Skinny Skeevers has had a hard row to hoe this last year - he's been roundhouse foreman.
Skeevers has been trying for eight mortal months to find out whether he is an "official" or just "one of the hands," and he don't know yet.
He had hardly had time to warm the seat in his little office near "the board" when the company cut the pay ten per cent. - kind o' sudden like. Skinny had been in one strike, and, being a student of the times, concluded in just thirty seconds by the watch that he didn't mind about the nine dollars the cut took off his monthly check - but he had trouble about it.
The runners commenced to be careless about their work, and reported lots of it that they formerly did themselves. Skinny kept after the roundhouse force with a sharp stick, and was just about keeping his head level, when the company ordered the shop force reduced twenty per cent. - Skeevers asked for his run again.
The Old Man refused.
Skinny thought great gobs of think. He concluded to shame the runners into doing something. "Jim Loftus," said he, "you don't want the reputation of running as expensive as Crazy Horse Hays. Now, look here; last month your running repairs were higher than Hays' and almost double what they were the same month last year. Now you've reported a set-screw put in the front end of your main rod; a machinist will charge up an hour on the '318' for that. Why don't you go into the back shop and get a set-screw and put it in yourself, like you used to?"
"Company pays for puttin' that set-screw in, don't it, Skeevers?"
"Yes, but man" -
"All right, Skinny, me boy, if the company kicks about it, tell 'em I'll pay for the time - they ken jest take it out o' the ten per cent they took out o' me!"
Skeevers couldn't argue much against that kind of logic. He found the stove committee in a hot discussion, and tried a little reasoning of the general managerial order.
"You fellows know, just as well as I do, that the company is in a hole," said he, "they are losing money hand over fist, and I say it's no more than fair that the men stand some share of it - don't they promise to restore the wages when times pick up?"
"Have you got any notes in your diaree showin' as how the company divided up with the men year before last when we had five months of a coal rush? You know they had a bulge on the price and the freight. What's sass for the rooster is good enough dessert for the hen. Them's my sentiments!" This from Hen. Jorge, one of the oldest and best men on the road.
"Youst you vate," said Otto Dietrich, the socialist member, "undil ve ged dot co-oberadive com"
"Right ye air, Dutchy," said Hank Bitters, "when we git to heaven 'there'll be no sorrer there.' In the meantime I set up no more wedges till they pay me three-eighty-five for a hundred miles, see!"
The strike fever got epidemic. Some of Skeevers' men were exposed, and it broke out among the firemen. Dirty Evans refused to wipe off the "113," and Skeevers advised him to go into the fertilizer business - and gave him his time.
Then the whole lay-out took their time - to go out.
The master mechanic ordered Skeevers to send out wipers, helpers and pumpkin huskers from the four corners of the earth to fire engines.
The boilers had chills, the trains were late - and Skeevers got red-hot letters from the trainmaster.
Skeevers had smoke coming out of 48 per cent. of his mills when the engineers concluded that it wasn't safe to run the engines.
The master mechanic undertook to make up No.8, and got the "321" off a short rail - then he ordered Skeevers to make it up.
The chairman of the committee told Skeevers he'd be expelled if he did. The master mechanic said he'd be fired if he didn't Skinny compromised by making up half the train, and then getting off the track himself.
The superintendent said Skeevers was too much in sympathy with "the rest of the men."
The old-timers said they could win if it wa'n't for "officials" like Skinny Skeevers doin' "men's work."
After the trouble was over the men who got back said: "Skeevers was just as nice an 'official' as they ever worked for." Those who did'n't get back called him a "scab."
Skeevers had his tin wedding last month, and the general manager sent him a mantel clock "for faithful and efficient service during the recent labor troubles," and the Knights of Labor sent him a set of engrossed resolutions thanking him for "demonstrating his fealty to the cause of labor in the recent upheaval."
Skeevers is muddled for once in his life, and don't just know where he stands. He stated the case at great length to his wife on Sunday last, and asked for an expert opinion - she was alarmed.
"Why, bless my soul, James Skeevers," said she, "what's a-goin' to happen? This is the first time in my life I ever saw or heard of a thing you couldn't squirm around into one of your infernal object lessons. This is one of 'em, I know; but I can't for the life of me see where it comes in - but you ought to. There's something the matter with your liver, or digestion, or something. Lie right down, dear, and I'll make you some ginger tea - what you want is a good sweat."