“Well, then, why don’t you do something else?”
“I don’t know what to do. I like mechanics, and some job of this kind is the only thing I know how to do or would care to do. Yet, I don’t care for this. I must confess that I am puzzled as to what in the world I was made for, anyhow.”
“What you need is to give your time and attention to the intellectual side of engineering rather than the purely mechanical and physical. You are of the intellectual type, and you are as badly placed trying to do mere mechanical work as if you were an eagle trying to cross the country on foot.”
“I believe you are right in that. I am going to get an education.”
He began at once with correspondence courses in mechanical and electrical engineering. Twelve hours a day he shoveled coal in his basement boiler-room. Some four to eight hours a day he studied in his little room up under the roof. It takes an immense amount of courage, persistence, and perseverance to complete a correspondence course in engineering, as anyone who has tried it well knows. There is lacking any inspiration from the personality and skill of a teacher. There is no spur to endeavor from association with other students doing the same kind of work and striving for the same degree. There are no glee clubs, athletic games, fraternities, prizes, scholarships, and other aids to the imagination and ambition, such as are found in a university. It is all hard, lonely work. But what the student learns, he knows. And, somehow, he gains a great knack for the practical use of his knowledge. Night after night T. toiled away, until he had finished his course and secured his certificate of graduation.
By this time T.’s ambition began to assume a definite form. He was determined that he should have the honor and the emoluments which would come to him as a result of solving one of the toughest problems in engineering—one which had puzzled both technical and practical men for many years. He therefore saved up a few dollars and, packing his little belongings, departed to complete his education in one of the most famous technical engineering schools of the country. Tuition was high. Board cost a good deal of money. Books were distressingly expensive. Tools, machine shop fees, and other incidentals ate into the little store he had brought with him, and inside of two months it was gone. He hunted around and finally secured a job running an engine. This meant twelve hours in the engine room every night. In addition, he did what other students considered a full day’s work attending lectures and carrying on his studies in the laboratories and classroom. He went almost without necessary food and clothing in order to buy books, tools, and other equipment. But he was young, he was strong, and, above all, he was happy in his mental picture of the great object of his ambition. In due time he had taken his degree, having specialized on all subjects bearing upon the solution of his great problem.