digging party since the uncovering of the pyramids at Giza. Within an hour, the mob had cleared a vast area to several feet deep, pausing occasionally to shake their fists at museum folk and warn them not to interfere. The museum folk were suitably cowed, and did their best to conceal their obvious terror by lounging on the porch of the Percival house, sipping cool drinks.

By late afternoon, the diggers had well run out of steam, and slumped against the walls of the great pit they had created. It had become agonizingly obvious that there was no lost engine to be found, and about the best they could hope for was that the museum folks would refrain from making them fill the pit back in. Magnanimously, this was the case, and in a further gesture of generosity, cool drinks were liberally distributed all around before the diggers slouched off to their cars.

As the last of them departed, he glanced over his shoulder at the gaping maw in the earth, and with some asperity remarked to the president that the museum could probably cancel the excavator rental. The president, leaning casually against a porch rail with a drink in his hand, replied: "What do you mean, cancel? We never hired one."

The digger stared at the president in silence for some time, then drove off into the sunset.

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