A look at
Minonk's past

 Home |  City Hall |  Editorial |  Events |  About |  Schools |  News |  Chatter box |  Email |  Photos |  Maps |  Issues
 Home |  Origins |  Early Settlers |  Coal mine |  Ethnic Groups |  Tragedies |  Businesses |  Buildings |  People |  Old Photos |  Sports

Midnight coal

By Dave Uphoff

Many stories have never been written down but have been passed down through word of mouth. The story I am about to tell was told to me several times by my uncle Bill VonBehren and my father John Uphoff, both who are deceased.

There was a farmer in the Minonk area many years who was considered to be very frugal. Although he made a decent wage as a farmer he was always looking for ways to cut costs or to get something for nothing.

Years ago there was a huge coal hopper that straddled the old Illinois Central railroad tracks about a half mile south of Minonk. The steam engines would stop there and have a load of coal dumped into their coal bin for fueling the engine. Coal was also used as the main source of heat for most homes in the Minonk area in the first part of the 20th Century.

Being a frugal person and figuring that the railroad people wouldn't miss a few lumps of coal, this enterprising person decided one night to drive his old Model T truck to the coal hopper along the railroad tracks and procure for himself a winter's supply of fuel. He proceeded to back his truck up to the hopper and then pulled a cord to release the coal into the back of his truck. Unfortunately, the entire load of coal emptied from the hopper and buried his truck. Dumfounded, the poor fellow didn't know what to do since he could hardly even see his truck.

The next morning he was found sitting on the running board of his truck crying like a baby either out of fear of what might happen to him for his nocturnal mischief or maybe because of how much it will cost him to replace his truck.

Page 2

The story goes that our subject had to make restitution to the railroad for his folly. This attempt at frugality gone awry apparently did not alter the nature of this person. He continued to be tight with the penny the rest of his life.

In his later years, he would attend the community softball games held at the old athletic field back in the 1940's and 50's. He would bring his folding chair and set it along the right field line. Between games someone would come around with a cigar box to collect money from the crowd to help pay the expenses of putting on the games. Our subject would always conveniently leave to go to the bathroom in the high school gymnasium whenever the cigar box would come around.

So ends the tale of our anonmynous but real person from the past who left behind an ignominious legacy.