Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Hole in Chicago


Experience of a Traveler Who Went Driving In the Windy City.

"Whatever may be said of New York's streets as to their uncleanliness," said a traveler, "can be more than matched by that city of sooty faces and soiled linen, Chicago, and the streets there are afflicted with more things than more dirt. I was out driving there one winter night with a Chicagoan, who was showing me the sights. The horse, a spirited hackney, was bowling along at a pretty good clip. The vehicle was one of those two wheeled affairs which hoist the occupants about five foot from the roadway. My friend and I were engaged in conversation, when all of a sudden there was a mighty crash. The wheel alongside me gave a thump and a bump, I was thrown in the air about two feet, my hat was jammed over my eyes and my glasses flew off my nose. When I landed, my companion fell on top of me, completely knocking out what little breath I had left. Fortunately he kept a good hold on the reins, for the horse had taken fright and was running away.

"It took about five minutes to stop the horse and remove the memories of the incident from his mind. I have them still in mine. After I had recovered my glasses from the bottom of the carriage and got my collar into position, likewise my internal organs, I inquired what in the name of something quite profane it was that we ran into.

"'Oh,' replied my friend, 'only a fire.'

"'Fire be hanged,' said I. 'How could a fire throw us around like that? I didn't see any fire anywhere.'

" 'Well, you don't understand Chicago yet,' said my friend. 'You see, we are now driving on a wood pavement. This part of the town is not populated with the richest class of persons. Sometimes they go broke, to use a colloquial term, and firewood gets low. When the bin is empty and the thrifty laborer finds that it is a case of having a fire at the city's expense or going cold, he generally chooses the former. He then waits for nightfall, and with a crowbar and pickax goes out and digs up a couple of yards of the street and lugs it home. The wood is always covered with tar and makes the finest kind of firewood. It was one of the holes left by one of those enterprising fellows that we fell into.'

"I said nothing more, but merely ached and thought it over." — New York Sun.

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