The Bad Boy and His Pa in
a Railroad Wreck—Pa Rescues the “Other
Freaks”—They Spend the Night on a Meadow—A Near-Sighted Claim
Agent Settles for Damages—Pa Plays Deaf and Dumb and Gets Ten
It has come at last.
Everybody about the show expects that the show has got to have a railroad wreck every season, and all hands lay awake nights on the cars to brace themselves for the shock. Sometimes it comes early in the season, and again a show goes along until almost the end of the season without a shake-up, and fellows think maybe there is not going to be any wreck, but the engineers are only waiting till everybody has forgotten about it, and then, biff, bang, and they have run into another train, or been run into, and you have to be pulled out of a window by the heels, and laid out in a marsh until the claim agents can settle with you.
I always thought in reading of railroad accidents, that the railroad sent out a special trainload of doctors and nurses, to care for the injured, but the special train never has a doctor until the lawyers give first aid to the wounded in the way of financial poultices for the cripples. People in our business are on the railroads, and we work them for all there is in it; and the man that is hurt the least makes the biggest howl, and gets the biggest slice of indemnity. Some circus people spend all their salary as they go along, and live all winter on the damages they get from the railroads when the wreck comes.
The night of the wreck our train was whooping along at about 90 miles an hour, on a hippity-hop railroad in Pennsylvania, and the night was hot, and the mosquitoes from across the line in New Jersey were singing their solemn tunes, and pa, who attended a lodge meeting that night at the town we showed in, was asleep and talking in his sleep about passwords and grips, and the freaks and trapeze performers in our car had got through kicking about how the show was running into the ground, when suddenly there was a terrific smash-up ahead, an engine boiler exploded, a freight car of dynamite on a side track exploded and there was a grinding and bumping of cars. Then they rolled down a bank, over and over, so the upper berth was the lower berth half the time, and finally the whole business stopped in a hay marsh, and the bilge water in the marsh leaked into the hold of our car; people screamed, and some one yelled “fire!” and I pulled on pa till he woke up.
I thought pa’s head was all caved in, because he talked nutty. The first thing he said was: “Say I, pronounce your name, and repeat after me,” and then he said: “I promise and swear that I will never reveal the secrets of this degree,” and then the conductor pulled pa’s leg and said: “Crawl out of the window, old man, ’cause the train is in the ditch, the car is afire, and if you don’t get out in about a minute with the other freaks, you will be a burnt offering.”