On the morning following Bryce Cardigan’s return to Sequoia, Zeb Curry, as per custom, started his engine at six-fifty-eight. That gave the huge bandsaws two minutes in which to attain their proper speed and afforded Dan Kenyon, the head sawyer, ample time to run his steam log-carriage out to the end of the track; for Daniel, too, was a reliable man in the matter of starting his daily uproar on time.
At precisely six fifty-nine and a half, therefore, the engineer’s hand closed over the handle of the whistle-cord, and Dan Kenyon, standing on the steam-carriage with his hand on the lever, took a thirty-second squint through a rather grimy window that gave upon the drying-yard and the mill-office at the head of it.
The whistle ceased blowing, but still Dan Kenyon stood at his post, oblivious of the hungry saws. Ten seconds passed; then Zeb Curry, immeasurably scandalized at Daniel’s tardiness, tooted the whistle sharply twice; whereupon Dan woke up, threw over the lever, and walked his log up to the saw.
For the next five hours Zeb Curry had no opportunity to discuss the matter with the head sawyer. After blowing the twelve o’clock whistle, however, he hurried over to the dining-hall, where the mill hands already lined the benches, shovelling food into their mouths as only a lumberman or a miner can. Dan Kenyon sat at the head of the table in the place of honour sacred to the head sawyer, and when his mouth would permit of some activity other than mastication, Zeb Curry caught his eye.
“Hey, you, Dan Kenyon,” he shouted across the table, “what happened to you this mornin’? It was sixteen seconds between the tail end o’ my whistle an’ the front end o’ your whinin’. First thing you know, you’ll be gettin’ so slack an’ careless-like some other man’ll be ridin’ that log-carriage o’ yourn.”