Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Hostlers Andtwo Hostiles

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Hostlers Andtwo Hostiles

Article excerpt

This poignant and revealing story comes from the long ago, but needs entering in the record so historians may contemplate its nuances and evaluate its didactic importance.

Now that you have looked up those words, I continue: In those times, fire departments had horse-drawn steam pumper engines, each with a span of three magnificently trained and groomed beasts. It was a showpiece equipage that arrived on the scene in prancing grandeur no longer known.

The steam boiler, with cannel-coal fuel lit as the engine left the hose house, already had power to begin pumping. While the fire was being extinguished, the horses would be detached and walked back to their stable, to return later for the engine. The men who cared for fire horses were the elite among civil servants, and there was nothing in childhood to equal the thrill of patting the soft nose of a fire horse and being allowed to hold out your chubby hand with a cube of sugar.

And in Roslindale, or Roxbury, or Watertown, or some such place in Massachusetts, the two hostlers for the fire department were Bert Craig and Larry Barnes, or something like that.

The newer days were at hand, and the automotive fire engine was ready. Suddenly, Bert and Larry - and the horses - were "out to pasture."

Bert and Larry, still able, needed jobs in a trade that no longer existed. In this extremity, it chanced that Larry heard that up in Maine the lumbering people still used horses to bring logs from the woods on snow. To his inquiry, the Great Northern Paper Co. responded that they were in need of two experienced teamsters, and to apply after Oct. 15 at the Duck Lake Lumber Operation, West Branch Division, ready to work at such-and-such wages. A company conveyance would meet them at the railway junction at Mile 56, west of Indian Rock Depot. Bert and Larry had never been north of Revere Beach, but were overjoyed.

Their wives, I hasten to add, did not speak to each other. There had been some trivial falling-out going on 20 years ago, and the grievous wound had never healed. They just didn't speak. And this was curious, because their husbands were buddy-buddy since boyhood and were seldom seen apart. Not so Edith and Marilyn. And it was now necessary for these four to make ready for winter in a lumber camp.

I assume that you, dear reader, foresee some difficulties, but will not know until I tell you that the one unalterable rule in the days of Maine forest harvest with lumber camps was: no women! It was unthinkable, because conditions in the woods were completely masculine. Bert and Larry didn't know this, and nobody thought to tell them.

So, on a given day in October, off the four took. …

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