View of Ford A. Carpenter
service of today (1922) and that of 30 years ago bear no resemblance
to each other in the matter of distinction between officers
and men. A generation ago, the Prussian dictum "The officers
do the thinking, the enlisted men do the work" was in full force.
Bearing this in mind one can readily see the logical working
out of a unique institution such as the army weather service
(Signal Service) with scattered enlisted individuals throughout
the country officered by a handful of second lieutenants.
At a seacoast
telegraph office Private Gower, a college man, was entertaining
a summer visitor in his office one afternoon. The office was
tastefully decorated with the usual equipment and a calendar
or two hung on the walls. The later violated the Sacred Instructions
which permitted no unframed pictures. Without warning a young
man (Signal Service inspector) bustled in; glaring about the
little room, utterly oblivious to the fair visitor, this officer
(as he proved to be) strode up to the walls and began tearing
down the calendars and stamping on them. The girl fled to the
weather man for protection. "That's alright, don't be worried"
soothingly said Private Gower" "he's harmless, - you see he's
just escaped from the post hospital for the insane!"
inconsiderate inspector was checking over the property for which
a Private was responsible; a pair of scissors was missing. He
had seven pairs, but he could only dig up six. The Inspector
was insistent; the man searched drawer after drawer. His wife
had accidentally dropped a pair of manicure scissors in the
drawer and a thought flashed across the distressed man's brain.
Seizing the curved blades with thick blotting paper, he turned
his back on the inspector and straightened them out. Handing
them to the inspector he blandly inquired "Now what do you suppose
such a pair of scissors could ever be used for?" Appealing to
the superhuman intelligence he immediately rose to the occasion
by replying "Them were once used in repairing barometer
cisterns; they held the linen threads while the buckskin bag
was being replaced, but they are out of date now, - I'll destroy
inspector was thrown in jail in his desire to humiliate Private
Burton. On the Pacific Coast, the morning observation had to
be taken at 4 AM. This inspector hurried over to the weather
office before the hour, stealthily climbed on to the roof and
there Private Burton found him. The inspector was in clothing.
It was dark; there was no previous knowledge that an inspection
was to take place. Private Burton had always suspected that
sooner or later he was going to find a robber on the roof, so
he collared the fellow notwithstanding his protestations, dragged
him down stairs and turned him over to the town marshall. He
filed his telegram, leisurely ate his breakfast, and at 10 AM
called on his friend the marshall to appear against this suspicious
character. Needless to say, the inspector never again tried
to "surprise" a weather man early in the morning.
of Signal Service Offices to the news media
the isolated character of the weather man's work it often happened
that undue publicity attached to him. In some places he was
as important as the postmaster. Always good material for "copy"
the newspaper boys always worked the weather office for stories.
It was during
the great storm of '88; all wires were down, there was a dearth
for news and the ambitious 8 page paper of a western town had
to be filled. Frantically the editor dispatched two of his men
to the weather office. "The old man wants you to give him an
interview - all you can give." The opportunity of a lifetime
thus appeared, the weather man could not believe his ears, "do
you mean to say that I can have all the space I want?" Sure
- fire away - we'll give you the whole front page of the Patagonian."
The next morning the staid and sleepy residents of Harborland
were astounded, for the entire front page was devoted to weather;
weather of past years, weather on Mount Washington, weather
forecasting, weather here and hereafter.
On the treeless
levels in Wyoming - then a territory - a rainmaker appeared.
He "contracted" with the ranchers to "make" so many inches of
rain for so many thousand dollars an inch. He erected mysterious
funnels projecting out of dilapidated tents. All this aroused
the righteous indignation of the old Signal Sergeant. He rushed
into print, filled the little cattle country paper with outbursts
against the rainmaker and his promise. The rainmaker said nothing
but waited for the long promised rain. The sergeant became as
abusive as the paper would print. This was too much for the
straight-shooting cowboys. They practiced gunplay on the sacred
Signal Service's whirling anemometer cups, shooting them up
as fast as new instruments were replaced by the frightened sergeant.
They shot his rain gauge full of holes, and as a last indignity,
they caught the sergeant one night and hung him to a big brass
hook in his own office by the slack of his trousers. And then,
against all official forecasts, the first rain in six months
came down in torrents!