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   Chapter 19 No.19

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 8106

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Constructing the Line.

The next day was a day of hard work for the Board of Managers. Mr. Lyons, who took the greatest interest in the enterprise, got another operator to take his place at the Hetertown station, and came over to help the boys.

Under his direction, and with his help, they arranged the instruments and the batteries, sunk the ground-wires, and, in a general way, put the office-apparatus in working order. When night came, there were still some things that remained to be done in the two stations, but the main part of the office arrangements had been satisfactorily concluded, under Mr. Lyons's supervision.

Now, it only remained to put up the wire; and this was a piece of work that interested the whole neighborhood. There had been lookers-on enough while the instruments were being put in working order, but the general mind did not comprehend the mechanism and uses of registers and keys and batteries.

Any one, however, could understand how a telegraphic wire was put up. And what was more, quite a number of persons thought they knew exactly how it ought to be put up, and made no scruple of saying so.

Tony Kirk was on hand-as it was not turkey season-and he made himself quite useful. Having had some experience in working under surveyors, he gave the boys a good deal of valuable advice, and, what was of quite as much service, he proved very efficient in quieting the zeal of some ambitious, but undesirable, volunteer assistants.

Certain straight pine-trees, at suitable distances from each other, and, as nearly as possible, on a right line between the two cabins, were selected as poles, and their tops were cut off about twenty-five feet from the ground. All trees and branches that would be apt to interfere with the wires were cut down, out of the way.

At one time-for this matter of putting up the wire occupied several days-there were ten or twelve negro men engaged in cutting down trees, and in topping and trimming telegraph poles.

Each one of these men received forty cents per day from the company, and found themselves. It is probable that if the Board had chosen to pay but twenty cents, there would have been quite as many laborers, for this was novel and very interesting work, and several farm-hands threw up their situations for a day or two and came over to "cut fur de telegraph."

When the poles were all ready on each side of the creek, the insulators, or glass knobs, to which the wires were to be attached, were to be fastened to them, a foot or two from the top.

This was to be done under Harry's direction, who had studied up the theory of the operation from his books and under Mr. Lyons.

But the actual work proved very difficult. The first few insulators Harry put up himself. He was a good climber, but not being provided with the peculiar "climbers" used by the men who put up telegraph wires, he found it very hard to stay up at the top of a pole after he had got there, especially as he needed both hands to nail to the tree the wooden block to which the insulator was attached.

In fact, he made a bad business of it, and the insulators he put up in this way looked "shackling poorly," to say nothing of his trowsers, which suffered considerably every time he slipped part way down a pole.

But here Tony Kirk again proved himself a friend in need. He got a wagon, and drove four miles to a farm-house, where there was a long, light ladder. This he borrowed, and brought over to the scene of operation.

This ladder was not quite long enough to reach to the height at which Harry had fastened his insulators, but it was generally agreed that there was no real necessity for putting them up so high.

The ladder was arranged by Tony in a very ingenious way. He laid it on the ground, with the top at the root of the tree to be climbed. Then he fastened a piece of telegraph wire to one side of the ladder, passed it loosely around the tree, and fastened it to the other side. Then, as the ladder was gradually raised, the wire slipped along up the tree

, and when the ladder was in position it could not fall, although it might shake and totter a little. However, strong arms at the bottom held it pretty steady, and Harry was enabled to nail on his insulators with comparative ease, and in a very satisfactory manner.

After a while, Tony took his place, and being a fellow whom it was almost impossible to tire, he finished the whole business without assistance.

It may be remarked that when Tony mounted the ladder, he dispensed with the wire safeguard, depending upon the carefulness of the two negro men who held the ladder from below.

The next thing was to put up the wire itself, and this was done in rather a bungling manner, if this wire were compared with that of ordinary telegraph lines.

It was found quite impossible to stretch the wire tightly between the poles, as the necessary appliances were wanting.

Various methods of tightening were tried, but none were very successful; and the wire hung in curves, some greater and some less, between the poles.

But what did it matter? There was plenty of wire, and the wind had not much chance to blow it about, as it was protected by the neighboring treetops.

There was no trouble in carrying the wire over the creek, as the bridge was very near, and as trees close to each bank had been chosen for poles, and as the creek was not very wide, the wire approached nearer to a straight line where it passed over the water than it did anywhere else.

At last all was finished. The "main line" wire was attached to the copper office-wire. The batteries were charged, the register was arranged with its paper strip, and everything was ready for the transmission of messages across Crooked Creek.

At least, the Board hoped that everything was ready. It could not be certain until a trial was made.

The trial was made, and everybody in the neighborhood, who could get away from home came to see it made.

Harry was at the instrument on the Akeville side, and Mr. Lyons (the second operator of the company had not been appointed) attended to the other end of the line, taking his seat at the table in Aunt Judy's cabin, where Mr. and Mrs. Loudon, Kate, and as many other persons as the room would hold, were congregated.

As President of the company, Harry claimed the privilege of sending the first message.

Surrounded by the Board, and a houseful of people besides, he took his seat at the instrument, and after looking about him to see if everything was in proper order, he touched the key to "call" the operator at the other end.

But no answer came. Something was wrong. Harry tried again, but still no answer. He jumped up and examined the instrument and the battery.

Everybody had something to say, and some advice to give.

Even old "One-eyed Lewston" pushed his way up to Harry, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Mah'sr Harry! Ef you want to grease her, I got some hog's-lard up dar on dat shelf."

But Harry soon thought he found where the fault lay, and, adjusting a screw or two, he tried the key again. This time his call was answered.

"Click! click! click! click!" went the instrument.

Wild with excitement, everybody crowded closer to Harry, who, with somewhat nervous fingers, slowly sent over the line of the Crooked Creek Telegraph Company its first message.

When received on the other side, and translated from the dots and dashes of the register, it read thus:

To Kate.-Ho-ow are you?

Directly the answer came swiftly from the practised fingers of Mr. Lyons:

To Harry.-I am very well.

This message had no sooner been received and announced than Harry, followed by every one else, rushed out of the house, and there, on the other side of the creek, he saw his father and mother and Kate and all the rest hurrying out of Aunt Judy's cabin.

Mr. Loudon waved his hat and shouted; "Hurrah!"

Harry and the Board answered with a wild "Hurrah!"

Then everybody took it up, and the woods rang with, "Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

The Crooked Creek Telegraph Line was a success.

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