Jim Skeevers runs a freight engine on a road where the men do
pretty much as they please - so long as they pull the trains. To be
sure, there is a monthly bulletin of coal and oil used and repairs
made, but no one is censured for using too much or complimented or
paid for using little. The firemen are not required to clean much
and-it's a pretty easy place to get along.
But Skeevers prides himself on economy of fuel and
oil, in doing his work well, and getting along with a reason for everything. Among other
things, Skeevers likes to see his engine wiped off and the front end and stack neatly
blackened, and Skeevers' fireman generally has the neatest looking engine on the road.
Other firemen quit cleaning cab brasses, wiped the jackets about once a week instead of
daily, and quit painting the front end altogether long ago. Then they guyed Skeevers'
fireman, and called him a fool and a sucker and a chump, till Skeevers' fireman got sick
of it and struck for liberty. He didn't wipe the dust off her, and she went out with her
front end looking pretty scabby - for Skeevers.
When Skeevers got to the engine in the yard the other day he put his siege-can in the
box, got out his overclothes, put them on, and started around with the long can. Billy sat
on his seat and smoked a cob pipe.
Skeevers got up on the deck, wiped off his can, and remarked rather hintfully:
"Forgot to dust her off this time, didn't ye, Bill?"
"No," said Bill, "I got sick of being guyed by the rest of the gang, and
called names, and bein' accused of trying to make firemen do more work, and cleaning for
my ride after firing for my day's pay and all that."
"Billy," said Skeevers, "it's all right; don't blame you at all. It
takes a long time to find out that you know your own business best. Now, haven't you often
heard it from all quarters that we had the best looking engine on the road? Yes, 'course
you have. Don't she run lightest on coal and on oil? Never was beat. Do you have to wipe a
dose off her once a year because she was too full of water? No; because we are careful and
take pains in our work. We may be suckers, but it's a good deal of satisfaction for me to
know we're doin' our work about right - near as we can, anyhow. But it's wrong, I guess,
Billy, dead wrong, after all. So let's do as the rest do; you fire and clean just as the
other boys do, and I'll run just as the other runners do; there's no use in bein'
Billy had expected a row with Skeevers, and felt quite relieved that he took to the
change so good naturedly, and in a few minutes both were busy, as they pulled out with a
Skeevers jammed the injector on full just as they started, and Billy had a hard
half-hour's work bringing his green fire up, with the pressure down 20
was tired and sweaty when the engine commenced to churn water through her stack,
plastering the front windows with dope. Skeevers jerked his head inside the window,
smiled, said he forgot it, shut off the injector, and eased off the throttle, then she
commenced to howl, and Billy opened the door.
Skeevers was working her down a notch further than usual, and it told on the coal pile,
and Billy remarked that it was an awful hard pulling train, by way of calling Skeevers'
attention to it, but Skeevers agreed that the train did pull hard.
Skeevers forgot to put the injector on again till the water was down to one gauge, then
he acted startled, and put it on full. The fire was low, and Bill had another fight. This
was repeated all day, and each time the coal got further and further away.
Half-way over the division they took 150 bushels of coal, where they never took more
Skeevers kept good-natured. Bill was mad.
"I think you are doin' this a-purpose," said Bill, at last.
"Doin' what?" asked Skeevers, as innocent as a child.
"Why, pounding this engine so hard, and workin' water, startin' out in the corner,
wide open, and pullin' my fire all to pieces."
"Is there any other engine on this road that don't burn more than 6 tons of coal
over this division?" asked Skeevers.
"No; but she never burnt but 4½ and 5 before," said Billy.
"Yes, but that was when we was both careful and worked together," said
Skeevers, as he prepared to get off at the end of the run; "but none of the rest of
the engineers are careful about coal; what's the use of me being? And when a man works as
hard as you have to-day he would be a fool to put in an extra hour cleaning and fussing
around; we get just as much money when we don't as when we do. Good night, Billy."
The next morning, when Skeevers came down to go out, the "Mary Ann" was wiped
up, her front end black, and Billy was whistling "Annie Rooney" and spitting on
the side windows to make the whiting take hold.
"Skeevers," said he, "I'd a good deal rather put in half an hour a trip
cleaning up than to shovel coal against that extra notch and an injector that 'forgits.'
Just run her like you used to, Skeevers, and I'll keep her tidy."