Are you ready for Christmas once again? I’m getting there . . .
When it came time to wrap the presents for tomorrow, I found my supply of coal depleted. Nothing remained but a few crumbs. Local urchins must have been pilfering when I wasn’t looking. Something had to be done, and fast.
I drove a few miles north to an area where the railroad runs close to Northeast street. Parking the car in the weeds, I set off down the track. A mile or so later, my objective came into sight: the old University coaling station.
I walked down the line until I reached the end, where years of coal cars had covered the ground in fine black gravel. Bending down to scoop a few handfuls, my eye was drawn by a glitter just ahead.
I’ve walked thought that area countless times, and realized I had missed it all those years. Millions of pounds of coal had arrived through that siding, all to be burned at the University heating plant. So what happened to the residue? The ash and slag were cleaned out of the furnaces on a regular basis.
Some of the ash was used by the Mortuary College, to train future crematory operators. Others in the same program practiced disposal, spreading the ash in a fine layer over the School of Farming’s fields.
They never did find a use for the hard, glittery slag. In the end, the bigger chunks were piled next to the coal, and loaded onto trains for disposal somewhere out West. Somewhere in the desert, whole neighborhoods have been built on University slag, held together with fine cemented fly ash.
The power station is long closed, replaced by an efficient nuclear reactor, but the siding remains, rusting away slowly. The brightest gems of slag are gone, but I found enough glittery bits to make a special Christmas indeed.
Combined with a few handfuls of fine pebble coal, the effect will be memorable.
I’m off to get ready. The kids are coming soon.