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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/248

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stones, road-bed, were all blackened, but all were smoothly swept. It seemed as if some time before there had been a fire which had blackened every thing, and that some one had gone round afterward, and, carefully gathering up and conveying away all the débris, had scrupulously swept the whole with brooms, leaving only the soot-stains behind.

Nothing of the sort had been done. Here was simply the result of the storm that had a little while before swept the spot. Usually, the force of the explosion is so great that no débris can be left behind. It is simply hurled out of existence. There are no broken boards or pieces of shingle, or bits of wood, to be found. They vanish in an instant. The ground itself has a singularly smoothed appearance, as if beaten down and rounded off.

There were few questions to be asked. On these occasions the proprietors and workmen are reticent, and information is not readily accessible. Indeed, inquiries as to the cause of the explosion are generally useless. If it has been through the agency of a careless workman, he is not there to tell the tale. The man nearest, and most acquainted with the fact, is probably the one who in an instant passes out of life, often totally vanishes from human sight, not even a fragment of his body remaining behind.

That many of these accidents are caused by the carelessness of workmen, there can be no doubt. It is needless to say that the utmost precaution is taken to guard the safety of the men and the works, such as floors flooded with water, shoes in which only copper nails are used, etc. The reader will perhaps smile when we say that smoking is absolutely prohibited. Yet, incredible as it may appear, the authority of the proprietors is absolutely necessary to enforce this prohibition. A proprietor of a powder-mill once said to me, that in the face of the ever-present danger, and of the most positive orders, it was impossible to prevent the men, at times, from taking their lighted pipes into the works; that he had detected the men thrusting their lighted pipes into their jacket-pockets to escape observation, as he had unexpectedly come upon them! A triumph of art—to smoke one's pipe in a powder-mill, and "the boss not find it out!"

Once in a while, on some special occasion, the pipe of some such cunning fellow goes suddenly out, and he with it. He does not linger to tell how it happened.

It might be supposed that it would be extremely difficult to find men in sufficient numbers to carry on a business so hazardous, in which the workman's life is in such constant danger. But no such difficulty is experienced. There are always more applicants than places for them to fill. As in every business, however unpleasant or unwholesome, there will always be found men who are more than ready for the work.