The regular man took a ninety-days' leave a while ago to go East, and Jim Skeevers was appointed traveling engineer, pro tem.
Skeevers' principal duty seemed to be examining firemen for promotion and going out to buck snow.
They have a new general superintendent and he is a terror on examinations. He ordered all the engineers, old and young, examined on time card, and if one of them wavered he sent him to the master mechanic for a mechanical examination.
Finally he turned this around and ordered Skeevers to examine all the engineers, and if any of them wavered in the mechanical line to send 'em to him.
The day after the order came out the Stove Committee were discussing it, when Skeevers came through the roundhouse.
"Skinny Skeevers fired for me ten years ago," said Si Lapan, "and I don't guess he'll monkey examining me much." Here he saw Skeevers and continued:
"Say, Skinny, do you intend givin' us old timers the same question to answer as you do these young ducks?"
"Yes. What's the use of doing a thing 'less you do it right? If you know the answers better than the young fellows, so much the better for you."
"It's all poppy-cock; ain't I run here twenty years?"
"Yes, but the new management have made many changes and are going to adopt a new book of rules; trains are getting thicker; we have some signals; we're using joint track, and, all in all, a fellow has to be pretty well posted to keep out of trouble. The fault with you old fellows is that you don't keep posted - you learned how once, but never kept track of improvements."
"I'll bet you I kin answer more questions than you can, come now."
"Oh, I'm not setting myself up for an example. You will pass on your merits, no doubt. Now, there has been two dozen young fellows examined, and the same question is asked 'em all first. You don't keep track of the run of things, and I'll bet you can't answer it now."
"Bet you the cigars."
"All right; for the crowd, Si."
"For the crowd."
"Well, Si. What is a time card?"
"Oh, Lordy! What's a time card? Why, well, a time card is a - well, it's a thing to run trains by."
"No, it is'nt."
"Well, it's the thing that tells the first-class and second-class trains apart, and which has the right of the road, and where to meet, and where to stop, and when."
"Not much; you're thinking of the book of rules; we're talking about time card only."
"Well, it governs the running of trains."
"Say, Si, if you were out here at Dodd's on 'No. 1' and '22' wasn't there, what would you do?"
"Go ahead, 'No. 1' has the right."
"Suppose you were on '22'?"
"Well, if I could'nt get there, I'd lay back at Somers."
"Yes, but the time card makes you meet 'No. 1' at Dodd's."
"But if you could'nt get there -"
"Then how does it govern the running of trains? The book of rules does that. Si, you don't know. Well, I'll tell you, as this is no regular examination. A time card is a list of the stations and the time at which it is proposed to have the trains arrive at or leave such stations."
"I smoke perfectos, don't you, boys?"