SHIFTING SOME STUFF.
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A Few More Leaves from a Loader's Log-book, from which was Extracted an Appreciation of the Merits of Atlases.
TO THOSE who are thinking of taking up loading as a hobby in their spare time I would offer the advice that it is not all beer and skittles. In all my experiences I never came across a single specimen of a skittle. To make a successful loader one must use discretion and know when to leave well alone. If too strenuously indulged in, this pleasant pastime is apt to degenerate into mere work.
An awful example of exceeding the labour limit is that of the Irish hodman who sa,id : "The boss thinks I'm working, but I keep carrying the same load of bricks up and down the ladderall the time."
There are times, however, when an amateur loader must think seriously about lending a hand—if not both hands—and this I did on the hefty occasion when we shifted the welding plant.
Until then I had never been personally acquainted with a welding plant and inquired anxiously of Jason whether it could be moved by kindness rather than brute force,. and what its fighting weight was.
"It weighs a ton," he said. " But it's not like shifting a ton of coal. It's a matter of applied mechanics and leverage. You'll find it quite easy."
I had no doubt of that. If 1 don't find a job easy at first sight, keep on looking until I do.
We rose at dawn. Day broke on the dark horizon, and it was not the only thing that broke that day. We picked up Mr. Oldham, the n40 owner of the broken axle, and set out in search of the wreck. I was glad to see that Mr. Oldham was one of those heavy, thick-set men with broad shoulders and a deep chest. He looked a good weight-shifter, capable of moving mountains if necessary. I congratulated him on his physique.
" Physive I " he said; "never took a drop of physique in my life. Don't hold with doctor's stuff." "I mean," 1 said, "your muscular development 'a Herculean. You could pile Pelioa on. Ossa, as easily as Atlas supporting the world."
Never studied them things," he said. "Don't holik-with atlases."
Jason asked him for driving directions,
"Don't know exactly what the name of the place was where my lorry broke down," said Mr. Oldham. " It was a sort of a lonely spot somewhere this side of Shrowsbury. I shall know it when I see it. You keep on driving. I'll tell you where we go wrong."
He proceeded to do so, and I realized that it was no empty boast that he did'not hold with atlases. His method of route-finding was to try a road until he recognized that it was not the right one, then to try another. It was a pleasant form of circular touring, but not ideal for commercial efficiency.
England has forty counties and it was not quite clear in which of them Mr. 0. had left his welding plant. We toured little bits of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, with occasional snacks of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, until after four or five hours of eliminating the places where it wasn't, he eventually ran it to earth by a kind of homing instinct. There, in a lonely field, stood his lorry, its hindquarters propped up with stones and bricks and logs of wood. It was than about 11.30, and Mr. 0. remarked that we had been a long time coming 60 miles. Under his guidance we had covered about 90.
The derelict lorry stood on a steep, grassy slope, and when our one-tontier was hacked up again-st it there was a difference of 2 ft, in the altitude of the two floor levels. As a. welding plant is no good at climbing stairs, Jason said it would be necessary to raise the broken lorry to the level of the one-tonner.
I did not like the look of the thing at all. I believe in elevating the masses, and am ready of help to shift anything in reason—such as a magneto—but a loader is a loader, not a. steam crane. I said, " Hadn't I better go and take a course of Sandow exercises and borrow a donkey-engine? "
Mr. Oldham, who during our drive had somehow got the impression that I was a humorist, thought I was jesting, and said, " Yes, you'd better had." So, taking him at his word, I hurried off to see what I could do.
There was a village inn half a mile away, so I thought it best to go in there and make inquiries and tell the landlord exactly what I wanted.
He pulled a long face when I mentioned a donkey-engine, So he pulled a long handle—of a hoerengine—instead,
When I returned to the scene of our joint labours Jason and Mr. Oldham were squatting side by side between the two lorries, each with a jack in front of him. They addressed one another as men talk to horses, saying, " Whoa! " " Steady now !" and Easy with her ! " One would give his jack a few turns and say, "She's with you now." Then they would slip another, wedge in and operate the other jack. It was the slowest game of see-Saw I ever saw played. Not wishing to stand by idle while there was work toward, I made myself busy selecting bits of wood to serve as props during the elevating process.
As it was now midday I suggested, hadn't we better adjourn to have some lunch. Mr. 0. said, " We didn't better had." 'He did not hold with lunch. "When I was a boy," said Mr. 0. proudly, " I started work at seven years of age. My hours were 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., including Sundays, and look at me now! Work has been the making of me. It's enabled me to attain my present position." I had a good look at him, and decided that if his present position—crouching over a jack in the attitude of a perspiring frog—filled him with honest pride while it filled my log-book with copy, I was quite content with our respective positions.
"And you might be in my position too, young man." he added, " if you were to think more about work."
"No one," I answered, " could think about work more than I do."
As the floor of the lorry was travelling in its upward direction at a speed of about 6 ins, an hour, I calculated that it would take 4 hours to raise it 2 ft., so I. went back to the inn to make further inquiries. When I returned to the scene of our joint labours soon after 3. o'clock they had brought the two lorries to the same level, and it was then merely a matter of coaxing the welding plant from one lorry into the other—a task no more difficult than enticing a hippopotamus from its den and putting it into a horse-box. This ceremony only took about an hour and a half, and would not have taken so long had not some of the flooring of the lorry given way when the levels were being used to raise the beastly thing on to "the rollers. Worse might have happened had not I stood outside and watched that the props did not collapse.
At last the transfer was effected. British brains and beef had done it. By our combined effortsconeilio et labore, as they say on the town council-we had shifted a solid ton ; and, although my own share of the shifting had been modest and retiring, and not strictly confined to solids, yet much can be done by auto-suggestion in evading difficulties. Loading is a weighting game! During the drive home with the equivalent of a hippopotamus on board I began to appreciate the (Myer's preference for keeping to the crown of the road. With a ton of metal balanced on a light framework, he was reluctant to do the outside-edge on the camber. Not wishing to spill the welding plant, he did not waggle the lorry's tail more often than he could help and was continually waving overtaking cars to pass him on the far side. He got many scowls from occupants of cars, and Mr. 0. said he did not hold with people wanting all the road, and that they never had such things as Rolls-Royces when he was a boy.
A few days later I happened to be seated in a touring car on the same road. Wheh its owner groused at the lorry-drivers who seemed reluctant to give him the crown of the road, I pointed out that this was not due so much to discourtesy as to a reluctance to prove Sir Isaac Newton's theory of falling bodies.
It would be mutually instructive if drivers of touring cars and drivers of commercial vehicles were to take one another's steering wheel occasionally. But don't say I suggested this, in case it might be adopted and a law passed making it compulsory for private ear owners and commercial motor users to change places once a week; for you never know your luck with a Gilbertian Government.