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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/695

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OUR ICE-SUPPLY AND ITS DANGERS.

to the various openings. The ice-mass, which is quite imposing as one looks across it in the larger houses, must be carefully and skillfully packed, and be self-supporting. Many a dealer has come to grief by the fall of his building from the collapse of the ice-mass within. The construction of the great and elaborate ice palaces with which the people of Montreal and St. Paul sometimes amuse themselves in winter is comparatively simple, because water is poured in between the blocks, and the whole freezes to a solid mass as it rises. But the art of the commercial ice-builder consists in making his ice-mass solid enough to stand alone with just as little freezing together of the cakes as possible.

The more responsible harvesters are particular about the appearance of the ice which, is stored, and if a block is dirty from inclosed sand, grass, weeds, etc., it has to be thrown away. That sounds very simple, to throw away a cake of ice. But if one fancies that, in doing it, the offending object is dragged bodily off by hand out of the way, he underrates the value of machinery, gravity, and American enterprise. No, the offending block is floated on toward the elevator along with the rest, and goes up in line like any reputable sheep. But its Nemesis awaits it at the top in the person of a man with a spiked stick, with which he unceremoniously bounces it off the end of the platform into a heap of broken ice below by one quick, skillful thrust.

Too much ice must not be grooved out by the plows in advance, lest in case of rain the channels should fill and freeze solid and the labor be wasted. So it is frequently necessary for the workers at the plow to be out long before light in the morning, grooving out blocks for the harvesters when the day begins. It is a picturesque sight, these hardy men, muffled to their ears, following the gingerly-treading teams back and forth over the ice-fields by the light of flaring, smoky torches hung on poles stuck in the ice. More than once the swinging lamps which have done patriotic duty in some campaign torch-light procession have found themselves relegated to the austere and chilling duty of illuminating hoary ice-fields before the dawn, instead of lending force to the political claims and convictions of would-be or would continue-to-be American statesmen after dark.

Serious accidents are not frequent upon the ice-fields, but occasionally a horse breaks through or slips off into the icy water, and has to be hauled out with ropes. The men, too, frequently enough, get an unexpected bath amid the jeers of their fellows. A change of clothing and a stiff horn of whisky are the not unwillingly endured penalties which such an awkwardness entails.

At Highland Lake, which lies in the hollow of a natural rocky terrace a short distance back from and above the Hudson below West Point, no power other than that of gravity is used in carrying the ice to the houses some distance away. A wooden runway leads from the edge of the lake down the hill. Down this the ice-cakes glide one after another as they are fed in directly from the water-level above.