EVERY day, in all parts of the country, the men who do the work of the world are facing dangers seen and unseen. There is no calling so prosaic but that it has its peculiar perils, or so spectacular but that grim death, often in the most hideous form, lurks constantly in the background. But this cloud of terror that lowers over us is not without its silver lining. Seldom does the bolt of danger strike but that the hero of the moment or of the hour is there to meet it. The swift emergency raises commonplace plodders to the plane of the heroes of the world and transforms cowards into brave men who count their own lives as nothing if, by laying them down, they can save the lives of others. From all walks of life they come, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children even, and thousands of their deeds are never chronicled. The comparatively few that do reach us through word of mouth or public print go far to restore our faith in human nature.
THE railroad wreck at Salisbury, England, last June, in which many Americans lost their lives, was redeemed from utter horror only by the fortitude of the injured. A fine story of pluck is told of Chick, the fireman of the stationary engine into which the express dashed after it left the rails on the curve. Terribly scalded as he was when he was brought out of the wreckage, Chick refused to be carried on a stretcher to the infirmary. The doctors had just arrived with a few stretchers, but the fireman said:
"Look to the others who are worse hurt than me - I can walk."
Deceived by his fortitude, the doctors allowed him to go, and the plucky fellow actually walked to the infirmary, where he collapsed at once. When he recovered he asked immediately after the injured. A few hours later he was dead.
Gave His Life for Three Others.
THREE lives were saved at the cost of one in Kokomo, Indiana, July 3. Frank Curless, a boy of fifteen, brought his brother and two companions out of the river where cramps had seized them, but the effort was too much for him, and he fell back and was drowned just as he swung the last boy to safety.
Two Saved from Drowning at Once.
TWO more rescues were added last July to the already long list which stands to the credit of Matthew M. Leary, an instructor in the Boston gymnasium and public baths. Two girls, Jennie Edwardson and Annie Ryan, bathing at Wood Island Park, were carried out of their depth, and the cry went up that they were drowning. Leary dove for the girls and brought them safely to shore, fifty feet away, one in each arm.
Unconscious but Still a Life-Saver.
POLICEMEN and firemen are expected to take long chances, but to dive fully clad into the whirlpool where the current of the Bronx Kills struggles with the tide that races through the East River is rather more than the contract calls for. Yet that was what Policeman Heffron, of Manhattan, did to save the five-year-old son of Detective Wyckman, of the Bronx detective bureau. The boy was in a rowboat with three older companions, and when the boat was caught in the swirl where the current comes through the kills he was thrown out or jumped out in terror. Heffron, on shore, seized a boat, rowed out to the struggling boy, and plunged in as he stood, coated and shod. The current was too strong for him and whirled his boat out of his reach as he strove to swim back to it after he had caught the boy. When members of the harbor squad dragged them out, policeman and boy were both unconscious, but the officer's hand was gripped tight on the collar of the boy's jacket.
From Safety to Peril to Save Life.
SIX months after the fact, President Roosevelt gave public recognition to one of the nerviest feats performed in the history of railroading. On December 21, 1905, George H. Williams, of Quincy, Massachusetts, was at the throttle of the "One Minute" flyer pulling out of Quincy. Suddenly he caught sight of a woman on the track dead ahead, apparently doomed to death beneath his train or a passenger train running rapidly in on the other track. To shut off steam and throw on the air was the work of an instant, and Williams sprang out on the running board and down to the cow-catcher, hoping to catch the woman before the engine should strike her.
Before he could reach her, confused by the roar of the two trains, she sprang across the track directly in the path of the other engine. Unhesitatingly Williams left the safety of the cow-catcher of his own engine and sprang after her, seizing her and throwing her to safety as the other engine bore down on them. The woman landed clear, but the right side of the cow-catcher caught Williams and tossed him to one side, unconscious, and apparently dead.
Three months in the Quincy city hospital brought him around. Meanwhile, the woman whom he had saved, Mrs. H. H. Hill, of Quincy, was moving heaven and earth to insure his reward. Finally, after much unwinding of red tape, the President granted Williams one of the little bronze medals provided for in the act of February 25, 1905. Only two others have been awarded, and the honor is not to be lightly held.
Fireman Does Daring Circus Trick.
WHEN New York City's firemen answer an alarm, dangers multiply in the already peril-strewn streets. Street-cars, trucks, cabs, carriages, automobiles, the pillars of the elevated roads all seem to lie in wait for the galloping fire-horses and bounding, swaying trucks. The mettle of the department is shown by the fact that the drivers never hesitate if the choice lies between a crowded crossing with its likelihood of bruised and trampled people and a lamp-post or pillar with sure disaster to the engine or truck. The lamp-post or pillar it is every time.
One of the nerviest tricks in many a day was done by Foreman William J. Walsh, of Truck No. 6, on July 12. Engine No.31 had answered an alarm from the corner of Canal and Center Streets, and was in position on the corner. Truck No. 6 was coming east through Canal Street at a fast gallop, with James Daniels driving. As the truck topped a little rise and swung down a grade on the other side Daniels laid back on his three plunging horses when suddenly the left rein snapped. The driver gripped the other rein hard and shouted to the men around No.31 to get out of the way. A collision seemed inevitable when Foreman Walsh appeared climbing over the ladders of the truck. His right arm was in bandages, a slight reminder of the skylight that had fallen on him at another Canal Street fire a week before; but he gained the driver's seat and leaped to the back of the center horse.
It was touch-and-go, for they were almost on the engine; but Walsh caught the broken rein and, pulling with all the strength of his one sound arm, swerved the truck to one side. Six inches less, and truck, engine, horses, and men would have gone down in a tangled, murderous collision. The danger averted, Walsh dropped to the ground and went calmly back to his place by the truck.
Sings as Death Hangs Over Him.
WHEN Herman Fischer, the young Staten Island plumber, was buried in the tunnel of his own digging at Tompkinsville, last summer, it is hard to say who displayed the greater powers of endurance, the buried plumber or the firemen who rescued him. For twenty two hours the work of rescue went on unceasingly, and during that time Fischer sang and shouted cheerful encouragement from the hole that might at any moment become his tomb. Meanwhile, the firemen denied themselves sleep and even food and drink, save such as they could snatch without pausing in their work. To reach Fischer it was necessary to dig a trench twenty feet deep, ten feet long, and three feet wide. Then the rocks that held the plumber's feet were split with cold chisels and he was drawn out of danger with a block and tackle, dirty, ragged, bruised, his face as white as chalk, but still cheerful.
"Well, Fisch, how are you?" asked Deputy Chief Guerin, who had superintended the rescue.
"Fine as silk," answered the redoubtable plumber, undaunted by his twenty-two hours of suffering. "What's next on the program?"
Fight Hot Steam to Stop Their Train.
THE railroad men who should have careful consideration as possible wearers of the railroad life-saving medal established by Congress a year and a half ago are Engineer W. H. Swain and Fireman Louis Morgan, of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. On the 6th of last February they were taking their train, the Pacific Express, over the regular run west-bound. They had reached the bottom of a long grade about four miles out of Bridal Veil, the sixth station east of Portland, when the injector-pipe exploded and the cab was filled with blinding, blistering, scalding steam. It was flee or be cooked alive, and the engineer and fireman fled to the tender. Then sober second thought came to them. The flyer was on the track ahead somewhere near Bridal Veil, delayed by a refractory engine. With two hundred pounds of steam and the momentum of a long down-grade run, there was nothing that could prevent the express from crashing at full speed into the rear of the flyer. Let the fireman tell his own story of what happened:
While the fireman was fighting forward over the top of the cab, the engineer was struggling desperately to reach the throttle through the rear. Again and again he plunged forward, only to be driven back by the scalding steam that boiled out through the broken injector-pipe. When the flesh began to drop from his scalded hands and he could no longer see, he gave up trying to reach the throttle and crawled painfully back over the tender, hoping to uncouple the air-hose at the rear and so set the brakes. But he had stayed too long in the steam of the cab, and the flesh dropped from his hands whenever he grasped the hose. He was lying across the bumpers, still fighting to release the imprisoned air, when his engine struck the flyer. The collision had not been averted, but if the fireman had not caught the throttle when be did the locomotive would have plowed into the Pullmans of the flyer at full speed. As it was, no lives were lost.
Can Wear Three Life-Saving Medals.
JOHN J. SWEENEY, an employee of the Department of Charities of New York City, has received his third medal for life-saving, this time from the United States Treasury Department. The two others are from the Life-Saving Benevolent Association of New York and the Volunteer Life-Saving Corps. He has about a dozen rescues from drowning to his credit.