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[SK a traveler to name the saddest, weirdest sound of which lie mows, and ten to one ne will name the whistling buoy. So saddening is the influence of its mournful, sighing notes, that the Light House Board has to weigh well the advantages of placing one of the buoys in any particular spot against a frenzy of protest and petition from every land dweller within earshot. An earshot is a long way, anywhere from one to fifteen miles or more, depending on the size of the buoy, the roughness of the water, and the condition of the atmosphere.
One peculiarity of the whistling buoy is that the rougher the weather the louder the sound. When the wind and
the waves arc high, and the warning is needed, the sound is loudest. When the sea is quiet, the note is hardly more than a sigh,—but such a sigh!
The Whistling Buoy now used in this country is the invention of an American, of J. M. Courtenay, of New York. It consists of a huge pear-shaped bulb, with the point to the top, to the base of which is connected a long steel tube. The tube runs through the bulb and is connected to the whistle by a pipe. Two other pipes, leading from the open air, connect with the tube and valves are so arranged that the air can get in through the open tubes, but can get out only through the whistle. The water, in which the buoy is placed of course fills the tube up to its own level outside. So when the waves passing under the bulb, lift it up, the water in the tube runs out, partly, and
its place is taken by air, rushing in through the two tubes and valves. When the wave passes on and drops the buoy down in the hollow, the water rushes up the tube, compressing the air and pushing it out through the whistle, which makes the note. The higher the waves, the greater the air compression and the more air to a stroke, and consequently the louder the note.
Every year, sometimes oftener, the whistling buoy must be pulled out and replaced with a fresh one, the old one to be scraped, painted and carefully inspected for wear in its valves, chafing gear, etc. It is a work of considerable skill, and frequently much danger, to change these buoys. They are anchored with immense iron sinkers, or with mushroom anchors, and hundreds of feet of chain, depending of course on the location, depth of water, and similar factors. Whistling buoys, of course, are only put in waters sufficiently rough to make them sound, and it requires the calmest water which can be had to lift
one of them out and replace it with another. But suppose the water is sufficiently quiet to risk the operation. The deck of the vessel used in the work is cleared for action, and at the buoy depot
the immense freshly-painted and numbered buoy is carefully hoisted on board. On the ship's arriving at the site the great mass of iron is swung clear of the deck, in the powerful grasp of the hoisting engine and deck crane, and it is here that the first danger comes in. If the boat is rocking on the swells to any extent, the raised buoy becomes, from an inert mass of iron, a live pendulum, whose irresistible swings are to be dodged with agility, handled with skill and speed and controlled with caution, and not infrequently the cry of "Lower away, quick!" is heard several times, before the buoy is balanced on the edge and, with a splash and gurgle, goes overboard. Then the unusual sight is seen of two whistling buoys side by side, one fresh and new and silent, the other old and dirty and noisy. The new buoy is silent, usually, for some minutes. The poet might say it hesitated about going to work on its saddening duties, but the tender's captain will tell you, "The tube isn't full of water yet."
Then comes the hard work of the job. The old buoy is secured with a rope and a chain, and lifted a little by the crane, getting a grip about the guarding irons surrounding the whistle. A rope, in a s 1 i p - n o o s e, is slipped over the bulb, to fasten around the tube below, and still more lifting is done. Soon all the tackles and "springs" are in position and the word, "Moist away, carefully now," is given, and slowly, with a sucking, bubbling noise, as the water runs out and the air rushes in, the buoy is drawn from the water. If the ship rolls, the huge affair may swing far outboard, and then, if the crane man is not smart with his "lowering away" of the buoy into the water again, the return swing will crash into the ship, very possibly catching some
careless unfortunate and hurting him badly. It is a matter of watching the waves and the buoy, the men, the ropes and the engine, all together and taking advantage of the proper moment to hoist this massive weight of iron with a single crane from water to the deck of the steamer and secure it before it does damage. Once over the deck it comes down with a run, and then, seemingly in the very face and front of danger a dozen men run at it to throw heavy chocks of wood beneath its advancing bulk.
Then the anchor has to be broken loose, after the chain is hauled in, and sometimes this is a troublesome job. For the anchor will have sunk into the soft bottom, become mired and seaweeded •and barnacled down to the bottom until the powerful crane is powerless to move it, only succeeding in listing the ship or straining tackle to the breaking point. So, then, with a doubled two-inch spring (rope hawser) the chain is made fast to the ship herself and very slowly and tentatively she backs away. Then something happens. Either the anchor breaks away, or the rope breaks or the chain breaks. In the former case nothing remains to be done but to hoist it on board —in the latter, things must stand from under, a cable or a chain breaking under
With leaden arms she grasps the seeker's knees,
Till numbing grayness colors all he sees.
Yet at his feet are other chances cast,
Right ready to his hand to have and hold.
A living present from an empty past.
—warwick James Price in Munsey's Jlfaeazinc.
WHEN an Apache runner brought word to the camp that the Colorado, sixty miles away, had gone on a midsummer rampage, Omstcad, the Chief Engineer, loaded a couple of burros, and started at once for the danger point. Farley, his assistant, stood on the high lip of the canyon and waved him good bye. To be left even in temporary charge of the work at Spotted Snake brought a sense of freedom and power to the young engineer.
That night he lay before his tent and looked down into the deep red gorge where the big dam was to be built. Then he turned his wide, dreaming eyes to the East and saw the brown, flat floor of the Desert dropping down from his high peak into the bottom of a cup that stretched away unbroken to the furthest horizon. On that endless canvas he painted great green fields of alfalfa and Indian maize; fat, red barns and white farm houses and, in the dim distance, the shining spire of a church. To the ears of his imagination came the click of mowers in the fields ; the laughter of children playing in the door-yards; the low of cattle : the whistle of a locomotive; all the familiar sounds of human life and human activity, breaking through the brooding silence of the desert.
It was a wonderful picture and as it vanished the boy sighed deeply. Would
to God that Omstead would leave the great work to him! Let him but build the huge dam which was to turn the Spotted Snake into a watering-can and all these future fields and farms and distant village would belong to him by right of creation. They would be his own—no matter who held the title deeds. He would be their father and the great dam their mother! Farley's eyes glanced down again into the pit, where the big gray foundation blocks of steel and concrete were lying in their forms, with a look that was close to love—though none but an engineer will understand it.
The Colorado proved to be in one of her most stubborn and cunning moods and Omstead was detained far beyond his expected time. At the end of three weeks the Swede, who totel the grub out from the railroad to the camp on Spotted Snake, brought with him a letter for Farley. "I must stay here for three months at least," the Chief wrote, "and you'll have to put through the Spotted Snake dam on your own hook. It's up to you, my bov. Show me that my confidence is justified."
Sobered by the sudden sense of responsibilty, Farley carried the letter up with him to the headquarters tent at the top of the gorge. He felt a need of being alone. How much those few lines of good old Omstead's familiar scrawl meant to him! This wonderful desert canvas was to be his, to paint on it such a picture as he was able. He closed his eyes and honestly took stock of himself and of his abilities for the great work in hand.
The plans were sound. He, himself, had drawn them under the watchful eye of Omstead. They had been studied and approved by the head of the whole Reclamation Service. Remained, then, the business of fighting it out with the treacherous river and with the great, still, patient, merciless Desert—of sinking the foundation stones down into bedrock, of tying the concrete blocks together with bars and braces of steel, of protecting the soft cement and gravel, until it hardened and the mouth of the gorge was blocked forever by a single solid monolith—a man-made mountain which should endure when the everlasting hills had been worn and shaken and cracked by the frost into bits of debris.
In the sheer bottom of the canyon the Crooked Snake was running along in a thirty-foot creek of noisy water—a thing to laugh at. Yet Farley knew that it was this same river which had carved the wide gash six hundred feet deep in the granite and he gave it all proper respect. He knew most of the tricks of these deceitful desert rivers and what was beyond him fell well within the experience of McGuire, the big Irish foreman of the cement workers, for "Mac" had been in Arizona as a gold prospector for thirty years before the first big irrigation dam was built. The two hundred Italian laborers Omstead had sent over from Flagstaff were sober, experienced, steady men. Summing everything up, as carefully as he was able and making modest allowance for his own comparative youth, it was Farley's sane and confident conclusion that he and his men were equal to the work. He would write and tell Omstead not to worry.
When he lifted his eyes, the moon— a huge pearl, full of soft irridescent lights and colors—was slowly rising into a vivid purple sky, pricked out with yellow stars. In the distance a coyote lifted a gaunt black muzzle against its disc and howled mournfully. Nearer by, a tall man, with a long white beard, carrying nothing in his hands, was coming across
the desert floor towards the camp. He moved slowly, with long, easy steps. Presently he disappeared under the shoulder of the peak at the top of which stood the tents. An instant later he sat down beside the fire, calm and unpanting from the steep climb.
"How do you do?" said the stranger.
"Good evening," answered Farley, as if he were greeting an old acquaintance.
"How's the folks?"
"Fine, when I heard from them last. How's yours?"
"I'm beginning to get kind a-worried about 'em. I can't figger what's delayin' 'em so long. I been a-waitin'—let's see—" the old man stopped, laid one forefinger on the end of the other and pulled his eyebrows far down, as if making a puzzling calculation—"let's see, it must be pretty nigh thirty year."
Farley looked sharply across at the ancient. "That's a long time," he said. "Where your folks coming from?"
"Through from Omaha. They lef there April 3, in the year of 78. I'm thinkin' they'll likely be along in the mornin'.
"I hope they may," Farley said. The old man stood up. "I must be goin'," he announced. "Don't like to stay away from home long, you see, for fear they might come and miss me."
"Where is your house?"
The caller shrugged his shoulders. "I haven't built jest what you'd call a house yit," he said, deprecatingly. "Didn't seem worth while, till the folks comes. The wife might not like the place I picked out," he added by way of explanation.
"But where do you live?"
The old man waved his hand out across the Desert. "Over there about thirteen mile, where the Snake makes a sharp turn to the left. It's only a hole in the rocks I'm occcp'pyin' temporary 'till the folks comes. You haven't seen 'em, by eny chanst goin' by here today, hev ye?"
"•No. I haven't seen them. I'm sorry."
"They'd be two schooners," the old man persisted. "Six cattle to a wagon. My wife, she was a tall ycller-haired young gal. They'd be two little boys along—one about six, 'tother two years older. An' my brother, a tall strappin', red-headed young feller. Ef you see 'em please an' let 'em know I'm gettin' most