Bill Todd -- An Uneasy Utopia
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 Chapter 27

An Exhibition

Within hours of our returning to Huntington and giving Mac our news, he sent Sam Hanks and the lawyers off to Maysville to negotiate purchases and contracts. Vignis, satisfied that her plans were at last coming into being, began to think about the next regional point, the one in western Virginia. As she said to me,

"This one is going to be in the middle of nowhere. We'll have to build everything from scratch."

She was pleased, of course. This would be an opportunity to build a community in a much more thoroughgoing way. A couple of days later, when I had coffee with her, she burst out,

"You can't imagine who's been extremely helpful. A. C. Glencannon!"

It developed that he had a great many ideas for cheap but adequate housing. He mentioned, for example, a method for constructing houses out of waste materials which had been in use for a number of years. One first made a shell out of discarded lumber, pipes, and even cardboard. The plumbing and wiring were next added. The whole structure was then sprayed with cement, and, when it hardened, the result was a solid fireproof structure.

An unskilled person could put together the shell for a small one-storey house in a day or two, it being necessary only that it stand up long enough to be sprayed. That operation took only a few hours, and, when it hardened the next day, it remained only to fit the windows and doors. Vignis was quite carried away.

"Each man can construct his own home out of materials that we'll supply free. We've got literally millions of old ties that can be cut up or used whole, and we've got miles of pipe and wire scattered all over the yards. Glencannon said he'd find us old locomotives and put them up on blocks. Each one will supply enough steam from the boiler to heat a whole settlement. Besides that, it can be used to pump water from nearby streams, and to generate electricity. He even said that the air pumps would run the cement sprayers."

As far as Vignis was concerned, the man she had loathed had suddenly become a miracle worker. I almost had to laugh. Glencannon remained, in spirit, what he had always been, an engineer on a tramp steamer. Given any mechanical problem and a steam engine, he would use the latter to solve the former with an array of steam hoses, belts, and connecting rods. Like all men, he had admired Vignis. But his background gave him no inkling what to say to her. Now that she needed something he could provide, he was delighted to do so.

I explained as much to Vignis, but, in midstream, was struck by one of my visions of the future. Instead of a Utopia, Glencannon would produce a collection of hideous cement shacks huddled around an old steam locomotive belching smoke and hissing steam. The result would be horrid. No one who hadn't grown up beside a shipyard on the Clyde would want to live there. I put it a little more gently.

"Glencannon can solve mechanical problems very quickly, but I doubt that he has any aesthetic sense whatever. Unless you control everything very carefully, he'll create a town that no one would want to call home."

"Yes. I think things can be cheap and simple, and still have charm. I'm going to plan the layout of the streets and houses, and I'm going to have a long talk with each man and help him plan his home. I'll have a lot to say about the colors."

I felt reassured. It was a chance for Vignis to move from interior decoration to exterior decoration and architecture. I thought that she would do well.

It was only a week later, in early June, that we, the same party that had visited Maysville, passed through the bleak coal mountains of West Virginia and found ourselves among the gentler hills of western Virginia. We had again accomodated everyone aboard my cars, which, this time, were coupled to a C&O way freight.

Fortunately enough, there was a passing track we could use for a siding a quarter mile short of the mile-post we had chosen for our regional point. Once the cars had been spotted, we got out and walked down the track after the disappearing caboose of the freight.

This time, we weren't restricted by having a great river on one side. However, this country was just as hilly, and there was still a question of whether we could find a place with enough flat ground for our yards. There hadn't been much level ground on the route we had followed, and the prospect ahead, with the track curving upward to a notch between hills, wasn't promising.

As we made our way along the curve, Atwater become more impatient than I had ever seen him. He eventually began trotting along, stepping on every second tie. I realized that he had probably been like that in the army, rushing his officers and men to get them into position as quickly as possible. It was only when he settled down to talk that he became genial and avuncular.

In this case, Vignis needed little urging to run along with him. Sidonie, not thrilled about walking, much less running, lagged behind. I, as often, compromised in the middle.

Atwater, a hundred yards ahead, soon raised both arms and shouted. He looked as if he had just discovered California. Vignis, equally excited, embraced him. She called back to me,

"You won't believe it. It's perfect!"

When I got around the curve, I discovered an upland plateau, a good two miles long and about a mile wide in the middle. It was almost the shape of a large railway yard as it stood, but it could also have served as a military camp, guarded all around by hills. I suspected that this latter feature was responsible for a part of Atwater's enthusiasm.

Instead of walking into the middle of what amounted to a flat-bottomed bowl, we climbed the nearest hill for a better view. The grade wasn't steep, but we had to wade through thigh-high grass. With the breeze riffling the grass under the noon sun, we paused periodically to look over the scene. At one point, Vignis said,

"We'll have to try not to spoil this."

I opined,

"A railway isn't necessarily ugly. It can add to a landscape."

Sidonie replied, quite sharply,

"For you, nothing can be beautiful if it doesn't involve a railway. Like other railwaymen, you speak of a locomotive as "she", and you prefer her to any woman."

She was joking, of course, but there was more of a trace of French accent in her voice than usual. I had learned to beware of her on such occasions. She continued, with dramatic emhpasis,

"I, on the other hand, do not wish to be mistaken for a locomotive. That's why I've stopped smoking."

I had assumed that she had stopped smoking to please me, but hadn't mentioned it. Vignis replied equably,

"I'm sure Mac prefers his new locomotive to me, but I suppose his passion for her will eventually diminish to reasonable proportions."

She then gestured at the scene before us and said,

"One of the loveliest things here is the slightly varying color of the grass on the hillsides, particularly against the sky. We won't have to disturb that. The floor of the valley will be mostly dark with a good deal of black, and that's not an impossible combination."

It was agreed that much would depend on the houses. They shouldn't be placed on the hilltops, where they would disturb the skyline, but should nestle into the hillsides. Each, Vignis said, should be a weatherbeaten gray, very nearly the color of the cement itself, but surrounded by flowering shrubbery. She had her vision, and she and Sidonie rambled on the hillsides while Atwater and I descended to the valley floor to pace off distances.

The summer of 1932 was probably the happiest one of my life, better, even, than the preceding months. Indeed, it was the beginning of a long good period which prepared me for the very bad period which was to come later.

Sidonie and I travelled almost constantly, getting used to each other, and to a new kind of life. She had immediately pronounced herself delighted with the car. I think, if she had done it up herself, it would have been more eccentric and quirky, but, even though Vignis told her to go ahead and change everything, Sidonie's sense of friendship precluded that. And so we rolled on, collecting intelligence, organizing and equipping security forces, and laying plans for emergencies.

In late August, we spent our vacation in Haiti. It was fascinating to me in more ways than I could possibly relate here. Most important, Sidonie's parents were obviously pleased with me. Age seemed to make no difference. Just as we were leaving, Sidonie's mother, a petite pretty woman, took me aside and said,

"We had almost given up on our wild one, and yet, here she is a respectable married lady!"

In September, we went back to see Virginia Point, as it was now named. We knew in advance that the yards and yard buildings had been put in, but the result wasn't as shocking as we had expected. There was track everywhere, but the yard buildings were of cement construction, and the color did blend well with that of the almost treeless grassy hills.

At first, we saw no residences at all. Nor were there any roads. The nearest public roads were miles away, and I was sure that Vignis liked it that way. On the other hand, there would have to be houses and some way of getting to them.

Sidonie, with her sharp young eyes, saw them before I did. On one of the hillsides guarding the western entrance, where we had first come in June, there were a series of low gray buildings, seemingly half buried in the earth, with dull red roofs.

The path which appeared to lead there left from the yards, and was about six feet wide. Flanked by railway ties and gravelled, it would stay firm in wet weather.

As we wound our way up the hillside, we crossed little wooden bridges over rivulets and gullies, and encountered a good deal of shrubbery. There were stretches where one could go along without being seen from the valley at all. At one point, we encountered a small sign, placed rather discreetly near the ground, which read,


It was a rather quirky warning, and I wondered if it might be a joke. Sidonie was for going back and asking for clarification, but I poked ahead a little. Suddenly two young men jumped from the bushes almost on top of us making loud growling noises. Sidonie screamed behind me, but the men were laughing. One was white and the other black, and the white one explained, in an English accent,

"It's interesting to see how people react to that little sign of ours, and then our rather abrupt appearance. We're the ferocious dogs, you see, but we don't actually bite."

I wasn't as good a sport as seemed to be expected, and Sidonie was about to express herself when they disappeared as quickly as they had come. Sidonie uprooted the sign and threw it into the bushes as I explained,

"When you get a lot of young men together, they think up all sorts of peculiar things to do. I wonder where the Englishman came from."

Sidonie seemed not to care very much, but we soon came out on an exposed section of the path, and were distracted by the view across the valley to the opposite hillside. It was a deeper richer color than it had been in June, and particularly striking were some isolated stunted little trees near the top.

The scene, as a whole, was hardly anyone's idea of an industrial one, and, particularly in the light of some of the peculiar goings on we had just witnessed, it was easy to imagine it as a quasi-military outpost in which people trained for unusual kinds of espionage or warfare. I certainly felt a kind of excitement and tension resident in that bowl-shaped valley, and I think that Sidonie did as well.

We were soon back into the anonymity of the high grass and shrubbery, where we could easily imagine ourselves to be part of any nefarious activities that might be in train. Then, rather furtively rounding a corner, we came suddenly upon Vignis. She was digging with a shovel, and dropped it with a little cry as she jumped down to the lane to embrace us. There was a young man with her, also with a shovel. Vignis introduced him, an engineer and captain, and explained that they were constructing his home.

They had cleared and dug into the hillside a flat space which had what looked like two telephone poles cut down to about ten feet in height. These were about twenty feet apart, and there was a rope, perhaps thirty feet in length, with its ends tied together around the poles. Vignis explained,

"We put the rope on the ground and dig into the hillside just far enough so that we can stretch the rope out in all directions without any slack. That gives us part of an ellipse. Then we fill out with the dirt we've removed and get the rest of it. A framework of boards, battens, and cardboard carton material is put up, and then it's cemented over."

As Vignis led us along the lane, we saw that every house was a cement ellipse, most of them stacked partially on top of each other. Vignis, obviously happy with her work, said,

"As I pointed out to Mac, an ellipse is a more general form than a circle. A circle is just what you get when you move the two foci together. Where the hillside is steep, we move the poles further apart for an ellipse that's thinner. We then don't have to dig in so far. Where the grade is not so steep, we move the poles closer, and the ellipse gets fatter."

The upshot was that the thirty odd houses were quite inconspicuous, half buried ahd half surrounded by tall grass and flowering shrubs. The low tin roofs were a dull red, but even they picked up colors in the shrubbery. In an odd way, the whole area looked wilder than it had when there was nothing but grass.

As Vignis prepared to take us on a tour of what she called "the shopping district," Sidonie told her of the incident of the young men practically bushwhacking us. Vignis answered with resignation,

"That would be Clive and Oliver. That's one of their more innocent pranks."

She obviously didn't want to dwell on these young gentlemen, and I didn't ask what the less innocent pranks were.

We went down a long flight of steps which took off from the lane and ended where some tracks came up from the yard. When we first arrived at Virginia Point, I had noticed some sidings which curled around the lower part of the hill with several sets of cars and an engine. I now gathered that the engine was supplying steam, power, and water to the whole settlement.

The shopping district amounted to a covered wooden platform along which were drawn up a couple of dozen old box cars. The first that we entered had both the original massive doors slid open. In the near doorway, an ordinary door surrounded by windows had been fitted, and, in the far one, there was a large window with many panes. Windows had also been cut in both ends of the car, and the interior was light pink with the bracing struts picked out in a creamy brown. A counter had been provided, and the shelves were stocked with canned goods.

Sidonie said that the whole thing reminded her of Haiti. Having just been there, I failed to see anything Haitian in the present surroundings, but Vignis seemed to take it as a compliment.

The next car turned out to be, of all things, a tiny movie theatre. The screen was at one end, and there were some fifteen seats facing it. Vignis said,

"It gets to be pretty crowded here almost every night. Some people will come back to see a movie three or four times, and I guess that means that we have some way to go in providing entertainment."

Only about half the shopping district had been completed. There would eventually be a shop of almost every kind, a couple of restaurants, and some other places of entertainment. They would be open most of the day and night, to fit the varying schedules of our people, and everything would be sold at bulk cost. That alone would stretch our meager railway salaries a long way.

On the track immediately below, there would be a string of modified passenger cars comprising the educational institute. We had inherited many cars from many railways, and some were actually rather pretty. Vignis had a collection of them in the yard, and they were being transformed in various ways. A few, to be used as classrooms, would have half the seats removed and a blackboard mounted facing the remaining seats.

In recognition of the fact that the students would mostly be adults, room would be left for a small lounge. The students could then sit with cups of coffee or tea at their sides while they listened to the teacher and took notes. Another car would have seats ranged around the sides for less formal instruction, and, at the other end of the string, there would be a nursery school car with no seats but many toys and stuffed animals. All would be spic-and-span, and many would be painted in colors chosen by Vignis.

After our inspection, we settled down in the cafe car, a former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western box car whose interior was entirely white. In addition to the usual added windows, the several skylights flooded the interior with sunshine and set off the white tablecloths against the black chairs. The young lady who prepared the tea and snacks was also dressed in white and black, and was introduced to us as having arrived from Mississippi only that week. As Vignis said,

"Sadie helped us paint the car, and then served the first tea only yesterday. She's going to learn to repair engines later, but we thought a month or two in the cafe would be a good introduction to Virginia Point."

It soon began to rain, at first lightly, and then heavily, with loud crashes of thunder. Looking out of the window by my side, I could see the valley, half of it still in sunlight, as the storm approached from the west. A few of the gusts of wind shook the car a little, and then Sadie appeared at my elbow with a large bowl, which she placed on the table. Vignis looked up and explained,

"We've already discovered how hard it is to get skylights not to leak. We'll have another go at it tomorrow, but we're making do with bowls for the moment."

Even when the rain started dripping into the bowl, I felt an unusual sense of security. Dug part-way into the hillside with the water cascading over and around us, we sipped our coffee and ate brownies as if we were in a great hotel. I even envied the crews of the turbine locomotives their new home.

Since our last meeting, Vignis had discovered that there was a precedent for what she was doing, one that rather disturbed her.

"About fifty years ago, George Pullman, the founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company, set up a town south of Chicago for his workers. It was a large and elaborate place with a hotel, theater, and opera house. He seems to have thought of everything, and even had an athletic island out in the middle of an adjoining lake. He must have invested in it a thousand times the money we're putting in here. It was admired by architects and town planners, but it turned out to be an abject failure."

The trouble had come with the great Pullman strike of 1893, a confrontation between Pullman himself and Eugene Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union. It became nasty and violent, and at times degenerated into a melee between strikers, scabs, and soldiers. Pullman won a Pyhrric victory, but was utterly discredited among his workers. None of them, at any rate, thought that they were living in Utopia.

While Pullman had a humane side, all his dreams in that direction were shattered along with Debs' American Railway Union. In the disaffection that followed the strike, the Pullman Company lost the legal right to run its town, and many of the buildings and all the parks were either destroyed or converted to industrial uses. Vignis said,

"Despite the great difference in scale, there are some disturbing similarities between his scheme and mine. Pullman, like myself, thought that, by planning the town, he could lay out a pattern of life, a healthy vigorous pattern which no one could argue with, and which the men would want to follow given the chance.

Also like me, he wanted to keep out evil influences. There was only one place in the town of Pullman where you could buy liquor. That was at the hotel bar, and it was priced so high that only visitors could afford it. I don't have any place at all where you can buy liquor, and I'm inclined not to even when Prohibition ends."

At this, Vignis gave a sort of affirmative nod. She might fear that she was following a path which led to disaster, but she was prepared to follow it all the same. She continued,

"Another similarity is that Pullman had spies among the workers. It got to be known and created so much suspicion that almost no one in the town would speak openly with anyone else."

I could only reply, rather weakly,

"I certainly hope that our people won't be discovered. We keep them moving, and we could keep them out of Virginia Point altogether."

"That would help. There are also some differences between myself and Pullman."

The most important of these turned out to hinge on the fact that Pullman thought of the money he put into the town as a capital investment. He demanded a fair rate of return and charged rents accordingly. The upshot was that the workers were paying to support the hotel, the library, and the opera house, things that they wouldn't voluntarily have taxed themselves to pay for.

When times got bad in 1893, Pullman lowered wages, but didn't lower rents. He said there was no connection between the two. There might not have been in one sense, but the workers didn't care about that when the crunch hit them. Vignis was investing far less money, but she was giving houses to the workers instead of making them pay rent for them.

I, already knowing about George Pullman and his town, remarked,

"If he had only kept the rents and other charges pegged to the wages he paid, there probably wouldn't have been a strike. And, without the strike, the town might still be there."

"Most of the people who've written about it think that the experiment was failing even before that. The people weren't happy, even when they could afford the rents. The usual conclusion is simply that the workers gave up most of their freedom for nice houses and well kept yards, and they found that it wasn't worth it. It was an experiment in paternalism, and the people didn't want paternalism. They may not like my maternalism any better."

It seemed that, despite moments of euphoria, Vignis was really very worried, at times not so terribly far from despair. It was Sidonie who pointed out all the respects in which she would not be running the men's lives for them. Vignis replied,

"I'm not doing a lot of the things George Pullman did, and I'm much more sensitive than he was. But, still, it's my taste on which everything's based. I think it's good taste, but what about those people who don't share it?"

It's my theory that, for the most part, people worry about things they needn't worry about and don't worry about the things they should worry about. The people who worry about gaining weight are thin, and those who worry about being exhibitionists are quiet and modest. Gluttons and braggarts never give such things a thought. I was about to make this case with Vignis when there was an interruption, the arrival of a newspaper reporter from Richmond. While he had come out to see the new town, it was a feature of life in those days that one could never go very far with either Mac or Vignis without encountering reporters.

I was used to reporters from my days as president of the Lackawanna, and, while having no high regard for most of them, I had learned to suffer them with a minimum of discomfort. This one was quick to notice that Vignis had mud on her boots and trousers, and, when it came out that she had been digging foundations herself, he was delighted. He had his camera, and, the rain having stopped, we had to go back up the hill for Vignis to be photographed at work. Sidonie objected that we would have to go through a sea of mud to get there, but we soon found that the drainage had been well organized, and that the steps, made out of old ties, had collected no pools of water. The mud appeared in earnest only when we got to the building site and Vignis waded in with her pick.

When the photographs had been taken, the reporter pulled out his hip flask and offered it around. We all refused, and then, when he went to drink, he discovered that it was empty. I felt certain that he had been aware of its emptiness all along. When no one offered to fill it, he asked baldly whether he could replenish his supply in one of our cars. Vignis smiled and replied,

"Surely, Mr. Robinson, you don't expect the Great Eastern Railway to operate speakeasies?"

Her tone was a little wintry, but not too much so. The reporter took her remark in good part, but it wasn't long before he left.

Vignis then said to me,

"Sorry to have inflicted him on you, but it's part of the bargain I have with Mac."

Neither Sidonie nor I understood, and she continued,

"Mac and Sam are willing to support this kind of thing as long as they get the maximum in publicity out of it. So I have to be nice to reporters. This one wasn't bad, only alcoholic. Some are rather insinuating and loathsome."

Mac arrived a couple of days later in order to see what Vignis had wrought, and also to make sure that his precious locomotives would be well cared for. Once he had seen that the facilities were satisfactory, he remarked casually,

"Since the new circle is double-tracked and we'll run turbine trains in each direction at three hour intervals, we could follow them with express passenger trains if we want to go to the expense and trouble."

There was a laugh about that, and Sidonie asked him,

"If you're so concerned about public relations, why aren't you more interested in running passenger trains?"

Mac gave a great guffaw and addressed all of us,

"I believe she senses a contradiction in my principles. Now, Sidonie, is that a moral question or a practical one?"

Sidonie, I was sure, took moral exception to our execrable passenger service. On the other hand, Mac was smiling at her, almost showing his gold tooth. It was, in its way, a seduction. It worked. She smiled back and replied,

"It's a practical question."

"In that case, the answer is simple. I don't want to be loved. I want to be widely known and widely feared. Above all, I want everyone to believe that I'm about to bankrupt the competition. I want investors, not passengers."

At that moment, we were standing at the base of the hill below Vignis' shopping center. Mac gestured at the hills with a great arm, and it was possible to imagine investors emerging from burrows and running down to us, their purses held in their mouths.

As Mac pointed out something to Sidonie, I said to Vignis,

"It's probably a good thing that you're in charge of the new towns, and not Mac. He might be a bit like George Pullman."

"The saving grace here is that the money we're investing in the towns seems trivial to him. If he were putting up eight million, the way Pullman did, he'd expect a return on it in just the same way."

"I suppose any true capitalist would."

Vignis, perhaps not pleased with this subject, remarked,

"I'm thinking of not re-painting the outsides of the cars at all. The colors and heralds are already weathered, and, in time, there'll only be hints of colors blended together in a more subtle way than anything anyone could produce intentionally."

"I've always loved watching freights go by. Most railways manage to produce interesting heralds and lettering, and you've got some good ones. There's the Great Northern goat, the Union Pacific shield, and the Western Pacific feather."

When we got up to the houses, Mac pronounced favorably, but with a slight reservation.

"Some folks might consider an ellipse to be an imperfect circle."

Sidonie replied,

"Other folks might consider a circle to be just one kind of ellipse."

"But what would a perfect ellipse be if it's not a circle?"

"It might be one in which the total distance from any point to the two foci is exactly three times the distance between the foci."

As they argued on, Vignis began to poke at the ground of a site which had been half cleared with her foot. I said to Mac,

"A reporter got a picture of her digging one of these sites."

Mac was very pleased. He said,

"That's what we need. A princess might be photographed pretending to dig. Of course, Vignis really digs, but the newspaper readers won't know that."

He then turned to Sidonie and asked,

"Have you learned how to deal with the newspaper people yet?"

I doubted that it had ever occurred to Sidonie to deal with newspaper people, and, before she could reply, Vignis said,

"What this reporter really wanted was a drink."

"That's what they usually want. I've bought a lot of drinks for a lot of reporters."

"Well, I'm not going to."

"No, that's not the image you should have. On the other hand, you could give them tea and have something slipped in, as if you didn't know about it. That'd please and amuse the reporters a whole lot, and they'd give you great write-ups."

Just as Vignis was preparing to say that she would do no such thing, Mac gave Sidonie a sidelong amused look. He was right. Sidonie would delight in doing such things, and, wordlessly, she communicated as much to Mac.

By the middle of October, we had shortened the Eastern Circle to take advantage of the C&O, the part of the circle cut off becoming the Southeastern Loop under independent command. At that time, enough new engines had been completed and tested so that we could immediately institute a service of three turbine trains coming through each point each way each day.

The testing, as before, had been done discreetly in the middle of the night. However, by this time, there were rumors all over the country that we had something revolutionary. Indeed, even the Wall Street Journal ran an article under the caption,

"MacPherson Garner threatens his competitors with a mysterious new locomotive."

The public unveiling was to be at Virginia Point on October 17. An engine had been towed at night to the previous division point at Thurmond, West Virginia, and would start from there with a freight, bring it in to Virginia Point, and then go off around the circle.

Mac arranged a gigantic party for the reporters and photographers, various dignitaries, and, for that matter, almost anyone who hopped on to one of the advertized special trains bringing them to the event.

Luckily enough, there was bright sunshine. Lunch was laid out on long tables just below the settlement at the western end of the yard. Mac seemed to be in evidence everywhere, his pockets full of flasks. I also knew that he had shopping bags full of boot-legged whiskey hidden strategically, from which he re-filled his flasks, and to which he led visitors worthy of special attention. There was always a circle of reporters jostling around him, a larger circle than that around Vignis and Sidonie, who stood together most of the time.

At about quarter to two, we led the reporters and photographers out along the curve which entered the basin. There was a slight grade up to Virginia Point, and an engineer would ordinarily ease his throttle near the top, bringing his train in slowly. For purposes of display, our new engine would come in at full throttle, backing up if it overran the yards.

Mac was very careful to get the reporters ranged around the outside of the curve. He whispered to Sam Hanks and myself,

"They'll be surprised to find out how much the cab overhangs on the curve. Let's get them close enough so they'll have to duck. If you want to impress a man, it's better to scare the shit out of him first."

After he had left, Sam said to me,

"Mac's gotten some of these gents pretty well oiled. I hope their reflexes haven't suffered too much."

The train was a minute or two late, but it must have topped that slight grade at a good sixty. Indeed, with only a whoosh of steam and wheels unencumbered by rods, it burst on us with shocking violence as it came around the bend. There was actually plenty of time to get out of the way of the overhanging boiler and cab, but some of the gentlemen tripped over their feet and ended up watching the engine surge over and past them from a sitting position.

I wasn't entirely displeased to find that a reporter near me had settled rearwards into a little pool of water left over from the previous night's rain. When I helped him up and heartily asked him what he thought of the engine, he replied,

"What hit me?"

Nothing had hit him, apart from the rush of air thrown off by the engine. But that response was, I thought, just about the one that we wanted.

Bill Todd -- An Uneasy Utopia
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