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“What's this for?” he demanded of the boss.
"Because you don't watch your furnace!" snarled the boss in reply. "You've touched that roof! There are icicles on it right now!”
Pete walked over to the air-valves, jerked the lever, and threw up the middle door. "Show me an icicle in there!” he cried. “I'll give you five hundred dollars for every one you point out!"
"Lower that door!" roared the boss. "And get down to Num10 ber Ten! Or go get your time, if you prefer!"
Pete was silent for a moment. Then he threw up his head and laughed. Going to his locker, he took out his lunch-pail and started for Number Ten.
"I rather think I am goin' to take a trip back to Minnesota 15 pretty soon—to see the folks, you know," he said to me that afternoon.
Number Ten melted “soft” that day, and Pete could not get the heat hot. We pigged steadily for two hours, but it remained
cold and dead. We were played out when, about four o'clock, 20 the boss came up.
“Why don't you get that heat out ?” he demanded. “You've been ten hours on it already!” Pete made no reply. “Where's a test-bar?” He shoved the test-bar into the bath, moved it
slowly back and forth, and withdrew it. "She's hot now! Take 25 her out!”
Pete looked at the end of the bar. It was ragged, not bitten off clean as it would have been had the temperature of the bath been right. "She's a long way from bein' hot,” he said, pointing at the test-bar.
"Don't you dispute me!” roared the boss. "If I say she's hot, she's hot! If I tell you to take her out, you take her out!”
We took out the heat. And a miserable mess there was. It was so cold it froze up in the tap-hole, it froze up in the runner,
it froze up in the ladle. The entire heat was lost. It was an 35 angry crew of men that worked with sledges, bars, and picks,
cleaning up the mess.
the mess. I was sorry the boss could not know how much that bunch of men loved him.
I saw him approaching Pete; I saw him shaking his clenched fist; I heard an ugly word; the lie was passed, a blow was struck, 5 and the long-expected fight was on.
Out on the smooth iron floor, in the glare of the furnace flames—someone had hoisted the three doors to the top—the two enemies fought it out. They were giants in build, both of them,
muscled and thewed like gladiators. It was a brutal, savage 10 exhibition. Finally, the boss reeled, dropped to his knees, swayed back and forth, and went down.
Pete, having floored the boss, took a bath, changed his clothes, shook hands all round, and came seeking me. “Well, buddy,
I'm off," he chuckled, peeping at me from a chink in his swollen 15 face. “Like as not I'll be shuckin' punkins up in Minnesota
this time next week. Oh, no use my tryin' to stick it out hereyou can't stay here, you know, when you've had a go with the boss. So long!"
I did not go to work the next day, nor the next. I was delib20 erating whether I would go back at all, the morning of the third
day, when the “maid of all work” came looking for me. "Pete wants you to come to work,” he announced.
"Pete?" I said, wondering what he meant.
"Yes! Oh, the super, he ain't blind, he ain't! He knowed what was goin' on, he did, and it didn't take him long to fix him when he'd heerd the peticlars. I'll tell Pete you'll be comin' along soon.” And Mike departed.
I went back and resumed my old position on Number Three, with John Yakabowski, a Pole. Yakabowski was an exceptionally able furnace-man and an agreeable fellow workman. There was great rejoicing all over the plant because our old boss was
out, and there was general satisfaction over Pete's appointment 35 to his place. This feeling among the men was soon reflected
in the output of the furnaces—our tonnage showed a steady increase.
Pete was nervous and ill at ease for a few weeks. To assume the responsibilities that go with the foremanship of an open5 hearth plant the size of that one was almost too much for him.
He was afraid he would make some mistake that would show him to be unworthy of the trust the superintendent had placed in him.
"No education—that's where I'm weak!” he said to me in 10 one of our confidential chats. “Can't write, can't figger, can't talk-don't know nothin'! It's embarrassin'! The super tells
me to use two thousand of manganese on a hundred-and-fiftythousand-pound charge. That's easy-I just tell a hunky to
wheel in two thousand. But s'pose that lunk-head out in them 15 scales goes wrong, and charges in a hundred and sixty-five
thousand pounds and doesn't tell me until ten minutes before we're ready to tap-how am I goin' to figger out how much more manganese to put in? Or when the chief clerk writes me a nice letter, requestin' a statement showin' how many of my men have
, 20 more than ten children, how many of 'em can read the Declara
tion of Independence, and how many of 'em eat oatmeal for breakfast, why, I'm up against it, I tell you! No education! I reckon I ought never to've left the farm. Hey, buddy?”
I understood Pete's gentle hint, and I took care of his clerical 25 work, writing what few letters he had to send out, making up his statements, doing his calculating, and so forth.
Six months passed. Pete had “made good.” The management was highly pleased with him as a melter. Success had
come to me, too, in a modest way—I had been given a furnace 30 I was now a "first helper.” It was about the time I took the
furnace that I began to notice a falling off in the number of requests from Pete for assistance. I thought little of it, supposing that he was getting his work done by one of the weighers.
But one night when there was a lull in operations and I went 35 down to his office to have a chat with him, I found him seated at his little desk poring over an arithmetic. Scattered about in front of him were a number of sheets of paper covered with figures. He looked up at me and grinned in a rather shamefaced
"Oh, that's it, is it?” I said. “Now I understand why I am no longer of any use to the boss!”
“Well, I just had to do somethin',” he laughed. “Couldn't afford to go right on bein' an ignoramus all the time.”
“Are you studying it out alone?”
"You bet I ain't. I'd never get there if I was! I've got a teacher, a private teacher. Swell, eh? He comes every other night, when I'm workin' days, and every other afternoon, when I'm workin' nights. Gee, but I'm a bonehead! He's told me
so a dozen times, but the other day he said he thought I was 15 softenin' up a bit.”
Good old Pete! I left him that night with my admiration for the man increased a hundred times.
Another six months passed, six months of hard, grinding, wearing toil, and yet a six months I look back upon with genu20 ine pleasure. I now had the swing of the work and it came easy;
conditions about the plant under Pete's supervision were ideal; I was making progress in the work I had adopted; we were making good money. Then came the black day.
How quickly it happened! I had tapped my furnace, and the 25 last of the heat had run into the ladle. “Hoist away!" I heard
Pete shout to the crane-man. The humming sound of the crane motors getting into action came to my ears. I took a look at my roof, threw in a shovelful of spar, turned on the gas, and
walked toward the rear of the furnace. The giant crane was 30 groaning and whining as it slowly lifted its eighty-ton burden
from the pit where the ladle stood. It was then five or six feet above the pit's bottom. Pete was leaning over the railing of the platform directly in front of the rising ladle.
Suddenly something snapped up there among the shafts and 35 cables. I saw two men in the crane cab go swarming up the escape-ladder. I saw the ladle drop as a broken cable went flying out of a sheave. A great white wave of steel washed over the ladle's rim, and another, and another.
Down upon a shallow pool of water that a leaking hose had 5 formed, the steel was splashed, and as it struck, the explosion
came. I was blown from my feet and rolled along the floor. The air was filled with bits of fiery steel, slag, brick, and débris of all kinds. I crawled to shelter behind a column and there beat out
the flames that were burning my clothing in a half-dozen places. 10 Then, groping through the pall of dust and smoke that choked the building, I went to look for Pete.
Near the place where I had seen him standing when the ladle fell I found him. Two workmen, who had been crouching behind
a wall when the explosion came, and were unhurt, were tearing 15 his burning clothes from his seared and blackened body. Some
body brought a blanket, and we wrapped it about him. We doubted if he lived, but as we carried him back I noted he was trying to speak, and stooping, I caught the words: “Ought never to have left the farm, ought we? Hey, buddy?”
That was the last time I ever heard Pete speak. That was the last time I ever saw him alive.
Two o'clock in the morning. Sitting at the little desk where I found Pete that night poring over his arithmetic, I have been
writing down my early experiences in the open hearth. Here 25 comes Yakabowski with a test. I know exactly what he will
say: "Had I better give her a dose of ore?" Two o'clock in the morning! The small man at the gate was right: Nightwork is no good!
I was mistaken; Yakabowski doesn't ask his customary ques30 tion. He looks at me curiously. “You don't look good, boss," he says. "You sick, maybe?"
Yes, I'm sick-I always am at two o'clock in the morning, when I'm on the night shift. I stretch, I yawn, I shudder.
“Ought never to have left the farm, ought we? Hey, Yaka35 bowski?” I say to the big Pole.