Rules and Regulations No. 17
E. P. HOLMES
Reproduced from Pearson’s Magazine
THE midnight freight had shunted a cattle-car onto a side track at the little station at Greenfield and gone on without it.
This was not in itself an unusual occurrence; but the fact that this same car was billed to a station twenty miles farther on, and that it contained a mixed load comprising ten head of cattle, two mules, seven pigs and several hives of bees, consigned to a farmer who was seeking pastures new, caused station agent Ben Brown much anxiety.
He went into his little office, took down his well-thumbed “ Rules and Regulations ” and looked up that part relating to the care of animals in transit.
“Just my luck!” he exclaimed, threw the book into a corner, closed the office and crossed the street to the general store of his friend Perkins.
“Hello, Perk. !” he said.
“ Hello, Ben ! Anything billed to me in that car?” inquired Perkins.
“ Nope,” replied the agent, “ 1
wish the whole car was, but it ain’t.”
“ What’s the matter now?” asked Perkins, going to the door. “ Seems to me I see critters moving about. Ain’t got a load of cattle there have you ?”
“ That’s what I have,” answered the agent, “ and what sticks me is, where I’m going to put ’em ? Car don’t belong here anyway. Billed to Milford. Freight made a mistake —left the wrong car.
“ Them cattle were shipped yesterday morning at six o’clock and, ’cording to rules and regulations No. 17, they’ve got to come out at ten this morning to be fed and watered.”
“Ain’t there any provision made in the regulations for unexpected contingencies?” inquired Perkins, who had “read law” for six months and then, gracefully yielding to an all-wise Providence, had succeeded his father in the grocery business.
“ Nope,” replied the agent ; “ got to come out in twenty-eight .hours unless I have a written order from
the consignee to keep ’em in. That would give me eight hours more, but thirty-six hours is the limit, anyway.”
“ Let’s see what the law says about it,” said Perkins, reaching for a leather-bound volume of the “ Revised Statutes” “Seems to me—”
“ Law be hanged !” broke in the agent, in disgust. “ What do you suppose the law has got to do with the railroads, anyway ! ‘ Look out
for the engine while the bell rings.’ That’s our motto, and the ‘ engine ’ means regulations—look out for the regulations first, last and all the time if you want to hold down your job.”
“Here it is,” resumed Perkins, not at all disturbed by his friend’s interruption, “ ‘ An act to prevent cruelty to animals while in transit by railroads, etc. No animals shall be confined in cars, boats or vessels of any description for a period of twenty-eight consecutive hours without unloading the-!’”
“ Didn’t I tell you so?” interrupted the agent. “ Copied it from our rules and regulations !”
“Well, wait I’ll I get ihrough, find see, will you?” said Perkins, continuing to read, “ ‘without unloading the same in a humane manner into properly equipped pens for rest, water and feeding; for a period of at least five consecutive hours.’ ”
“ Oh, bosh !” exclaimed the agent, as he started for the door. “ Unloading in a humane manner!’ ‘Properly equipped pens for rest!’ What you giving us ? Think I’m running a sanitarium for stray mules and cows?
“ At ten o’clock sharp them animals have got to come out because the regulations say so ; and they’ve got to be watered and fed by the railroad, in case the owner or the person having the custody thereof don’t show up to do it, because that’s in the regulations too; but when it comes ' to unloading in a humane manner—whatever that is— and put ’em into properly equipped pens for rest, the agent at Greenfield has got something else to do besides carting them animals out on his back and providing ’em with spring beds and hair mattresses to rest on !”
By this time station agent Brown had reached the car in question and was speaking sharply to the occupants thereof in an evident attempt to subdue some unruly animal.
All at once Perkins, standing in his doorway, saw the agent throw his arms up in front of his face, make a great sprint for the waitingroom of the station and slam the door to after him.
In a minute or two the door was cautiously opened and the agent rushed across the street to the door.
“ Bees!” he exclaimed, as he carefully felt of a red and white blotch on the back of his neck. “ Bees are out and they’re fighting mad!”
Just then there came a bellow accompanied by a resounding kick from the car, and this was followed by a chorus of bellows, kicks and squeals that brought everybody in the neighborhood to the scene of the disturbance.
“ Keep away from that car or you’ll be stung to death !” shouted the agent. Then looking at his watch he said to Perkins, “ Time’s up and them critters have got to come out—bees or no bees!”
“ Don’t you be such a blamed
icol!” exclaimed Perkin*. “ i'here ain’t any law, and rever will be, that can make a railroad employee risk his life to save personal property, and that’s just what you’re doing if you try to get these maddened animals out of that car!”
The agent started for the door, but said not a word. Perkins grabbed him by the arm and shoved him back against the counter, on which the “ Revised Statutes ” still lay.
“ If you’re bound to do it, all right,” he said, “ but you’ve got to hear what the law says about it first,” and with one hand on the agent’s arm and the forefinger of the other hand tracing the lines on the book before him, he read :
“ ‘ Animals shall be confined for a period longer than twenty-eight consecutive hours without unloading the same, etc., etc., ‘ unless ’— now hear this, ‘ unless prevented by storm or by other accidental or unavoidable causes which can not be anticipated or avoided by the exercise of due diligence and foresight.’
“ There,” he continued, closing the book, “ that’s the law ! Ain’t those bees accidental or unavoidable causes. Ain’t the kicking mules and steers unavoidable causes?”
“ That’s all right, Perk,” said the agent shaking off his friend’s hand and heading for the door, “that may be the law, but law ain’t regulations.”
The Greenfield station had not been so crowded since “ circus day ” the year before. Every one of the two dozen houses in the immediate vicinity, the blacksmith shop and the cheese factory had furnished its quota of interested spectators who, at a safe distance from the car, laughed and joked and offered such assistance to the agent—by word of mouth—as they were disposed to give.
“Want any help, Ben?” asked Rodman the blacksmith.
“ Guess I can find a little something for you to do,” replied the agent, “got to build a pen out by
that car to feed and water them animals in, and if there’s anybody else in this crowd that’s sufferin’ to help I’ll find the tools.”
A dozen men and boys accepted the invitation.
The bees had quieted down somewhat, likewise the other occupants of the car.
In less than an hour, by using old railroad ties for posts, to which were nailed some boards that had accumulated near the station from time to time, a pen about twenty feet square was constructed of which the car formed one side.
In making the fence fast to the car the necessary hammering had set the bees to flying about again and they, in turn, had stung the cattle and mules into a frenzy.
Nobody dared to approach the car. Even the agent, spurred on as he was by Rules and Regulations No. 17, saw the futility of trying to open that car door, in the face of the maddened animals and bees.
“Gosh, Perk, I’m stuck!” he ex-
claimed to his friend, who had run over to watch events.
“ Knew you’d be,” said Perkins. “The best you can do is to wire the superintendent for instructions.”
“ Guess you’re right,” the agent said, as he hurried into the station.
“ Well, I’ll be hanged !” he exclaimed as he noted the absence of the operator. “ Here it is past ten o'clock and Miss White not here
yet! Just my--”
At this point he was interrupted by a small boy, who approached him in an almost breathless condition and stammered out :
“ Mother—wanted me—t’ tell yer —Miss White’s—sick an’ can’t
“ Ugh, sick is she?” said the agent. “Well, that settles it. No message sent from this office to-day, most likely.
“ Let’s see,” he continued, “ up train will be along at twelve-ten. I’ll send message up to junction and have them wire it to superintendent. He can wire back to them and they can send it to me by one of the section men on a hanclcar.”
Then he wrote :
Mr. P. Delano,
Superintendent of Freight Department; C. & N. R. R.
Dear Sir: Car No. 1492, billed to Milford. Contents, bees (mostly), cattle, mules and ; igs. Side-tracked here by night freight, by mistake. Cattle shipped at Turner 6 a.m., yesterdav Rules and Regulations No. 17 says all animals must be put in pens for food and drink within twenty-eight hours. Have built pen. Bees are stinging everything in sight and animals have gone mad. Can’t get near the car. What shall I do ?
B. Brown, agent. Greenfield.
The message was sent by the conductor of the up train at noon and, making due allowance for rush of business, etc., the answer might be expected by three o’clock.
In the meantime all Greenfield, including the agent,, went home to
dinner, to reappear at the station before the hour of the expected arrival of the superintendent's message.
Three o’clock came, but no message. Four, five o’clock—no message. At about this time it was noticed by some of the expectant watchers in the neighborhood of the car that the bees were apparently leaving the car for the fields and meadows by which they were surrounded.
Agent Brown left the crowd to watch for the messenger and went over to see his friend Perkins.
“ Perk,” he said, “ here ’tis going on six o’clock, and no message. The bloomin’ bees have gone visiting. Them cattle have been in that car without food or drink for thirtysix hours—almost, and I’m going to have ’em out.”
“ Well,” said Perkins, casting a glance in the direction of the “ Revised Statutes,” now that the ‘ unavoidable causes,’ which in this case means bees, have been removed I guess you’d better unload them. Fact is I’m of the opinion that you place yourself under the ban of the law by not removing ’em, and the sooner you get about it the better.”
“ That’s what I say,” said the agent, “and I don’t see how the superintendent’s going to kick much if I don’t wait any longer for his answer. Anyway, the Rules and Regulations are on my side—and I’m going at it right now.”
And at it he went, with the blacksmith at his elbow and three or four other daring ones at his heels.
The cattle-run—a sort of gangplank with side rails—was already in place before the door, and up this rushed the agent and his henchmen, followed by the cheers of the excited onlookers, who crowded about the pen.
The agent “ busted ” the seal and he and the blacksmith laid hold of the door and shoved it open.
There was a rush, a chorus of squeals and seven half-grown pigs shot out of the car, cleared the top of
the pen and headed for a pond a quarter of a mile away.
The agent and his assistants were piled in a heap at the foot of the cattle-run. The audience went wild with delight.
Hardly were the men upon their feet again when their was a warning shout from the crowd, and a mule that had broken his halter leaped from the car, wheeled around, and letting hi heels fly at the side of the pen smashed it into kindling wood.
The men inside the pen ducked under the car while the crowd outside made a break for the station.
The mule, seeing himself master of the situation, put in a few more kicks, by way of good measure, walked out of the pen and trotted off in the direction that the pigs had taken.
The agent and his aids crawled out from under the car and took a hasty survey of the wreck.
“Dem that mule!” exclaimed the agent; “how he did kick!”
The others voiced his sentiments in several different colored expletives.
The crowd came out from the station, lined up around the pen and offered more advice.
A consultation was held by the agent and his picked men and a line of action determined upon. First they repaired the pen. Then the agent sent over to Perkins for a small bale of hay and a bag of oats. These he distributed in sundry piles inside the pen, and, at the blacksmith’s suggestion, he procured a tub which he filled to the brim with water.
“ Don’t let them other critters get the notion into their heads that there ain’t any water short of the pond,” said the blacksmith, “ or you’ll loose the hul keboodle of ’em.”
With everything in readiness the agent and Rodman entered the car to lead out the other mule. For obvious reasons it was thought best to determine in just what manner he proposed to deport himself, before letting the other animals into the pen.
The men cautiously approached the mule. The blacksmith said, in speaking of the affair afterward, that he was willing to swear that as they grasped the animal’s halter he winked his off eye and smiled; while the agent was equally positive that the nigh side of the brute’s face was perfectly passive. However, the instant the mule realized
that his halter was no longer fast
to the car he leaped for the door dragging the men along with him.
“Hang to him, Rod ! Hang to him !” cried the agent.
In the next second mule and men had plunged down the run and the excited animal was rearing and jumping about the enclosure accompanied by the blacksmith, while the agent hurled vituperation at the mule from his position in the washtub, where that animal had dropped him.
The audience, relying on the blacksmith’s strong right arm, held their ground this time and shouted encouragement and other things to the contestants.
The blacksmith was game and kept a firm grip on the halter which he and the agent, who had regained his feet, finally made fast to the pen.
“Here comes the handcar from the junction !” a boy shouted.
The man who was driving the car jammed on the brake and jumped to the ground.
“Here’s your answer from the super, Brown,” he said, taking the telegram from his cap. “Guess I’ll slide ’long back ahead of 49. So long!” and he was ofif.
The agent went'into his office and closed the door. For some reason he didn’t want any inquisitive eyes fixed on him while he was reading that message. He tore open the envelope and read :
“B. Brown, agent C. & N.R.R., Greenfield. Do not remove cattle, etc., from car. Feed and water, if possible. Have instructed conductor of night freight to pick up car, etc. In the future make communications to this office brief as possible. We know the rules. P. Delano, Superintendent of Freight.”
The agent jammed the message into his pocket, kicked over his stool and hurried to Perkin’s store.
“Wouldn’t that jar you?” he asked, handing the message to his friend.
Perkins read it and laughed. “No,
it wouldn’t—much,” he replied. “The super’s getting funny, ain’t he?”
“ ’Cording to how you take it,” returned the agent. “Fooks to me plaguy lot like sarcasm ; but that don’t phase me any; what I’m up against the hardest is—how I’m going to get them critters back into the car before the night freight gets in!”
“Oh, they’ll go back all right, now that they’re fed and watered,” said Perkins.
“Dike enough they will—them that’s in the pen,” replied the agent ; “but how about the seven pigs and a mule down in the medder?”
“Gosh, but I forgot them !” Perkins replied. “You’ll have to round them up, sure. That mule’s bound to wander back to his mate soon’s he’s filled himself up, and you’d better get the boys after the pigs— they’ll like the fun.”
Feeling quite encouraged the agent returned to the station, and finding a number of boys who were only too eager to drive in the pigs, set them at it. Then he went to the pen to lead the cattle back into the car.
One after another the animals were coaxed and threatened, but not one of them could be made to enter the car. Even the vigorous application of a stout sapling to the flanks of some of them was not productive of the desired result.
It was growing dark. The boys had not been successful with the pigs which, after leading their pursuers a merry chase, had crawled out of sight among the bushes. The stray mule still hovered within sight of his companion, but would not be captured.
The agent was thoroughly discouraged. As he sought the seclusion of his office he was met by Perkins, who had closed his store for the night. The loafers had gone home.
The agent held the superintendent’s message in his hand.
“Well, Perk,” he said, “I’ve done the best I could, but the night
freight won’t pick up car No. 1492 I’m thinking—leastwise, not unless they take it empty.”
“Strange them critters won’t go back. You’re sure the bees are all out?” Perkins asked.
“Every mother’s son of ’em— drones, mutes, queen, king and ace,” replied the agent.
“Hadn’t you better write another report to the super?” suggested Perkins. “Send it up on the eight-thirty, and then turn in till the freight arrives.”
The agent threw off his coat, sat down to his desk and began to write. There was a twinkle in his eye.
“Seems to me, Ben, I’d make it kind of short, if I’s you,” said Perkins.
“Perk,” replied the agent, “I’ll make it shorter’n pie crust ! It’ll be the shortest blamed report the old man ever read—if I have to set up all night to write it.”
Ten minutes went by with the agent still writing.
“Ain’t putting in too many particulars, are you?” Perkins enquired anxiously.
“Nope,” said the agent, “cuttin’ out now.”
The station clock slowly—to Perkins—ticked away another ten minutes.
“You’re sure you ain’t making it too long?” he ventured to ask.
“Sure,” the agent replied, “gettin’ shorter every minute.”
Not till some ten minutes or so later, when they heard the whistle of the eight-thirty at Prides Crossing, a mile away, did the agent lay down his pen. Then he picked up nine sheets of paper, handed one of them to Perkins, and threw the others into the waste-basket.
Perkins took the message and read :
Mr. P. Delano, Sup. of Freight: Bees out, critters too. Won’t go back. What’ll I do?—Brown.
Perkins’ comment on his friend’s report was nipped in the bud by the arrival of the train.
The agent handed the message to the conductor, and as the train pulled out he said to Perkins :
“How do you think that’ll strike the super?”
“Well,” replied Perkins, “ if Brevity is the soul of wit,’ and the super is sufferin’ for something witty, I think you’re right in line for promotion.”
“Anyway, he’s got what he asked for,” returned the agent. The men said “good-night !” and parted.
The next morning, when the first
train down pulled into the station, a young man jumped from the side door of the baggage car and hauled a bulky piece of apparatus to the platform after him.
He had rather square jaws, no superfluous flesh and no yellow stains on his fingers. He was a man who had acquired the habit of doing things.
“Brown?” he asked, approaching the agent. “My name’s Hallaran.” Then he added, very diplomatically, “Mr. Delano sent me down here to help you with those cattle. Said you hadn’t the proper equipment to handle them to advantage and sent these traps along.”
“Well, I’m mighty glad to see you,” said the agent. “Them cattle have just about bothered the life out of me. We—the boys and I— have just rounded up the stray mule and seven pigs. Been at it since five this morning and we’re pretty nigh tuckered out.”
“Are they still balky?” inquired Hallaran.
“Can’t get their noses within three feet of the door,” the agent replied.
“All right, then,” said Hallaran ; “just help me out to the car with this apparatus and we’ll show them a thing or two.”
“This apparatus” resembled, in part, the ordinary harness worn by a draught horse, but with the traces attached to the breeching. These draw-straps were made fast to a cross-bar or whififletree in front of the animal, and to this bar, in turn, was fastened a strong rope which was wound on to an axle by two men, who turned a crank at either end.
With the frame containing the axle securely bolted to the floor within the car, the harness was adjusted to one of the cows. She was
led as far up the run as she would walk and then, before she had a chance to brace herself against the pulling force in front of her, she was hauled bodily into the car.
The agent looked on open-mouthed. “Well, I’ll be darned!” he exclaimed; “if that don’t work as slick as grease I’d like to know why.”
The crowd cheered Hallaran to the echo.
One after another the cows and one mule had submitted to the inevitable, and mule number two was half-way within the car when the agent’s daughter appeared on the scene with her camera.
“Hurry up, sis,” said her father; “aim at the mule!”
“Click,” went the shutter, and in went the mule.
His duties completed, Hallaran left Greenfield on the next train up.
“By the way,” he said to the agent at parting, “Mr. Delano seemed pleased with the report you sent in last night. Said you were catching on to the idea of brevity.”
“‘Catching on,’ is it?” the agent repeated thoughtfully to himself as he returned to his office.
The next day, while seated at his desk, Freight Superintendent Delano was seized with a violent fit of laughter.
“Look here a minute, boys,” he said to his clerks.
They gathered about him. In his hand mounted on a piece of plain cardboard, was a photograph of a loaded cattle-car with a mule’s hind quarters gracing the doorway.
The upper margin bore the stamp of the Greenfield R.R. station, with date. Below the picture was written :
“Mr. P. Delano, Sup. Freight.