Riding the Rods - page 22
12/09/09 09:43 Filed in: Riding the Rods - page 22
The depression made work hard to acquire. At age 18 Dad found himself standing with the hundred plus men already outside a local factory gate hoping to be chosen for any job offered. Feeling he had lucked out when he was selected, he soon questiond how 'lucky' he truly was.
"Having been given the job of handling raw steel I was wearing out the only gloves and shoes I owned. They had me moving the steel around on wagons over floors that had broken down under the weight of the wheels on previous trips. You couldn't see ahead in the smoke and darkness of the place or past the load they had on the wagon. Suddenly, a wheel would drop into one or more of these holes in the floor and the load would shift. Despite my best efforts to keep the steel in place many times the load would fall off and I'd have to pick up each piece of raw steel and re-load it.
It took me three days to find out what they were paying me. And I only found out then because a high school classmate worked in the office.
When he came and told me the pay was nine cents an hour I dropped the steel I was pushing and walked right into the factory owner's office. I told him I'd rob banks before I'd work for any 'son-of-a-bitch' for nine cents an hour! He could take my pay and shove it!
Shortly after this 'welcome to the real world' experience, Dad, now back looking for work that paid a decent wage, had the good fortune to run into another friend.
"I met Jim Crutcher, of high school years, who had just returned from up north at the 'Jellicoe gold rush.'
'Just like the old Klondike days,' he said.
He was going back next spring (1935). So I went along with him. We rode 'the rods' (railway) up from Washago with another lad called 'Smithy' to Sudbury - Capreol.
This was the big divisional point on the railroad at that time.
And because men from the west were coming east trying to get jobs and looking for work while men from the east were going west looking for work out there, the police at Capreol, on the divisional point, were checking every freight coming through for any chaps on it, putting them in jail over night, stripping them of any wealth they had on them and sending them back on the next freight going west or east the next day.
When we arrived in there we hid out in some elders because Jim Crutcher knew what was going on. We waited for the right freight to go out on the 'umpteen' number of tracks. I didn't know which track but he seemed to know which we needed to catch. So when the right train started out on this track we ran for it.
As it was getting along good we jumped on. Smitty got on first right behind the coal tender. It was a half sided car. You had to duck down because the police were checking all the freights even going out. That's when I got on and ducked down low in the half car. Jim Crutcher was last to get on and he was just getting over the side of the half car when a police officer at the far end of the same car started firing a revolver - bullets at us - the bullets whistling right over our heads!
So we had to turn about fast to get the hell off the train and I waited for Jim to jump first. Then it was my turn.
And to jump from standing on the couplings to clear the side of the car - it's a big jump - and the train was getting going faster and faster at this time.
And then I was just going to start to jump when Smitty got impatient, because the police officer was half way up the car at this time, and he (Smitty) got excited and gave me a push. And this put me off balance for when I jumped and I hit the tracks at the side with the ties sticking out in all directions. The little pack sack I had on my back flew up and I couldn't keep running as fast as the train was going, so I tripped on a tie and went plunk. My left knee got banged up on one of the ties sticking out.
We hid in the elders all night. And the police were searching all around but the underbrush was too thick and they didn't find us.
The next morning Jim decided, 'Well, the best plan would be to walk,' and catch the same (scheduled) train coming throught the next night where it would stop thirty miles up the track to take on water. He knew that too! So this is where we walked the thirty miles with my knee sticking out like a big loaf of bread from the swelling.
When we got to Jellicoe I had a doctor look at the knee and there was nothing more he could do. He said that if I hadn't done that - walked those thirty miles - I would likely have had a stiff leg for the rest of my life.
That was the first time I had the experience of being shot at with real bullets!"