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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 20, 1910, Image 8

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THE LAZIEST BOY IN BELLEVILLE
JAMES M. FELLOM
GUSANO is .the Spanish . word for
"worm." In the little mining
camp of Belleville It meant stocky,
good natured 1G year old Guy Fletcher
It was a becoming name; A worm of
his size could not'. have ' been slower.
Sent on' an errand, he would crawl
away, carefullr hitching up" his trou
sers as he .went. The more Important
the errand, the less Gusano cared for
haste. "Brick" Dun bar,*", the wag of
the town, : was fond of saying: :
"If you want to know If that kid is
on the move or not, get him on a line'
with White' Mountain peak."
.^ut Gusano did not mind. He ..was
too contented to let anything like ridi-'
cule or abuse or a willow switch in
terfere with his theory of life. When
he did anything, it. was not from choice..
It. was more interesting to see others
work. Much of his time he spent'
watching; the firemen, sweating over]
their tasks before the. boilers of the
thundering quartz mill. V By lazily
studying them day after day, he found"
at . las t, .that he .could^ foretell! their'
every move and knew, why it was made.
The discovery caused; him .great pleas
ure, and for a week he. tried himself
out. At the end of that time, he told
himself he was a full fledged stoker.
"•"Pshaw," he said to, one of the men,'
"you fellers got it easy."
'-"How's that, Gussie?'
"Oh,"""'rye been 'watching you. The
Super- ain't got you beaten for snaps
If 'you Just had on halfboots and a
, s corduroy~ r sult- -and smoked two-bit
\u25a0cigars,:- you|d— " / •}S^- ....... ''-\u25a0•:\u25a0\u25a0\u25a0\u25a0 .'-\u25a0 -
"I The ; firemen and engineer laughed. \u25a0
VTell : us what's hard about ; the job/
Gussie,"^ prompted the amalgamator,
who had stopped to listen. A
,"It ; ain't \u25a0 hard," sneered ' the boy with
a disdainful upward glance at the
speaker.
'JWell, .what's easy about it, then?'
- Gusano;, flashed an experienced eye
over the huge boilers. : The men winked
knowingly at one < another. '
"It's as easy as beans," he continued.
"All you got to do is tokeep a-looklng
at them there clocks,'; pointing to the
steam gauges, \ "and when the hand
starts to^drop below 120 stick in more
wood, and perhaps give her the draft.
Then you: got to watch that water
glass, arid when she-falls to about an
inch of the bottom shoot her with the
injector— -turn on that • there "cock and
this here one, when she gets too much
steam; on board,; she blows off herself.
Then you pull the whistle for noon and
quitting time. They ain't nothing to
it." , , " - - . \u25a0
There was no answer; he had ex
pected one— a word of' praise or of
ridicule." He cast a furtive glance at
his begrimed audience. V One and all
were laughing quietly at something or
some one behind him. He wheeled.
The "boss" of the mill, Superintendent
Graves, stood within arm's reach. He
was smiling kindly.
"So you think- the work is easy,
Gussie?" Gussio slowly edged away.
."Come, now," added the man, laying
a hand upon the boy's shoulder; ','you're
not going because I came?" The other
nodded; "\u25a0 "" '. : \u0084 »•-\u25a0•" r \u25a0.;',
"You're not afraid of me, are you?"
Gusano was not certain of this, so ho
made no reply. He contented himself
with raking a bed of cinders over witli
his. big toe.
"How would you like trying It half
a day, Gussie? HarpeY, here, has to go
to the" doctor's this afternoon to have
his sore foot treated. You can take his
place if you want to."
'Gusano straightened with a jerk.' 'He
did not immediately answer, but his
big toe dropped its labors and he looked
up into the superintendent's " face to
make sure of his ground.
"What do you say?" inquired the mill
"Orright," he replied, shortly.
The man consulted his watch,.
"Better get your lunch, then, Gussie.
It's 11 o'clock."
"Orright," and Ousano, hitching up
his trousers, throw a shameless swag
ger into his walk as he strode away.
Once over a low ridge and out of
sight, he broke into a run. He was
proud, happy. His head throbbed with
thoughts of success and pay checks.
He pictured himself carrying a dinner
pall, and felt a spiteful gladness over
the surprise and envy that his posi
tion would- cause his playmates, for
whom he hud always been the butt.
Arrived at homo he tore into the
kitchen and shouted the news to his
mother in such breathless, unintelli
gible speech that the good woman
feared for his health, and nearly de
Till- SAN FRANCISCO CALL. SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 1910.-THE JUNTOR CALL
cided that he should go to bed and
have the doctor. For Gusano had sud
denly developed Into a very demon of
animation. ' ' •, • . \u25a0•
y When, he had gulped hla dinner he
covered the half a mile back to the
mill on a run; , Once there, he stripped
idown tchis undershirtand fell to eye
ing the boilers, , until Harper, the fire
man, finished his lunch. Then the man
went over the work of the afternoon
with; his substitute. ,-. But Gusano
learned no more than he already knew.
At r o'clock hhre r pulled tho whistle
cord. 'He experienced a great thrill,
of pride when the road gang of loung
ing Hungarians rose as one man jto
resume their work at the signal. Then
thei afternoon wore away.
When .the superintendent , appeared
' Gusano ; was wheeling in a: supply of
wood, For a long time Graves watched
the prodigy. The youngster felt him
self .trembling under the keen eyes.
He knew his efforts; were being
searched for defects, knew, that he was
blundering shockingly, and felt miser
able. •
'\u25a0- "Well, Gussie, how do you like the
work?" asked Graves, curiously.
..".Orright" - Gussie looked \u25a0 over his
shoulder with;' deep concern at the
water .glass. , Then he shot a "You
knowjhow-it-is" glance at his superior
and became suddenly interested in his
grimy hand. .
"As easy as you thought it would
be?"
"'Well," said Graves, moving away,
"Tom and Bill say you're the best man
they ever worked with, and I know
they're right. Don't wear yourself out.
Gussie."
How those words of praise sang In
the boy's ears! It was the first time
he had worked for day's pay; he wanted
to make good, and lie had. And the
money he would earn! He grew dizzy
with thoughts of gold and reputation,
and wild ' fancies kept his mind so
occupied that when 6 o'clock
arrived the engineer had to call for
the whistle.
Washing. hlnißelf, Gusano left the
mill. On the trail to town he met
Harper, the fireman.
"Hello, Gussie. I juat saw the super.
He told me you tackled the Job like an
old hand. .
"Oh, I guess I did orright."
The man searched his pockets and
handed the boy |2."
"That suit you, Gussie?" he asked
with a smile.
"Sure — if it's orright with you. And
say. Harper, if you want to lay off
gimme a clianco/'
"You bet— l'll let you know, Gussie."
Two dollars! Gusano could hardly
believe it! He had expected not more
than $I—here1 — here was a full half day's
wages! ;
After supper he strode^up the main
street There was considerable pride
in his step. Everybody who saw him
remarked the change and the knowing
ones smiled. When he approached the
crowd of camp urchins with whom he
associated he noted that they treated
him with a certain curious awe, that he
was pleased to call "respect." Fur
ther, they listened to his story with
becoming Interest and visible envy.
,: Vl v ain't sure when you'll see .me
again," he said, assuming a rakish
pose; "I'm kinder busy theseV days.
Have to get some togs, now, then -I'm
going home to study. Mister Graves
told- me lie would give' me a book on
engineering. Ho said I didn't have to
read over the first part, 'cos I had it
down pat. orready.; He said: 'Ina week
you oughter know the'whole business,
Gussie— then I want you to study min
ing.' : I made two dollars today— that
ain't so bad." The clink of the money
against a dozen eight-penny nails and
an assortment of keys in his pocket,
impressed his audience. Then, he
walked off, swinging from side to side,
reckless and pompous, ,< •
Entering a store, he purchased a pair
of overalls, a red bandana; handkerchief
and a pound of dried prunes. , • :
"You worked half a shift for Harper
today, didn't you Gussie?" asked the
storekeeper. »
"You bet," replied the boy; with ill
concealed boastfulncss.
"I heard they need a fireman at the
'Mother Goose' mine in Summit. Why
don't'you try for the job?"
Gusane's heart leaped.
"When did you hear it?"
"About an hour ago. One of the
men went east. His health is bad."
Munching prunes, Gusano took a
short cut home. Summit was a small
camp five miles away and higher up on
the range. If the mill was in need of
a man, why could he not 1111 the place?
lie was full of the idea and talked, to
hla parents until he overruled their
objections and gained their consent.
The next morning before sunrise,
Gusano caught his old, bony Indian
pony, swallowed his breakfast and rode
off. When ho reached Summit ho waited
two hours for the mill/superintendent.
"Are you Mr. Brown?" he asked at
last of a tall, bearded man. "I hear
you're abort a fireman, and I came
over from Belleville to see what the
Chances is of getting the Job."
Brown looked down at the boy In
astonishment. Then ho laughed.
"Why you're only a boy. You can't
do the work, my son."
Thin sentiment cut Gusano like a
knife; to some extent, it angered liim.
"How do you know I can't?" he re
torted.
: "How do I know? Why, where, on
earth did you ever fire a boiler?"
i Gusano threw out his chest ever so
little.
\u25a0':\u25a0\u25a0' .-"I' bin taking x a feller's place at the
Belleville mill," he declared stoutly. "I
guess I know something about firing.''
"The man was interested; more than
that ; he .was amused. He \u25a0 studied Gu
sano a few moments before -he spoke,
then, as if he had arrived at a satis
factory' conclusion, he paid:
"If you can get a letter of recom
mendation from Superintendent Graves
I'll put you to work. That's' fair,
isn't it?"
Pounding the old, horse in the ribs
with his heels until,' much against its
will, it, broke into a gallop, he swung
off the main road toward the Belle
ville mill. The millman, walking over
the trail from the town, stopped in an
swer to the shrill whistle and, recog
nizing the young rider coming across
country on a bumping lope, waited for
him to approach.
"How do, Mister Graves?" said Gu
sano, reining in his heaving mount, "I
come to get, a recommend from you. I
got a job at . tho 'Mother Goose' mill
firing if you'll glmme'a letter to Mister
Brown." /v,T.yv' '\u25a0'•;' -\u25a0 ±',iCf:^'w
'The -boss frowned and looked
thoughtful.' It was .some little time
r beforo he spoke. Gusano paled. He
had expected sudden, good natured con
sent; on the contrary, he was on the
verge of being refused. A lump rose
in his throat and he fought savagely
against the welling tears. He knew he
had been too sure; he realized also
that his new born.animationwas"" being
cruelly stamped out,
"Well, I'll tell you, Gussie," finally
answered Graves, still scowling at the
ground, "the fact is you haven't worked
long enough fpr me to recommend you
to another man. Besides, my. little
boy Jack tells me you aro thinking of
studying engineering. Now — What,
Guagie, crying? l '
. Gusano's head had sunk upon his
bre.-iat and the tears were streaming
through his dirty fingers. The man
took a step forward and laid his hand
caressingly upon the shoulder of the
apprentice fireman.
"I was just going to say," he added
gently, "that I want you to take up en
gineering, and thut I would .'rather
give you a iob here, when)' you can
learn."
Three years after Superintendent
Brown called up Graves by telephone.
"Buy, Graves, got a good man down
there? Our compressor's broke down
and we're i:p against it."
"Yes. I'll Bend you a young fellow
you once refused a job."
The machinist was Gusano.

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