youngsters pull up a chair - it's time to reminisce again. This
episode doesn't directly have to do with making money at home, but
as one of our early philosophers said, "A penny saved is a penny
earned." Since this operation saved money, it could, therefore,
be classified as a money maker. And back in the isolated area where
we lived, everything that made money was a homemade project. We
were "dirt farmers" by the most literal translation of the term.
In my early years I spent many hours following mules up and down
the rows and milking the half Jersey cows that produced hereford-looking
calves. We sold these little fellows for about $25.00 each at some
stage in their development.
But as the years passed, we went modern and bought an old Fordson
tractor. It had an engine much like a Model T, except it was bigger.
It had a large cast iron radiator in front and a long wide fuel
tank on top. This tank held kerosene, which burned nicely after
the engine got hot. There was a small gasoline tank used for starting
the engine. As cheap as fuel was in those days, it required an item
that was extremely scarce - cash. So we did as many others in that
part of the county did. We decided to make our own tractor fuel.
were many oil wells in the area, and anyone who wanted oil felt
free to help themselves. The price was so low that it barely paid
the operators to pump it, and they didn't care if you took a few
barrels for your own use. The process of making gasoline from oil
was pretty well known among those in the area. It was quite simple.
Heat the oil in an enclosed container, and condense the vapor by
running it through a coolant.
My dad and I built a small dirt tank about a half mile from the
house, and before making the dam we ran a 1" pipe through it. On
the low side of the dam, we dug a hole large enough for a five gallon
can. This is where the fuel would come out. Above the tank we placed
a fifty-five gallon barrel on some rocks and fitted the pipe to
the vent hole in the top. When it rained and filled our new tank,
we were ready to start refining.
Two fifteen gallon barrels were filled with fresh oil and poured
in the barrel. Then we started the fire about it. Before long fumes
began to come out of the pipe below the dam, and shortly thereafter
the gasoline began to run out in a small stream. The first that
came out was very high in octane, and would evaporate from your
finger as soon as you dipped it in the mixture. But as it continued
to distill, it became less volatile. We found from experience that
the first ten gallons that we got made good automobile fuel, and
that the next six or eight gallons was composed of varying grades
of kerosene. But all of it mixed together made excellent tractor
fuel. After the first batch, we used the residue to fuel a fire
for the next cooking. Because of the heat involved, we never made
more than once a day.
process continued for many months. I want to tell you about one
time in particular. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon,
and we had just fired up for the day's production. But today we
had a vapor leak around the union that connected our cooling line
to the barrel. Of course the vapor ignited, and started blowing
a stream of flame down on the barrel... next
page - The Explosion
Norris Chambers, March 1, 2004