The Horsewoman

Karen Bergstralh was one of the early pioneers of what became the massive, multi-author Ring of Fire alternate history series. Her first published story, “One Man’s Junk,” appeared in the fourth issue of the Grantville Gazette electronic magazine that is devoted to the series—the fourth issue of what are now ninety-six issues.

Karen passed away years ago, sadly. But here, finally, all her stories and articles are collected in a single commemorative volume.

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Karen Bergstralh was one of the early pioneers of what became the massive, multi-author Ring of Fire alternate history series. Her first published story, “One Man’s Junk,” appeared in the fourth issue of the Grantville Gazette electronic magazine that is devoted to the series—the fourth issue of what are now ninety-six issues.

Other stories followed quickly: five more of her stories were published in the next seven issues of the magazine. Karen was one of those unusual people for whom fiction writing came easily and naturally. Eventually, she also turned her hand to writing fact articles for the magazine. Karen was an experienced horsewoman, and had a deep knowledge of what seemed to be pretty much everything connected to horses—draft animals of all kinds, in fact. She was an invaluable resource for many writers in the series.

Karen passed away years ago, sadly. But here, finally, all her stories and articles are collected in a single commemorative volume.

Excerpt from ONE MAN’S JUNK

 

Martin Schmidt paused, his spoon barely touching the stew. His stomach would have him attack the stew bowl like a starving wolf, but his mind held him back. Carefully, he took one spoonful and then put his spoon down. A sip of beer helped but his hand shook slightly. Reminding himself he was a man, not a wolf, he looked at his host before taking a second spoonful.

“Eat up, boy. When you’ve finished, there will be time enough to talk.” Herr Glauber beamed across the table. “Here, Adolf, fetch another pitcher of beer and get me another ham sandwich.” The older of the two boys beside Herr Glauber shoved his chair back and got up with a grin and a glance at the crowded bar of the Thuringen Gardens.

“Yes, Papa. Heinrich, more stew or a sandwich?” Adolf asked his younger brother.

“Sandwich, please,” Heinrich replied. The boy drained his mug with a gulp and belched loudly. “And hurry back with the beer.”

“Manners, son, manners!” Herr Glauber clouted the youngster on the shoulder. “Your mother didn’t raise you without manners.”

“No, Papa.” Heinrich sat up straight, tucked his folded hands in his lap and assumed a pious expression, or what would have been one, save for the crossed eyes.

“Brat. I’m surprised I don’t beat you daily.” Herr Glauber’s stern expression slipped, and he reached over to ruffle his son’s hair. “You must excuse the boy. Since his mother’s death . . . Go ahead and eat, Young Schmidt. It does no good to talk business on an empty stomach.”

Martin, chewing a bit of tough meat from the last of the stew, contemplated his host. Herr Glauber did not have the look of a man who missed many meals. A closer look showed the lines and loose flesh common to those who have lost a great deal of weight quickly. No, his host, while not starving now, had seen hunger recently. Martin carefully fished a bit of gristle out of his teeth and took a mouthful of beer to wash down the stew. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Adolf reappeared with two large pitchers clutched to his chest and a plate of sandwiches balanced precariously atop the pitchers.

“Here, Young Schmidt, take a couple of sandwiches for later. Young men are always hungry.” Herr Glauber shoved the plate toward Martin and out of the grasping hands of Heinrich.

“Thank you, sir. Thank you very much for the meal,” Martin said. He hurriedly selected a pair of sandwiches and carefully wrapped them in his handkerchief.

“See, Heinrich? Our guest is polite, as you should be. He is full of questions but instead of spewing them at me like bees circling a hive, he waits. I’ve the right of it, don’t I, Schmidt? You’re as full of questions as my boy is of mischief.” Herman Glauber grinned across the table.

“Yes, sir, I am,” was all Martin could manage. His thoughts tangled and knotted, and he couldn’t fashion them into a coherent question.

“First, we have never met before, yet I invite you to share a meal with my family. Why should I do so? Secondly, I am a Master Carpenter, you are a blacksmith. In fact, you claim you are a journeyman blacksmith and the masters of your craft deny you the title.”

A sick feeling welled up from Martin’s stomach. He was a journeyman—but one without papers to prove his claim. Or tools, or friends, or anyone who could say, “Yes, I know Martin Schmidt is a journeyman blacksmith.” Slumping down in the chair, he ducked his head to hide the shameful flush.

“Ah, boy, don’t hang your head.” Glauber’s voice was gentle. “I didn’t invite you here to shame you. You are hardly the only journeyman to arrive in Grantville without his papers. Old Hubner denied your claim so he could charge the Americans a journeyman’s wages for your work while giving you an apprentice’s wages. Some of the others are doing the same.”

“I . . . I thought that might be so. He was within his rights to deny me my rank. I have no proof.”  Martin’s voice trailed off as his thoughts twisted again to the beginning of the week when he had accused Master Blacksmith Hans Hubner of just such an action. In the space of ten minutes, he had listened to a lecture on the sin of claiming rank he did not hold, been fired from his job without pay, and informed that no other blacksmith in or around Grantville would employ him even as a sweep. So it had proved. Named as a malcontent and troublemaker, Martin had found no one was willing to hire him. “I thought my work would show . . .” With a helpless shrug Martin sat, waiting for the lecture he was certain would come from this Master.

“Adolf, our guest’s stein is empty. Refill it. Journeyman Schmidt, those last sets of hinges you made were for one of my jobs. I’ve seen poorer work from the hand of a master. You, my boy, arrived in Grantville too late or too early. Too late because Hubner and his cronies gobbled up the smithing jobs and control who is hired. This they can do because so few of the Americans speak German. Had you been hiding in the hills when first this town appeared, you might be one of them. Six months, or maybe a year from now, there will be too many jobs for the masters to control. Too many jobs and too many of the Americans will speak German for Hubner’s tricks to work. Adolf, my stein is now empty and so is this pitcher.” Fishing a handful of coins and some paper money out of a pocket, the older man shoved them at his son and waved him off. Pulling the remaining pitcher over, Glauber filled his stein. Beside him Heinrich was giggling. Every time Herr Glauber had mentioned Master Blacksmith Hubner, Heinrich had puffed out his cheeks and sucked in his lips, in a nearly perfect parody of Herr Hubner.

Heinrich Glauber grinned widely and winked at Martin. Finding himself smiling back, Martin also felt his stomach settling. Perhaps there was some truth to Herr Glauber’s words. “Sir, it may be so. However, my intemperate words have put me out of work.”

Herr Glauber nodded in agreement. “Yes, son, they have. But your words caused your American bosses to look into the way wages are paid out. If they did not completely understand your words, they did understand their point. Master Blacksmith Hans Hubner no longer distributes the pay to his underlings. That alone has gained you friends among many of the journeymen—not that they dare show their regard openly.”

“Oh!” this information startled Martin. It did explain why he had found his pocketknife tucked into his boots the morning before. He’d been whittling kindling and had left it beside the forge when Master Hubner had called him from the shop.

“Adolf tells me you are in his English class and that you are doing very well. That is good, very good. Heinrich, go tell your brother he was to fetch more beer, not chat with the barmaids.” Glauber remained silent until the boy had left the table. Then he reached over to his tool belt which rested on the extra chair and with a thud threw a hammer in front of Martin. “Journeyman Schmidt, can you make one of these?” Glauber asked in a challenging manner, his face serious.

Picking up the hammer, Martin found his hands caressing it. Made as a single piece, the shaft and head gleamed with a soft silvery glow. The grip was blue, fitted tightly over much of the shaft and it was dotted with a pattern of oval holes. At the bottom, in yellow lettering was “Estwing” on one side and “Safe-T-Shape” on the other. Both sets of lettering had a shape suggesting a wing around them. Two months ago, he would have found the blue material a puzzle. Now he recognized it as what the Americans called “plastic.” Hefting the hammer, Martin found it fit well in his hand, the balance inviting him to swing it. With a sigh he set the hammer on the table and admired its form. From the side the shaft was roughly as wide as his thumb but from the back . . .  As the shaft arose from the blue plastic grip it narrowed, gracefully but rapidly, until it was only an eighth of an inch thick. This narrow edge continued for a handbreadth until it again swelled to form the head. With his finger, Martin stroked the hammer, admiring the daring form. After a final caress, he looked up and into his host’s face.

“No, Herr Glauber. I cannot make such a hammer. I don’t think even the Americans could make such a hammer now. Not for lack of craft but for lack of material. Give me the steel this is made from and time to learn its tricks and . . .  maybe. It would be a Masterwork indeed.” Pushing the hammer back across the table Martin found his hand reluctant to let go of it. What had the Americans’ world been like that hammers were made of such steel?

“Ah, an honest answer, Journeyman. What about these?” Glauber now opened his fist and scattered several sizes of nuts and bolts on the tabletop.

Puzzled and wondering if this was some joke or worse, a trap, Martin gathered the metal bits up and set them in order. A glance showed that Herr Glauber was leaning toward him, his face a studied calm. Gathering three of the hardware pieces up and setting them aside Martin pushed the rest back toward Herr Glauber. “These, sir, these I could make. Had I tools and a shop, I could make these.”

“Ah, good. Good. And those three little ones?”

“I’ve never made such small screws before. Given practice I could probably make something like them.” Shrugging, Martin picked up the tiny screws and handed them back to Glauber.

“Only something like them?”

“Yes, sir. The same size and thread but I don’t know what metal they are made from. It is too light for steel.”

“Ah, I see. According to the person I got them from, they are made of aluminum.” Glauber seemed pleased. He took a long drink from his stein and pulled out his pipe. “But, Journeyman Schmidt, you can make the others.”

“Yes, sir. I could, if I had the tools. If you have need of more bolts and nuts, then you had best talk to the Americans.”

“Did you know, young man, that the Americans have been searching out such hardware? That they are careful—very careful—to save any such pieces when they disassemble any of their machines?”

“No, sir, but it doesn’t surprise me. Bolts and nuts are fiddly things to make. I’ve heard that the Americans had machines to make them by the thousands back in the place they came from.” Now that was a thought for an apprentice or overworked journeyman to contemplate. A machine to do the dull, repetitive, boring, but oh so precise job of making threaded fasteners.

“Ah, yes, young man, so they did. And will again—sometime. Until then someone will have to make them.”

“Well, sir. Any good blacksmith can make bolts. Given examples he could duplicate those. He wouldn’t turn out thousands, but he should be able to make several hundred. If I had a shop and tools, even I could make them.” Martin looked across the table. Glauber was back to beaming at him, as though he had said something especially bright.

“Yes, yes, young man. Indeed. Your lack of tools is a problem.” Herr Glauber tapped his teeth with his pipe stem. “Have you any engagements for the next few days?”

“No, sir, none.” Disconcerted, Martin stared; wondering just what Glauber had in mind.

“Good. Now Master Blacksmith Hubner has declared that you are not to be employed by anyone, at least not as an apprentice or journeyman blacksmith. As a master myself, I’m custom bound to honor his decree.” Herr Glauber’s face was serious as he intoned Hubner’s decree. Looking directly into Martin’s eyes, Glauber’s face slipped into a sly grin. “However, I’ve got work to be done that requires only strong muscles. A journeyman blacksmith might think such a job beneath him. A bright young man could find benefit in it. For the duration of the job, I’ll match your journeyman’s pay and provide for two meals. It starts tomorrow morning. Might you be interested?”

“Yes, sir,” was all Martin could manage without his voice breaking. “Yes, sir.” A job. An hour ago, any job had been beyond Martin’s hope.

“Good. Adolf will collect you from the Refugee Center. The work is hot and dirty, but it is honest, and I pay honest wages.”

“Thank you, sir, thank you.”

✽✽✽

Excerpt from ROLLING ON

 

January, 1632

“Master Ritterhof, Master Eisenbach, may I present my staff?” Martin asked, conscious of the scuffling sounds behind him. He heard Max hiss something at Jakob followed by a ‘thwack.’

“Certainly, Master Schmidt. Certainly.” Master Blacksmith Bruno Ritterhof smiled in return, politely ignoring the apprentices’ bustle. “Master Eisenbach and I have been looking forward to this day for some time.”

Bowing, Martin turned and scowled at his staff. It gave him time to control his emotions. Even after a month, he was still not used to hearing his old masters calling him “master.” Taking a deep breath, he looked at his staff. Max Ohl, the senior journeyman, had them lined up by rank and age. For once, they were all reasonably presentable; even Rudy was wearing his best shirt. Thanks be to God and Frau Kunze!

“Masters, may I present Journeyman Max Ohl.” Max bowed to the masters and Martin continued. “Max is working on the thread rolling machine Master Glauber and I discussed with you last night.” It had not been Martin’s idea to discuss Kudzu Werke’s latest machine with the two out-of-town masters. He well remembered Master Eisenbach’s admonitions on guarding your smithy’s secrets lest another, rival smithy steal them. Still, Herr Glauber was the boss and, Martin remembered, Herr Ritterhof’s brother-in-law. A small thought nibbled; no doubt Herr Glauber had some deal up his sleeve or else not even a brother-in-law would hear of the thread rolling machine. His attention snapped back to the matters at hand as Masters Ritterhof and Eisenbach nodded in acknowledgement of Max’s bow.

“Delighted, Journeyman Ohl. Perhaps you would be so kind as to show us your machine later?” Master Ritterhof smiled kindly at the journeyman.

“Indeed, I confess I am very anxious to see such a machine. Master Ritterhof and I had a lively time debating it over breakfast.” Master Eisenbach chimed in.

Martin caught the startled look in Max’s eyes and nodded slightly. There had been no time this morning to warn the journeymen about last night’s discussions. A stern look at the others quelled any reactions from them. What was Herr Glauber up to this time? No time to think about that now. Frowning fiercely, Martin watched Max’s reply carefully.

Max bowed again to the masters, his face serious as befitted a journeyman greeting masters of his guild. “I will be happy to do so, Masters.” The young man sent a quick glance Martin’s way and Martin gave him a tight smile and a nod of approval. That appeared to satisfy Ohl, who turned his attention back to the visiting masters and the rest of the staff.

Martin stepped down the line to face the next young man. “And this is Journeyman Carl-Maria Tausch. He is working with me on the reclining chair mechanism. Journeyman Tausch is very good with mechanisms.” At least Carl-Maria had expected to show off their progress to the masters. As he bowed enthusiastically, the young man beamed. Keeping his face straight, Martin considered speaking to Carl-Maria about the proper respect to be shown visiting masters. His own pride in their work on the reclining chair made it difficult not to smile along with the journeyman.

“Ah! Another wonder we await being shown. Praise from Master Schmidt on the subject of mechanisms is praise indeed. We were sorry when he left our shop for Madgeburg. Master Ritterhof, I told you we would find our Master Schmidt elbow deep in mechanisms.”

“Indeed, Master Eisenbach, and this Grantville is full of such interesting mechanisms,” Master Ritterhof intoned solemnly. Martin’s glance did catch a twinkle in the older man’s eyes. Hearing his own skills praised, Martin felt a flush of pleasure. He clamped the feeling down. He was a master now, and so, he must act like one. Martin moved to introduce the next in line.

“Sirs, this is Apprentice Rolf Ackermann. A most promising young man, especially at hot and cold forging.” Martin watched closely as Rolf made a credible bow. Turning to the shorter apprentice beside Rolf he continued. “And this is Apprentice Jakob Betche. Apprentice Betche has learned a great deal in the last months and shows considerable promise as a tool maker.” Betche for once stood straight and made his bow without clowning around. From the color creeping up under the boy’s collar, Martin suspected the praise had surprised the boy. He made a mental note to praise young Betche’s work more often, for the boy really did show promise. “Lastly, Sirs, this is Journeyman Rudy Neder, the young man who made the fittings for the presentation chests.” The chests had been a hit. Made from quarter-sawn oak and outfitted with deceptively simple pulls and hinges, the chests were among the first results of Herr Glauber’s latest venture. To the discerning eye, they displayed a high level of craftsmanship in their simple and pleasing lines. Both masters had been impressed.

“Ah, so this is the young man! Have you more such work to show us, young Neder? If it is up to the level we saw last night, I will press Master Schmidt to see you quickly promoted. The drawer pulls have a delightful grace, and yet, are substantial without being overly heavy. And I must say, I admire the hinges. I thought they were Master Schmidt’s work until he informed me that you began making them as an apprentice. You thought so, too, did you, Master Ritterhof?”

“Definitely, Master Eisenbach, definitely. Master Schmidt, I applaud you on your ability to find such talented journeymen and apprentices. ”

Rudy turned bright scarlet at the praise of his work. He, too, managed a well-mannered bow and stuttered. ” Th . . . th . . . thank you, Masters.”

“Now, Master Schmidt, may we see this thread rolling machine? I confess to being very much interested in such a device.” Bruno Ritterhof clapped Martin on the shoulder and looked around the shop.

“And the reclining chair, please? A machine that threads bolts is certainly a wonderful device, but a chair that lets one recline . . . Ah!” Master Eisenbach added. “However, before we see these miraculous devices, I have a question. The day is cloudy, but you have these wonderful ‘electric’ lights. Your forge is cold, yet the workspace is warm. Can you explain these marvels? We attempted to ask our hostess but, marvelous woman that she is, she speaks only English.”

✽✽✽

Three hours later, the wonders of the up-time building, with its gas heaters and fluorescent lights had been explained. The journeymen and apprentices had shown off the budding thread rolling machine and both the original up-time reclining chair and the developing Kudzu Werke version. The older masters lavished praise on all the staff along with occasional suggestions for improvements in methods and hardware. Pride swelled in Martin’s heart as he realized how few improvements were suggested. He had worried about this moment. Worried that his old masters might find his work lacking. Now, basking in their praises, he began to truly feel he deserved his new rank. Herr Glauber had told him not to worry, but Glauber was a master carpenter, not a blacksmith.

Master Ritterhof cleared his throat and gave Martin a questioning look. “If we may, Master Schmidt, Master Eisenbach and I would like to present a little reward to your staff.”

“And, if we might be so bold, suggest that they be allowed the rest of the day off to enjoy these fruits of their labors,” Master Eisenbach pitched in.

From the corner of his eye, Martin could see the hopeful expressions on the boys’ faces. He didn’t have the heart to deny the boys either the purse Master Ritterhof held or the time off. The boys had done extremely well showing off their work and had been good representatives for Kudzu Werke. Despite his feelings, he kept his face solemn as he turned to face his staff. “Such rewards will end up being the ruin of them, I’m certain.” Now, behind him, he heard a sound suspiciously like a laugh turned into a cough. That would be Master Eisenbach. He’d gotten the voice and accent just right. After four years of hearing that phrase repeated weekly, he certainly should be able to rattle it off.

Max seemed to be fighting to keep his face straight. Carl-Maria and Rudy grinned back openly. Only the apprentices’ faces showed concern. “I do believe, Masters, that these impudent young rogues could use some time to reflect on life. Alas, given your reward and the day off, I am sure that they will do their reflecting in the Thuringen Gardens.”

“As you say, Master Schmidt, as you say.” Master Ritterhof no doubt remembered some of the times Martin had reflected on life in a beer hall when employed in their Jena shop. Thankfully, Master Eisenbach simply smiled, nodded, and silently tapped his lips. No tales would be told today. Masters had to stand together for the good of discipline.

Master Ritterhof tossed the purse to Max and waved the boys out. The three men stood watching the boys race about for coats, hats, and scarves before stampeding out the forge’s door.

“Ah, youth! Did we every have that much energy, Bruno?” Master Eisenbach asked wistfully as the last boy exited.

“I seem to remember you, Herman, and I one time . . . there was a prostitute or two involved and several bottles of wine . . .” Bruno Ritterhof replied dryly. “Yes, you old stick, we were just as lively.”

Joseph Eisenback chuckled. “Ah, Bruno, I believe you have shocked our young Martin with your tale of our misspent youth.”

“He’s bound to learn sometime that a master is just a man who once was a journeyman and before that an apprentice. The title does not confer Godhood, something Herr Hubner would do well to contemplate. Come, Martin, I believe we are to have lunch with Herman today. Will you lead the way?”

“Of course, sirs.” Martin came out his dazed vision of these men as youths and escorted them out. Before locking the shop, he reached over and turned off both the lights and the heater.

Excerpt from TOOL OR DIE

 

Late January, 1632

Martin Schmidt walked briskly down the Tech Center hallway, his mind full of plans. The thread rolling machine was working well and he was eager to take the next step and build a drop forge.

A drop forge needed a source of power to raise the ram. The thread-rolling machine used a salvaged electric motor and the up-time machinists Martin had consulted all agreed that his drop forge would need another electric motor. Unfortunately, electric motors were very useful—so useful, that finding a salvaged one that worked had become nearly impossible. The previous day, Herr Don McConnell had given Martin the names of some people at the Tech Center and suggested that they might know of a suitable motor.

Excited yells and cheers distracted Martin. Under and around the cheers, he heard an odd chuffing noise. The Tech Center was full of wonders and Martin couldn’t resist looking in to see what this one was.

On the floor at the front of the classroom, a small steam engine cheerfully chugged away. Attached to the little engine was a windlass device and the rope from that stretched across the classroom. At the room’s far end sat a little red steel wagon with two large male students shakily perched on top. An elderly man bent over the steam engine and the windlass began to wind up.

To Martin’s amazement, the wagon started to move. It didn’t move very fast but, once started, it and its load rolled steadily along. The students standing around cheered, clapped, and yelled comments to the two riding the little wagon. Most were begging to be the next to ride. The American steam engine man appeared delighted to show his toy off.

The thought struck Martin that if such a small engine could pull two men maybe a larger one could raise the ram of a drop forge. He moved forward as eagerly as the students did, questions bubbling in his mind. Neither Martin’s English nor the elderly American’s German proved up to the discussion that ensued. By appealing to several of the Tech Center’s teachers, both sides finally managed to communicate. The steam engine man called in some others and the discussion continued until a second elderly American finally smiled.

“You’re right, a small steam engine should work. I . . . we’ve . . .” He nodded at the steam engine man. “. . . got a good idea of just the type and size you need. Heck, I’ve got most of the parts in my basement and I know which of the steamheads have the rest.” His eyes twinkling, the elderly man grinned. “It’ll be fun job for us old farts, too.”

One of the Tech Center teachers spoke up then, “Can you do the work up here at the Center? We need to capture your knowledge . . .”

“Sure, we could, son,” snorted the old man. “But my basement workshop’s set up for steam and the parts are there. Send over anyone you want; just let my wife know how many are coming.”

The Tech Center teachers seemed confident so Martin took a leap of faith and commissioned a steam engine. He didn’t know exactly what manner of steam engine he had just commissioned but if he had understood the steamheads correctly there were other machines the engine could power, too. He asked and the steam engine man replied.

“Son, you can run a whole machine shop off a steam engine. My grandfather’s shop ran off steam. My father didn’t electrify the shop until 1942.”

Martin was confused until one of those interpreting added, “That was probably a good twenty years after electricity and electric motors were available. Lots of machine shops were powered by a steam engine. Changing to electric motors took money and some people didn’t see a reason to change.”

Martin’s hopes flared. The biggest problem in replicating up-time machines was how to power them. Here was an answer. Given a steam engine he would be able to build lathes and mills and . . . Martin gave himself a mental shake. There would be time enough for those thoughts, once the drop forge was built and running. Machines needed gears and with a drop forge, he could produce gears. Lots of gears.

 

February, 1632

The up-timers, Herr Reardon and Herr McConnell, worked with him, designing and building the drop forge. It was crude compared to the sleek up-time machines but, as Herr McConnell put it, “You can frigging well pretty up the next frigging one.”

As the parts of the drop forge came together, Martin realized that he had a problem. The hardened steel punches and dies the forge needed were costly and there weren’t enough funds left after paying for the rest of the drop forge. He knew that Kudzu Werke’s blacksmith shop was doing well but he’d been happy to let Herman handle the financial end. Drop forges were useless without proper dies. Packing up drawings and his list, he went to Herr Glauber to ask for money.

Herman Glauber listened carefully while Martin went into detail on which punches and dies were the most important. When Martin was finished speaking, Glauber solemnly asked, “How much will cost to buy all the dies and punches for the parts you intend to make?”

Swallowing hard, Martin named a sum that equaled two good years’ wages.

“Ah, Martin. ” Glauber smiled. “So much? Well, things are going well. Your fiddly little nuts and bolts sell well and the reclining chair is starting to sell, also. I have money here—just a bit of extra cash, mind you.” Glauber reached into his pocket and pulled out some bills. He carefully counted them, folded them over and dropped the wad into Martin’s hands. “Top quality work—that’s what I expect from Herr Reardon. Be certain you get the best set of punches and dies you can from him.” Glauber then excused himself and hurried off, leaving a stunned Martin counting out enough American dollars to buy the full set of punches and dies.

And so, in March, with snow still on the ground, all the parts of the drop forge came together. A group of up-timers, most of them elderly, arrived with the steam engine. For the next two weeks there always seemed to be at least two or three of the ‘steamheads’ around fussing over the new engine. Several people from the Tech Center floated around, sketching, scribbling, and otherwise recording the steam engine’s installation.

Martin insisted, much to the steamheads’ delight, that all of the boys be instructed on the care and feeding of the engine. None of the boys had objected and other shops’ apprentices often stood around watching, envy written clearly on their faces.

Herr McConnell made a point of coming by everyday, commenting, suggesting, and helping when the pieces didn’t want to fit together. Finally, they had produced their first forged parts to the applause of Herr Reardon, Herr McConnell, all the steamheads, and two Tech Center teachers. When the cheering died down, everyone headed off to the Gardens for a celebration. Herr Reardon pulled Martin aside.

“Most of the damned thing looks like it came out of the Middle Ages. It’s crude and ugly but it works. ” He paused and looked back at the drop forge. “The next one you make will be better.”

 

April, 1632

Karl Ritterhof grunted in satisfaction. “Okay, Hans, this is how the firebox should look.” Stepping back, Karl let the smaller apprentice peer past him.

“A picture of perfection, Karl. As usual.” Hans Gehrt gestured back toward the Kudzu Werke building. “Too bad we won’t need steam much longer. They’ve only got a couple of more blanks left.”

A heavy thump and a brief shaking of the ground came from the building beside the boys. Kudzu Werke’s new drop forge was making its presence known.

“And you know this because Master Schmidt has taken to confiding in you?”

“I’ve got eyes,” Hans grinned, “Besides Max and Carl-Maria were yelling about the steel shipment being short as well as late. Master Schmidt’s gone up to the steel works to complain.”

“We do have other work. Jakob will be wanting to run more of his rulers.”

“Ha! Jakob’s not wanting to do anything but go to the Gardens with Heinrich. Rudy’s going with them. Besides, Bertha said they’ve got a month’s supply of blank rulers that need etching and painting.”

“Tsk, tsk!” Karl stood straight, towering a head above the younger boy. He struggled to assume a stern look. “Remember your place, Apprentice Gehrt. Journeymen Ohl and Tausch may allow you familiarity but you must address Fraulein Klepsch properly.”

Hans grinned slyly. “Which Fraulein Klepsch should I be so formal with? Elise who teases me when I’m cleaning flashing from ruler blanks? Or Bertha who gives me apples and sticky buns because she thinks I’m too skinny?”

Karl tried to think of a suitable retort on the way back into the shop.

✽✽✽

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