Bruised in a Manner Fitting.
The superintendent prefers the Irish and the Scots. Germans and Slovaks--the odd Manx from the Isle of Man. New Hungarians and Poles arrive--the Vistula and Danube--and all the while the superintendent avers insistently that they are all good workers. That only slightly less grand is the Grand Calumet, and Hungarians and Poles aside, US Steel is fully American even though the river must move.
They are calling Gary the Magic City, created as if out of nothing, and with little flowering gardens. All the homes have garden plots, and all the workers garden--compete for a small cash prize at the end of the year for best soy, best corn, and best tomato. The soil was sandy and unlit, but soil too can be imported, just like the workers, just like the coke, the ore--Elbert H. Gary's little transplanted Eden and little tuck you to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
If the tuyeres through which air is injected into the furnace melt down to a point where the molten metal threatens to flow into the air cavity, the first and second helpers mend the nozzle by covering and stoppering it with clay. The vesselmen continually wrestle with the destructive capacities of the molten metal, continually lose, and the whole furnace must be shut down if the air cavity fills. In order to fix it, taking a damn long time to cool off first.
The veteran vesselmen play a game with the new workers, telling them that they must touch a flaming hot ingot of steel with their bare hands. They tell the new workers that they have all already done this and nod--to the ones who are praying and crying, that they can't pray here. The stripper is a large rectangular press used to create the raw ingots, which are then sent to the cooling pits to cool for a while.
The lake-like sloughs amidst the dunes and scrub oak present a challenge to surveyors. They tie one end of the tape to the dog's collar and throw a stick across the slough; in this way the man on the other side calls to the dog and the tape, and the measurement may be taken. Transactions for the land are made in cash, and at the behest of Mr. Knotts, 1.3 million dollars is transported in a suitcase across the streets of New York.
The subsidiary of US Steel charged with building and operating the new Gary Works is the Indiana Steel Company. Its president, Eugene J. Buffington, prefers the term subterfuge to the terms trickery or ruse. A ship of same name--Eugene J. Buffington--strikes Boulder Reef on Lake Michigan--splits in two and sinks--is raised to the surface and repaired.
There is no natural harbor at Gary, so an artificial one is dug that will accommodate the largest of ships. It draws a straight line into the shore perpendicular to the lake, with a large marine cul-de-sac at its terminus so that ships may turn around. The Poles--adopting as their own the meatpacking giant Gustavus Swilt--have coined the cul-de-sac "Gustavus." The Hungarians--"Philip Danforth Armour."
When the vesselmen pour out a heat of steel, it solidifies at the lip of the converter tap--platelets of molten pig iron blood freezing and hardening midflow. If the tap is clogged, the solidified metal must be knocked off with a deft kick from the cinder-pit man's thick wood-soled shoes. Careful not to place his piggies under the flow of molten metal--transferred by word of mouth and with near universal agreement, this would hurt a lot, warranting even, perhaps, the phrase "god damn."
The superintendent avoids the term "forge" because it is medieval, while US Steel is uniquely modern. Rivers are not medieval, but mountains are, and there are no mountains in Gary except for the ones made of ore, that are built and burned, and built and burned. The river, no more stable than the ore, interrupts the site and is diverted one mile to the south. This new section of the Grand Calumet is made of concrete and forms a perfectly orthogonal straight line.
The main thoroughfares of Gary--Broadway and 5th Avenue, one hundred feel and eighty feet wide respectively--have been paved with concrete, while the ancillary streets have been paved with macadam. In this way the city draws comparisons to New York because it too has roads of similar name. It too is bruised in a manner fitting the overly attractive.
When a furnace is tapped, a single giant ladle is placed below the aperture. The steel fills the ladle to the brim, and the slag spills out over the lip and into the pit below. Just before this moment of overflow, before the slag runs out to the pit bottom, the vesselmen sing out with a rousing "AHH." They crescendo until the slag begins to fall. Scream as it drips from the ladle lip, and they all fall limp to the floor as if dead. Unless the superintendent is around or if they are particularly tired.
The cinder-pit man adds manganese to the molten pig. These come in the form of heavy metal ores, but are better imagined as baking-soda-type powders lightly sprinkled by the teaspoon. Iron is an element you can trust, but manganese, hinky and dilute. For some of the "hot jobs" the vesselmen wear sleeveless tops, and for the "hotter jobs," thick coarse coverings.
The storage yard adjacent to the harbor bulkhead has the capacity to house 5 million tons of iron ore. This, says Buffington, is a lot of iron ore. And everyone is feeling very familiar with Minnesota. They've seen her insides--the tapped veins forming little mountains not so little, so that the Gary Works can be busy baking all winter long when the ships can't get into Gustavus.
The dust catchers adjacent to the blast furnaces wash and purify the furnace gases. They are bulbously shaped like that of the nuclear bomb Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki. The air however headed to the mills and workers' lungs--to the sac vesicles and esophageal membranes--is not washed, though they've built a hospital. Though they are being applauded in Scientific American for their "savvy" and "boldness," for the Kufu level scaling that US Steel, and US Steel alone, could hope to realize.
The new workers gather around a glowing hot ingot of steel in the soaking pits. With song and percussion they dance around it, and the illuminant metal casts their hazy shadows to the outer walls. Hot tools are submerged in the bosh to create steam and hisses, and the superintendent, loving humidity so, licks his lips and eats his oranges.
The rail mill at the Gary Works is the largest of its kind in the world. It can produce 4,000 tons of rails in a single day. Leland is dead, but they all call the rail mill Leland. Railroad tycoons, the best kind of tycoons because they produce smoke and wear hats, don't spill blood like the Chicago meat packing giants--continually staining their white butcher aprons.
The workers without their own garden plots may plant and tend to their tomatoes in the community gardens. Presumably they may still win the cash prize, although this seems unlikely. And anything is possible when saboteurs move to theft and stoppering the flow of xylem.
The flat-chested men in play flick at one anothers' somewhat muted breasts but cause no reverberation. They are saddened, self-pitying, and return to their work. The ladles of molten pig iron from the blast furnace are poured into the hearth, and the operator of the electric crane is cautious not to spill on or crush any of his fellow workers. Sometimes the crane operator is depressed.
The YMCA building, boasting swimming pools, a gymnasium, classrooms, and dormitories, was donated to the city at the cost of $260,000 by Elbert H. Gary. The town bears his name. Originally planners conceived the town as Corey, Indiana after the then president of US Steel William Ellis Corey. And given the rounder "O" sound, it's likely that things would have changed rather significantly.
Advocates of the Bessemer process are fools. Open-hearth furnaces are superior to Bessemer furnaces in terms of the quality and consistency of the batch, and while slightly slower in cooking, they more than make up for this setback with their significantly larger tonnage capacities and checks on quality control. This is what we call "large acreage."
To get a good look at the converter bottom, the boss vessel man gets up close and looks through the tiny punctuated holes in a thick sheet of steel. It's too hot to do otherwise. From afar you can see the heat deflecting from the front of the steel plate, and up close, on the inside of the shield, he's painted a picture of the virgin like Gawain, the holes he looks through aligned to where her eyes should be.
They fill the charging boxes with pig iron, scrap metal, ore, and dolomite. The operator extends the charge into the furnace, and the box turns turtle--rotating half a revolution and emptying its contents into the hearth. One hears the sound of large rolling dice followed by the plopping and smacking of open palms on dough. The furnace operators consider themselves bakers and these additives "the yeast." When the yeast doesn't rise, you get iron, which is brittle like hard bread.
The lawyer Armanis F. Knotts, charged with buying up all the land for the proposed Gary Works, conceals the identity of the buyer. Deeds are purchased in the names of various individuals around the country, only later to be transferred to the holdings of US Steel. Knotts, the former mayor of Hammond, has had four children--Anna Frances, Eugenia, Leo, and Marguerite. He affiliates himself with the Garfield Lodge No. 569 and with the Hammond Commandery. His son Leo, having died at the age of two.
The southern tip of Lake Michigan proves an ideal location for the Gary Works with access to both supplies of ore shipped down from Duluth and coke and limestone from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Chicago provides a ready and adequate supply of labor, and locals and transplants alike make their way to the lakeshore and look to the city skyline--make blasphemous proclamations or stare at the dredger. Or simply look bemused.
It is easier to buy liquor in Chicago than in Gary--the four company stores make it available but regulate the amount that you can buy. Planners at first conceived the possibility of a dry community, but reconsidered--believing that the town would tail. To prevent future road construction, placed sewer and service conduits in alleyways rather than directly below the major through streets, which worked for a time.
The regenerative heating process in an open-hearth furnace utilizes the natural thermal mass of paired ceramic brick chambers in order to raise the temperature of the injected hot air. The air entering the furnace through chamber one heats the brick of chamber two upon its exit, which in turn raises the temperature of the next subsequent air burst entering through the now primed secondary chamber.
The series of Hues in the furnace serve to vent gases that are byproducts of the combustion process. The vesselmen consider blocking all of these vents. Or tossing the superintendent into one of the open furnaces. Or using hot metal tongs for tongue lashings. The amount of energy burned in the Gary Works is on the order of hundreds of thousands of Kcal per day, and with that much energy there is always the possibility of explosion.
Both parties of the land swap are represented by Armanis F. Knotts. The lawyer representing the buyer and the lawyer representing the seller is pleased with the way the negotiations are proceeding. If only J. Ogden weren't such a hard sell. Or if D-anforth weren't dead the way Leland is dead. If "Hot Dogs, Armour Hot Dogs" weren't such a catchy tune, that Knotts could place himself on both sides of the negotiating table a greater percentage of the time.
The pit at the back of the open-hearth furnace is perhaps eight feet deep and ten feet in diameter. After hours, the dogfights spill blood on the pit bottoms. The new workers object to the barbarity, but in time they too begin to like it, begin to throw stones like stone throwers, and drop scraps of solidified slag down into the pits. The crash clangs and jumps and startles the workers, the ones who can't trace its fall, and the dogs doubly so, their hearing so much more acute than ours.
The foreman or boss melter is charged with three to live furnaces, each managed by a first helper. The foreman in turn reports to the superintendent and assistant superintendent who specify the quantity and type of steel that they need. From the very top with Buffington and Gary--Morgan, Carnegie, and Schwab--all the while, the use of sexual euphemism increasing as the assessed stock price pushes past one billion. Skyscrapers and railroads--the industrialized moment providing, among other things, bigger and better analogies for one's cock. And Mrs. Judge Elbert Henry Gary--dying of malignant stomach trouble--never to see the city that shares her husband's name.
In the Bessemer process, a blow cannot be interrupted to take tests on the state of the steel. Only secondary indicators, such as the color of the escaping flame and the elapsed time of the cooking, are used to determine when a batch is complete. Imprecision intolerable, the Gary Works houses only open hearth furnaces, only the most professional and skilled staff--piercing, keen, American the standard working week before the strike, twelve hours a day and seven days a week.
The site on the tip of Lake Michigan, once a hideout for Chicago criminals and the Calumet Gun Club, is covered with sand ridges and dunes and dense knots of grass. There are more people now with the mill in place, but fewer guns per capita. The use value of dunes, shoreline, weapons negligible, Gary is placed next to the lake but has no access to the water. One would have to go through the mill with handguns drawn in order to reach the shore--disgruntling some--those who don't want to drive to the town of Miller just to place their feet on the beach.
Many of the larger ladles can hold six to ten people comfortably. The workers and their wives fill the ladle with water--float naked in the public baths. Charges of monopoly and antitrust lawsuits are pushed by bureaucrats. Bureaucrats wearing ties and short sleeve dress shirts, without drinking problems per se, but not not-drinking. But shifted or swept, the suits eventually fade--the population of Gary still rising. Still on the move.
The raw ingots from the stripper lack homogeneity and are riddled with imperfections. They must be worked in order to add strength--broken down and shaped into usable forms. The superintendent uses this analogy when speaking about the new workers. The cinder-pit man always throwing his spoons into the furnace to watch them liquefy. And when the boss melter or superintendent isn't around, always throwing wrappers and apple cores into the hearth, adding more carbon to the steel than calculated, but not on a scale that is statistically significant.
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|Article Type:||Short story|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2013|
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