AT the end of every shift, when I walked toward the green mill-gate, just past the edge of the power house, I could look over toward the blast-furnaces. There were five of them, standing up like very fat cigars some hundred feet in height. A maze of pipes, large as tunnels, twisted about them, and passed into great boilers, three or four of which rose between each two furnaces.
These I learned were ‘stoves’ for heating the blast.
I had had in mind for several days asking for a transfer to this interesting apparatus. There was less lifting of dead weight on the blast-furnace jobs than on the open-hearth. Besides, I wanted to see the beginning of the making of steel — the first transformation the ore catches, on its way toward becoming a steel rail, or a surgical instrument.
I went to see the blast-furnace superintendent, Mr. Beck, at his house on Superintendent’s Hill.
‘I am working on the open-hearth,’ I said, ‘and want, very much to get transferred to the blast-furnace. I intend to learn the steel business, and want to see the beginnings of things.’
‘How much education?’ he asked.
‘I graduated from college,’ I said — ‘Yale College.’
Would that complicate the thing, I wondered, or get in the way? I wanted badly to sit down for a talk, tell him the whole story; army, Washington, hopes and fears — I liked him a good deal. But he was in a hurry — perhaps that might come on a later day.
We talked a little. He said I ought to come into the office for a while and ‘learn to figure burdens.’ I replied that I wanted the experience of the outside, and a start at the bottom.
‘All right,’ he said, ‘I’ll put you outside. Come Monday morning.’
On Monday morning I followed the cindered road inside the gate for three hundred yards, turned off across a railroad track, and passed a machine-shop. The concrete bases of the blast-furnaces rose before me. Somebody had just turned a wheel on the side of one of the boiler-like ‘stoves,’ and a deafening blare, like tons of steam getting away, broke on my eardrums. I asked where the office was.
Up some steps, over a concrete platform, past the blaring ‘stove,’ I went, to the other side of the furnaces, and found there a flat, dirty building — the office. Inside was Mr. Beck, who turned me over at once to Adolph, the ‘stove-gang boss.’
I was a little anxious over this introduction to things, and thought it might embarrass or prevent comradeships. But it did n’t. No one knew, or, if he did, ever gave it a thought. It may perhaps have accounted for Adolph’s letting me keep my clothes in his shanty that night, and for considerable conversation he vouchsafed on the first day. But my individuality passed quickly, very quickly; I became no more than a part of that rather dingy unit, the stove-gang.
While I was putting on my clothes in Adolph’s sheet-iron shanty, he grinned and said, ‘Last time, pretty dirty job, too, eh?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘open-hearth.’
He led me out of the shanty, past three stoves, up an iron staircase, past a blast-furnace, and through a ‘casthouse.’ That is not as interesting as I hoped. It is merely a place of many ditches, or run-ways, that lead the molten iron from the furnace to the ladle. Very little iron is ever ‘cast,’ since the blast-furnaces here make iron only for the sake of swiftly transporting it, while still hot, to the Bessemer and open-hearth, for further metamorphosis into steel.
We came at last to more stoves, a set of three for No. 4 blast-furnace. Near the middle one was a little group of seven men, three of them with a bar, which they thrust and withdrew constantly in an open door of the stove. Inside were shelving masses and gobs of glowing cinder.
‘You work with these fellers,’ Adolph said, and passed out of sight along the stoves.
I watched carefully for a long time, which was a cardinal rule of practice with me on joining up with a new gang. It was best, I thought, to shut up, and study for a spell the characters of the men, the movements and knacks of the job. I think this reserve helped, for the men were first to make advances, and before the day was out, I had a lifehistory from most of them.
‘Where you work, las’ job?’ asked a little Italian with a thin, blond moustache, after he had finished his turn on the crow-bar.
‘Open-hearth,’ I said, ‘third-helper.’
‘I work three week open-hearth,’ he said; ‘too hot, no good.’
‘Hot all right,’ I said; ‘how’s this job?’
‘Oh, pretty good, this no’ing,’ he said; ‘sometimes we go in stove, clean ’em up, hot in there like hell. Some day all right, some day no good.’
I had been watching the stove, and caught the simple order of movements. Two or three men, with long lunging thrusts, loosened the glowing cinder inside a firebox; another pulled it out with a hoe into a steel wheelbarrow; another dumped the load on a growing pile of cinder over the edge of the platform. When one of the men disappeared for a chew, I grabbed the wheelbarrow at hauling-out time, and worked into the job.
In fifteen minutes that fire-box was cleared out, and we moved to the next stove. We skipped that; the door was locked and wedged. I learned later that if we had opened it, the blast (being ‘on’ in the stove) would in all likelihood have killed all of us. It blew out with sufficient pressure to carry a man forty yards. But the next stove we tackled. I tried the thrusting of the bar this time. The trick is to aim well at a likely crack, thrust in hard and together, and with all the weight on the bar, spring it up and down till the cinder gives. It was good exercise without strain, and so cool in comparison with open-hearth work that I took a real joy in the hot cinder. The heat was comparable to a wood fire, and only occasionally was it necessary to hug close.
We did five stoves, taking the wheelbarrow with us, and carrying it up the steps, when we passed from one level to another. After the five came a lull. Two of the men rolled cigarettes, the rest reinforced a chew that already looked as big as an apple in the cheek. For both these comforting acts, ‘Honest Scrap’ was used, a tobacco that is stringy and dark, and is carried in great bulk, in a paper package.
The men sat on steps or leaned against girders. A short Italian near me, with quick movements, and full of unending talk, looked up and asked the familiar question: ‘ What job you work at, last time?’
‘Open-hearth,’ I said.
‘ How much pay ? ’
‘Forty-five cents an hour.’
‘No like job?’
‘No, like this job better,’ I returned.
He paused. Then, ‘What job you work at before open-hearth?’
‘Oh,’I said, ‘I was in the army.’
His face became alert at once, and interested. The others stopped talking, also, and looked over at me.
’Me have broder in de American army; no in army, mysel’; me one time Italian army. How long time you?’
‘Nearly two years,’ I said.
’Yes, but did n’t get to front, before war over. No fight,’ I answered, adopting the abbreviated style, as I sometimes did. It seemed unnecessary, and a little discourteous, to use a rounded phrase with all the adorning English particles.
He jumped down from the steps and took up a broom, executing a ‘shoulder arms’ or two, and the flat-hand Italian salute, performed with a tremendous air.
‘Here, I said, ‘bayonet.’
I took the broomstick and did the bayonet exercises. The gang stood up and watched with delight, making comments in several languages. Especially the eyes of the Italian danced. The incident left a genial social atmosphere.
Adolph came in from behind one of the stoves, as I was concluding a ‘long point.’
‘Come on,’ he said, looking at me with a grin, and when I had followed him, ‘ I show you furnace, li’l bit.’
He took me to a stair-ladder near the skip that ascended to the top of No. 5. For every furnace, a skip carries up the ore and other ingredients for melting inside. It is a funicular-like thing — a continuous belt, with boxes attached, running from the ‘ hopper’ at the top of the furnace to the ‘stockroom’ underground.
We started to climb the steps at the left of the belt. There was a little rail between us and the moving boxes of ore.
‘See dat,’ said Adolph, pointing through at the boxes.
‘Keep head inside,’ he said, ‘keep hand inside; cut ’em off quick.’ He illustrated the amputation, with great vivacity, on his throat and wrists.
It was a climb of five minutes to the furnace-top. We paused to look at the mounting boxes.
‘Ore?’ I asked.
Pretty soon the iron ceased coming, and a white stone took its place in the boxes.
‘Limestone,’ he said. ‘Next come coke. Look.’
We were near enough to the top to see the boxes tilt and the hopper open and swallow the dumping of stone. In a minute or two, we stepped out on the platform on top of the furnace.
Adolph looked at me and grinned. ‘You smell dat gas?’ he asked.
I nodded. He referred to the carbon monoxide that I knew issued from the top of all blast-furnaces.
‘You stay li’l bit, pretty soon you drunk,’ he said.
‘Let’s not,’ I returned.
‘You stay li’l bit more,’ he continued, his grin broadening; ‘pretty soon you dead.’
I learned, in later days, that this was perfectly accurate.
We stood on a little round platform fifteen or twenty feet across, with the hopper in the centre gobbling iron ore and limestone. A layer of ore dust, an inch thick, covered the flooring, and a faint odor of gas was in the air. Each of the other five furnaces had a similar lookout, and a narrow passageway connected them with the tops of the stoves. The top of these gigantic shafts likewise had a diameter of some fifteen feet; there were little railings about them, and in the centre a trapdoor.
‘What’s that for?’ I asked.
‘Go inside to clean ’em out,’ he returned.
I wondered, with a few flights of imagination, what that job would be like, and remembered that the Italian with the blond moustache had spoken of the duty in uncomplimentary terms.
We could look forth from this eminence and see the whole mill yard, which was nearly a mile in extent. Over the ‘gas house,’ a large building that I had n’t noticed before, — the source of gas for the open-hearth, — and far to the left, were the Bessemers, spouting red gold against a very blue sky. On their right rose the familiar stacks of the open-hearth. I looked intently at them and wondered what No. 7 did at that moment — front-wall, back-wall, or tapping its periodic deluge of hot steel? In the foreground, a variety of gables, and then the irregular roof far beyond that I knew was the bloomingmill, because of the interesting yard, with the muscular cranes tossing about bars and shapes and sheets of steel. An immense system of railways everywhere, running down as far as the river bank, where were piles of cinder, and a trainload of ladles moving there to dump. A half-mile away, another iron-clad cluster of buildings; the tubemill, the nail-mill, and so forth, with convenient rails running up to them.
I turned around. Near by, slightly beyond the foot of the skips, was that impressive hill of red dust, the ore-pile. Iron ore was being taken away from the skips, with one of those spider-like mechanisms that combine crane, derrick, and steam shovel. It was built hugely — two uprights forty or fifty feet high, at a distance, I estimate, of a hundred yards, with their bases secured to railway cars. A crossbeam joined them, which was itself a monorail along which a man-carrying car ran. From that, car dropped chains, attaching themselves at the bottom to the familiar automatic shovel or scoop.
First the whole arrangement moved — the uprights, the crosspiece, and the monorail car — very slowly over the whole hill of ore, to a good spot for digging. Then the monorail car sped to the chosen position, and the shovel fell rapidly into the ore. With a mouthful secure, the chains lifted a little, enough to clear the remaining ore, and the car ran its mouthful to the hill’s edge, to dump into special gondolas on railroad tracks. The whole gigantic ore-hill was within easy reach of a single instrument.
‘Ought to last a while,’ I said.
‘Will be gone in a month,’ he returned.
Everybody wore good clothes to work, and changed in the shanty to his furnace outfit . I usually came in a brown suit, which had been out in the rain a good many times and was fairly shapeless. One day I entered the mill in a gray suit, which fitted and was moderately pressed.
At the dinner-bucket hour in the shanty, I was asked by John the Italian, ‘How much you pay for suit, Charlie? ’
I was embarrassed, fearing vaguely explanations that might have to follow a declaration of price. I suddenly recalled the fact that the suit had been given me by my brother, so that I did n’t know the price, and said so.
‘My brother give me suit, I don’t know how much he pay,’ I said. That dumped me into another quandary.
' What job your brother have?' I was immediately asked.
I thought a moment and answered truthfully again.
‘My brother, priest,’ I said.
That arrested immediate attention, and I was looked at with respect and curiosity.
Tony finally said, ‘Why you no be priest, Charlie?’
‘Oh,’ I answered, laughing, ’I run away, I like raise hell too much be priest.’ This was pretty accurate, too. ‘O Charlie!’ they bellowed.
After that the gang were friends to the death.
I went into the employment office one day, to fix up the papers of my transfer to the blast-furnace, and got into a talk with Burke, the employment manager, about personnel work.
‘What do you think of the game?’ I asked.
‘It’s great,’ he returned; ‘it’s working with human material — that’s what it is; there’s nothing like it. But,’ he added, ‘if you have any ideas about unions, keep them in the back of your head — if you want a job in steel. They won’t stand for that sort of thing.’
He looked down on his desk, where there was a news-clipping of the demands of the American Federation of Labor’s strike committee — the twelve demands. He pointed to it.
‘We give them practically all of these here in Bouton,’ he said; ‘all but two or three.’
‘The eight-hour day?’ I queried.
‘Yes, we give them the eight-hour day: overtime for everything over eight hours.’
‘Could I stop work to-day after eight hours’ work on the furnace?' I asked. ‘Could anyone before six o’clock, and hold his job? ’
‘Oh, no,’ he returned.
‘I should call that a twelve-hour day,’ I said.
The men on the furnaces were talkabout the strike that day. One young American said, ‘Well, strike starts Monday. Damned if I won’t go if the rest do.’
There were no leaders about, and it was unlikely, perhaps, that any would appear. There seemed to be a current opinion that any organizers got ‘taken off the train before they get to Bouton.
The Old Home Week Carnival had been called off through the influence of the mill authorities. They were afraid of a strike committee coming from the next town and having a parade to lead the men out.
A special train went through Bouton that day, about five o’clock. Everyone watched it from the furnaces and speculated what it meant. It was a doubleheader, and passed through at top speed. The Assistant Superintendent, Lonergan, suggested: ‘Troops going to quell strike riots. A lot of those fellers are overseas men of the National Guard. They ’re havin’ trouble with ’em, I don’t blame the boys a damn bit for not wantin’ “to preserve order in the steel towns,” as the papers call it,’ he concluded, with a grin.
Haverly, an American blower, came up. ‘Fight for democracy overseas and against it over here,’ he said.
It is difficult to say what the men here would have done if they had had leadership. They had none, since no organizers whatever appeared, and no speech-making occurred in town. There was pretty good feeling toward the company itself, which is, I believe, one of the best. A deep-seated hatred, however, existed against the whole system of steel. There was anger and resentment that ran straight through, from the cinder-snapper to the highpaid blowers, melters, and, in some cases, superintendents.
I was quite amazed — because of what the newspapers were continually saying — at the absence of any sociological ideas whatever. But though without doctrines, except in rare instances, there was a massive stream of complaint against certain things, such as the company-owned town, the twelvehour day, the twenty-four-hour shift, the seven-day week, and certain remediable dangers. It pervaded all ranks.
We were getting ready one day to ‘blow in’ No. 9 blast-furnace. It was a new one, and we had been busy for a couple of days piling wood inside, preparatory to lighting it up. I had been working beside an intelligent-looking Serb, and neither of us ventured conversation till that day.
‘ Did you ever write movie scenarios? ’ he asked.
If he had said, ‘I have just finished reading George Borrow,’ I should have not have been more profoundly nonplussed. I controlled a bursting impulse to roar, and answered, ‘ Yes, did you?’
‘Yes,’ he returned; ‘it’s quite a trick, is n’t it?’
I admitted that there was a technique in writing movies.
’I have a book,’ he went on, ‘that tells you the dope. I no write myself, I dictate. I no write English.’
We put down the log, and went to get a separate stick each, meeting again at the slag hole.
‘I have a scheme,’ he said. ‘Get moving-picture camera, get man run him, and take camera and man to Serbia. Go where war come.’
‘Devastated places, ruins,’ I suggested.
‘Yes, go all through Slavic country, take picture soldiers, guns, ruin farm, house, city; come back, show steel towns, I go with picture McKeesport, Pittsburgh, Youngstown. Show everywhere; people like. What you think?’
‘A very good idea,’ I said warmly.
‘Make big money,’ he concluded, grinning. ‘No work no more.’
This was the end of that extraordinary incident, but not of my conversations with this scenario furnace-helper. We exchanged a commonplace or two about the job and the new furnace, asked each other how long we had worked in Bouton, the sort of feller the boss was, and so forth, and then my companion dove quickly into family history, which was decidedly sensational and was evidently on his mind.
‘My wife run away, little while ago,’ he began. ‘One day I go home, and find my two boys hungry; no eat since eight o’clock in the morning. She go away with de other feller, tak’ lot of money, but leave me $300. Funny thing, eh?’
‘Did you suspect she was going with the other fellow?’ I asked.
‘Oh, yes,’ he replied, ‘He work over in gas-house, I know him. But I no think she go off. She go just as far as she can with him, California. I hear from friend, tell about her. He go three weeks ahead, so I no suspect. But I know.’
‘How about the children?’ I asked.
‘She leave me two, take one chile with her,’he said. ‘But I catch him sometime,’ he cried excitedly. ‘You know what I do when I catch him. I tak’ away his jaw. That’s all. Every time people ask him how he hurt his face, he have to think of what he done. I no kill him.’
‘But won’t you put him in prison?’ I asked.
‘Yes, if detective catch him, I take him court; but if I catch him, I tak’ his jaw. I hear detective no cost very much money. You see they get free ride on the railroad.’
‘I see,’ I said.
I watched him often after that, as we heaped up cord upon cord for the greedy furnaces. He was tall, broadshouldered, with a narrow waist, and a healthy loose strength when he swung a log. I looked at his calm, rather pale Slavic face, and kept repeating his words to myself: “I no kill him, I tak’ his jaw, that’s all.’
The man and the story had directness and simplicity in them. His was a vigorous, if an elemental, character.
He talked a good deal during the whole preliminary work on No. 9. He followed European politics through his own and through American newspapers, and knew accurately the military situation so far as it affected his countrymen.
‘New country now,’ I said. ‘Yugoslavia.’
He was delighted that I knew, and that I was glad to hear him talk about it. He gave me the Serbian point of view as to the origin of the World War.
‘Have you ever worked on other jobs?’ I asked.
‘Oh, I try ’em all,’ he responded: ‘open-hearth, Bessemer, rolling-mill, but only little time, I try ’em. Like blast-furnace best. I know all about blast-furnace. I work first-helper, second-helper, third-helper, work-keeper. You know de peephole into furnace?’ he said, his eyes brightening.
‘I look in: I tell you what furnace want; more coke, more limestone; too hot, too cold. I look at hot iron come from tap; I tell you good, no good. Too much sulphur. H-m-m; I like work blast-furnace; I like job.’
This was a speech I remembered a long while. At last, someone with a bit of craftsmanship in his make-up, who had found what he liked.
‘How long have you worked on blastfurnaces?’ I asked.
‘Twelve year,’ he said; and added, ‘You get on my shift, I learn you furnace-work. All right?’
‘All right,’ I answered; ‘I ’ll try to work it.’
There were certain days in my summer in the mills that burned among the others like a hot ingot of steel on the night-shift. One of them was the cleaning out of No. 15 stove early in my gang apprenticeship. Ordinarily the duties of the stove-gang were to move leisurely from stove to stove while they were alight, and remove cinder from the combustion chambers. It was pried up with a crowbar, and hoed out on to a wheelbarrow. But, when a stove was cooled for thorough cleaning, we did our real work.
The gas was turned off in the combustion chamber on the night-shift, and the stove allowed to cool for several hours. We prepared to go inside her the next morning, to cut away the hardened cinder. John, the Slav, went in first, with pick and shovel, and worked an hour. Then Tony turned to me.
‘You go in with me, I show you,’ he said.
We put on wooden sandals, — footshaped blocks an inch thick, with lacing straps, — donned jackets that buttoned very tight in the neck, and pulled down the ear-flaps of our kersey caps. Over our eyes we wore close-fitting goggles. We looked like Dutch peasants dressed for motoring. The combustion chamber is a space eight or ten feet long by three or four wide. It was partly filled with cooling cinder, some of it yielding to the pick, some only to the bar and sledge. Someone shoved an electric light through the hot-blast valve, and the appearance of the place was like a mine-gallery. The chamber was hot and gaseous, but it was quite possible to work inside over an hour. After Tony had loosened several shovelfuls, I could see that the pick failed against a great shelf of the stuff that glowed red along its base.
' Bar,’ he called.
The bar came in the little round door in three or four minutes.
He held it for me, and I sledged. It needed a little work like this to make you yearn for real air. The heat weakened YOU quickly. We worked about forty minutes, and then lay on our bellies and wriggled out. The means of entrance and egress is a small door, about fourteen inches in diameter, which means absorbing a good deal of cinder when you caterpillar through.
We finished the whole job in three hours, and then went to the other side of the stove and cleared out half a carload of flue-dust from the brick arches that composed the groundwork of that side of the stove. The dust lay a foot or two thick, and one man worked with a shovel in each archway. Here it was hardly hot at all but merely thick with the red iron-dust. As you bent over inside the archways, knee deep in the stuff, it would rise and settle on your arms and shoulders; you kept up a blowing with your nose to keep it out. Some of it was hard and soggy and pleasanter shoveling. Five or six of us could work inside the stove at once, in the different archways, each with a teapot lamp near by, and a large light, shovel. Men at the entrances hoed the stuff out as we threw back.
But it was the next day’s cleaning that I remember most strongly. The word went about that we were to ‘poke her out’ to-morrow. That night the gang, and especially John, the Italian, instructed me very seriously to bring a selected list of clothing the next morning: a jacket, a cap with flaps for the ears, two pairs of gloves, and two bandanna handkerchiefs.
We went on top of No, 15, and started to dress for the job of poking her out. Over our faces we tied the handkerchiefs, leaving only our eyes exposed. Our necks and ears were covered by the winter caps, our hands with two pairs of gloves.
The stove, as I said, looked like a very tall boiler: half was a long bricklined flue, where the gas burned; half a mass of brick checkerwork for retaining the heat. Masses of flue-dust had clogged the holes in the checkerwork and reduced its power for holding heat. It was our job to poke out that dust.
John and Mike and I unscrewed the trap at the top, very deliberately, and dropped a ladder down. There was a space left at the top of the checkerwork for cleaning purposes. We worked on top of that.
Jimmy, I think, went in first, taking a teapot lamp with him and a rod. In three minutes he was out again, and Mike down. I began to wonder what the devil they faced for three minutes in the chamber. Tony looked at me and said, ‘I teach you now.’
I tied the handkerchiefs around my face, sticking the end of one in my collar, and followed Tony.
My first sensation, as I stepped off the ladder to the checkerwork inside the stove, was relief. It was hot, but quite bearable. I picked my way slowly to Tony, and tried to study in the dull light his motions with the rod. The dust was too thick and the lamp guttered too violently to follow his hand. I bent over to watch the end of his rod and recoiled. I felt as I had when the ladle got under me on the manganese platform — flame seemed to go in with breath. It was the hot blast that continued to rise from the checkerwork, and made it impossible to work beyond three minutes in the stove.
When I mounted the ladder, and moved out into the air, I thought, ‘I have n’t learned much from Tony, except that he somehow cleaned the checkerwork, and it’s best to keep the head high; no more bending.'
Five minutes passed, and I was scheduled to take my turn alone. Every man poked three holes and came up. I was full of resolutions for glory and poked four, coming up rather elated. John looked at me sadly when I stepped off the ladder.
‘What’s the matter, Charlie; you only poke ’em half out.’
He simulated my motions with the rod. I had n’t qualified.
John, the Slav, was tying his handkerchief back of his ears.
‘ I show him; you come with me, Charlie; I show you all right.’
I was n’t gleeful. The last time I had done a job with John, we had carried pipes, many more at a time than anyone else. John, I anticipated, would stay in the stove, poking away, till ordinary mortals lost, their lungs.
He picked up a poking-rod, after very carefully putting on his gloves, and went over to the ladder, descending slowly. I followed him with my teeth in my lips, feeling for the rungs of the ladder with my feet, and holding my poking-rod in my right hand. When I stepped off at the bottom, I felt my fingers closing over the bent handle of the rod in a death-grip. I determined on no halfway poking. John set to work at once, and I after him, rattling my rod in the checkerwork with all my strength, and pushing her in up to the hilt. I did three holes, and John four. My lungs were like paper on fire, when John turned to go up. We climbed out of the hole, and took down the handkerchiefs. The gang looked at me, and then at John.
‘He do all right,’ he cried rather loudly; ‘every time all right.’
I felt extraordinarily elated, and much as if John had given me a diploma, with a ‘cum laude’ inscribed in gold letters.
There was also a trip inside with Jimmy. He shouted a great many things at me in Anglo-Italian, which caused me a good deal of anxiety but no understanding. I learned, on coming up, that he was trying to tell me not to approach the combustion chamber adjoining the checkerwork. That is a clear shaft to the bottom. I was given in some detail the story of the man who fell down a year ago, and was found with no life in him at the bottom.
‘Kill him quick,’ said John, the Italian; ‘take him out through hot-blast valve.’
Two burns on my wrists were an embarrassing legacy of this affair, for they required an explanation whenever I took off my coat. My arms were too long, and shot from my sleeves when poking out, and got exposed to the gas and flame, which was still rising in the checkerwork.
I stood on the platform, waiting for the 10.05 train, and turned for a look at the landscape of brick and iron. I remembered a hunky, who had worked in the tube-mill for eighteen years, and at length decided to go back to the old country. On the day he left, he went out the usual gate, at the tempered after-work pace, walked the gravelpath to the railroad embankment, and stopped for a moment to look back at the mill.
He stood like a stone pile on the embankment for a quarter hour, looking at the cluster of steel buildings and stacks. He had spent a life in them, making pipe, and I have n’t a doubt this was the first time it came to him in perspective. From my own brief memories, I could guess at those fifteen minutes: pain, struggle, monotony, rough-house, laughter, endurance, but principally toil without imagination.
I thought quickly over my summer in the mills, and it looked rather pleasurable in retrospect. Things do. There ’s a verse on that sentiment in Horace, I think. I thought of sizzling nights, of bosses, friendly and unfriendly, of hot back-walls and a good first-helper, of fighting twenty-fourhour turns; or of interesting days as hot-blast man, of dreaded five-o’clock risings, and quiet satisfying suppers; of what men thought, and did n’t think. And again,of how much the life was incident to a flinty-hearted universe, and how much to the stupidity of men. I knew there were scores of matters arranging themselves in well-ordered data and conclusions in my head. I had a cool sense that, when they came out of the thinking, they would not be counsels of perfection, or denunciations, but would have substance; be able to weather theorists, both the hard-boiled and the sentimental, being compounded of good ingredients — tools, and iron ore, and the experience of workmen.
Is there any one thing, though, that stands out? I heard the train whistle a warning of its arrival. Perhaps, if a very complicated matter like the steellife can be compounded in a phrase, it had been done by the third-helper on Six. On the day when we had thrown manganese into a boiling ladle, in a temperature of 130, he had turned to me slowly and summed it up in a word: ‘To hell with the money,’ he said; ‘no can live!‘