Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, December 26, 1909, HALF-TONE, Image 19

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    unday Bee.
he Omaha
Army of Men Now Busy Gathering Ice that Grows Over Lake's Surface and Storing It by Thousands of Tons Against City's Needs When Long Hot Days of Summer Come Again
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Ghute and EleVAtor f
AFTER the fisherman tits
packed away his tackle
and the green of the cat
tail graas has turned to
brown out oa Cut-Off
lake, wlica the causkrat has sealed
up the doors of his mud cottage and
the croakings of the bullfrog have
ceased after that the cold of tha
aorthland steals down and a deli
cate network of crystals creeps out
over the water. That is the begin
ning of the Ice coat that the lake is
to wear, the first sprouting of the
crop that is to give Omaha its sun
daes and high-balls through the
long sultry summer.
To one who has seen the shim
mering lake under the summer
moon In tha gay days of the season,
when tha canoes push th-?ir inquisi
tive noses up among the rushes and
lily pads, tha lake would today pre
sent a most striking and interesting
contrast. The merriment of the
summer settlements has ceased and
out there across the broad acres of
the lake stretches the chill expanse
of ice, tha one greatest crop of the
winter season. An army of work
men la toiling to put away so much as is possible of the fmltage of
the cold Into big storage rooms, and when sumer smiles again the
im man win be delivering It at your back door at so much a hun
dred weight how much depends, and the ice man has a chilly heart.
To one who has seen the shimmering lake under the summer
moon In the gay days of the season, when the canoes push their
inquisitive noses op among the rushes and lily pads, the lake would
today present a moat striking and interesting contrast. The merri
ment of the summer settlements has ceased and out there across the
broad acres of the lake stretches the chill expanse of ice, the one
greatest crop of the winter season. An a-my of workmen Is toiling
to put away so much as is possible of the fruitage of the cold Into
big storage rooms and when summer smiles again the ice man will
be delivering It at your back door at so much a hundred weight
how much depends, and the ice wan has a chilly heart.
mi-rd h I 1 Irjl
U. ,, , , ., ,- - i , ,. -,
IB f . f L r Zr H US U
glocRiiQ Off The-Ra.ftsT-
'G' aiding A TL&f t To The Chute0-
Scene of Activity
That lake today presents a picture of most unusual activity.
An army la engaged in stripping the lake of its crystal covering. No
less than 500 men are scattered over the checker board of squares
that the markers are making in laying out the "field," as the lake
is called by .the ice harvesters.
It la a strange looking army, this array of ice harvesters. Its
recruit come from the tanks of the country's unemployed. The
typical lea harvester has no home, no country, no aspirations. He
Is what Ms foreman calls a "floater." He follows the seasons about
in an uncertain sort of way, taking the worlr-that offers for tha time.
The bosses of the ice army are men of experience and training,
but their troops are always just recruits. Some way each winter
about the time that the ice is ripe for the cutting the workers show
up about the Twelfth street employment agencies, expectant of a
Job. They time their visits to Omaha well. The "floaters," aa they
are known, have come to be a kind of a constant in the ice industry,
alwaya to be counted on when they are due. Just how or why they
are there for the Job no one knows, not even the wandering work
man himself. There seems to be an intuition that guides this happy-go-lucky
laborer in his Journeys about the country.
Out en the ice you will see him, distinctly different from the
home loving type that may by chance be represented beside him.
This typical ice man will have his feet tied up in burlap buskins
most picturesquely fashioned from stray sacks found by the side
of the railway tracks. The uniquf garment has no lines of beauty,
but In Its savage sort of way it is highly efficient in giving protection
from the cold and a sure footing on the slippery surface of the ice.
Thla Ice harvesting is rough work. It is face to face with the
cold, no escape. But the busy laughing men, always moving, as
much, to keep warm as to satisfy the alert eye of the foreman, take
little thought of the rigors that they must suffer. Out on the ice
plantations there la always plenty to do. The Ice must be harvested
In season. There Is no time for delay. The thaw may come and
unless the firm cakes are stowed away in the house they will soon
fade away into the calm waters of the lake. The perishability of the
product engenders a feverish haste in the commands of the botiseg
which force the men to drive the work along at top speed.
Va3tnes3 of the Field
The vastnesa of the tee field on Cut-Off lane is ifaelf aa in
centive to endeavor. A few hundred yards of distance on the pain
fully level surface Is enough to make the figure of a man tiny in
perspective. Once on the ice one leels that ae will have to hurry
If ha la to get anywhere. Then there is a spur In th sparkle of
shimmering snow flakes and the gleam of the clear Ice below.
Tha ice field after the work is well under way presents the
aspect of a mammoth checkerboard. The horse-driven marking
devices lay it out in squares, the primary figure of the great geo
metrical design that the half ready acres of ice bear.'
In the preparation of the ice for the cutting a striking process
is presented, owing to the condition that exists this year. The heavy
snowfall occurring at the same time with the freezing weather that
coated the lake covered the crop with a crisp trust that served both
as a protection from dirt and an encumbrance. To remove the snow
erase the ice is treated with the action of a discing machine. This
la just a disc harrow, the same kind that the Nebraska farmer drlvvs
over his fields to chew up the clods Into a cultlvatable surface.
With team and harrow the plowman winds his lonesome way
across the loe ahead of the workers who are to follow. The sharp
steal dlaca cut tha snow Into tiny bits, which are easily pushed aside
by the scraper whlen
follows. Then the ice
Is left clean and clear
for the cutters, who
tear it off in blocks to
lay away for the season
of need.
After tha acrapera
coma tha markers, tha
men who, with horse
driven tools, cut the ica
into forma in which It
can be handled. First
of all a line across tha
area to be cut is laid
straight and sheer.
Thla la dona by the use of a rope stretched taut Ilka a chalk Una
and a narrow keen, chisel mounted on a Dandle for convenience.
Thi Una becomes tha base of operations that will stretch over the
wlda surface of tha lea for many an acre. Guided by this base line
tha markers begin to cut the design of the big checker board. With
plows which are In reality only saws, each drawn by a single horse,
they cut other lines back and forth across the field, following with
unerring hand tha base line. Every cake of ice must measure jast
twenty-two inches on & side. This is the size of the Ice cakes you
are used to seeing on the rear end of the familiar Ice wagon when
It make Its expensive July visits to your block.
The first plow, a set of saw 'teeth set in tandem, cuts into the
Ica for two and a half Inches. Then comes the second and yet a
third, each cutting about an equal depth. So the marking process
Is continued until the Ice is cut into squares with the defining lines
extending more than half way through to the black still water below.
The ice is then cleared away for a space, giving working room
In open water. Then the work of stowing away the crop begins with
real regularity. Up an endless chain conveyor, driven by steam
engines, the Ice Is hauled into the big storage houses, where It will
lie protected from the attacks of the weather outside until drawn
upon to meet the needs of summer.
Mathematics of the Work
The ice checker board is cut, or rather broken, along the lines
of easy cleavage created by the deep scratches made by the marking
plows. The first step in the process is to cut off big blocks or rafts
of ice containing 25 6 of the primary squares laid out by the markers.
Thia makes a "block." as the ice men have termed it in their own
trade vernacular, measuring thirty-two squares long by eight wide.
Drivers, men equipped with long pike.poles like those that the lumber
men use In the log drives in the forest streams of the north, push
the floating blocks np to the conveyor, where they are reduced again
to size which permit their easy handling In the conveyor system
and In the Ice houses. The blocks are first counted and lata off in the
big checker board by the field foremen. A man with a coarse saw
cuts out the blocks at the ends, leaving it utached only along one
-siie. Thla edge is cracked loose by the use of the "spudders," heavy,
straight, two-tined forks, by which the ice can be readily broken
alonj the lines
scratched in by the
markers. With the
block broken loose
from the field it can be
started down the chan
nel toward the eleva
tor. Aa a block con
tains often so much as
twenty tons of Ice it Is
not to be put in motion
without an effort. The
drivers strain and push,
at the block until lta
Inertia Is overcome.
Once started the block
la moved along wita Uttla effort and one driver frequently
can push three or four of ttenu Wnen the cutting takes the workers
far afield the horses are pressed Into service and long rafts of blocks
are pushed up the conveyors along the channels left by the cutters.
Its Last Breakage
Before the Ice reaches the conveyor belt It must be reduced
several times to more convenient sizes. This la accomplished by
groups of men stationed at points along the channel close to the
point where the ice la delivered from the lake water to the endless
chain elevator. At the first station, usually about a hundred feet
from the place where the conveyor chain comes rattling up from
the water below, men with "spuds" crack the blocks into strips
measuring two of the primary squares in width and four in length.
This work Is done without arresting the motion of the ice as It
swings into the last turn of the channel. The men become remark
ably deft with the tools and but a single motion suffices to throw the
blocks around the bend in the channel and break off the smaller
cakes. The cakes of Ice are kept flowing into the ice houses In a
continuous stream. The loss of motion would mean the loss of
energy and iff plants where during the season perhaps a hundred
thousand tons of ice are handled every operation most be reduced
to its lowest and simplest terms. The labor represents practically
the whole cost of the ice and so whatever economy tjere is to be
accomplished must be In the best possible utilization of the labor
on the ice field.
With this second subdivision the cakes of ice are floated along
into a more permanent channel which delivers them to the conveyor.
The sides of this channel are lined with heavy planking so that the
constant grind cf the passing cakes will not wear the edges away.
The ice for perhaps the entire summer supply of a big storage
concern may all go through this narrow channel of about ten feet
in width and the' moving miles of floating Ice would soon tear away
the naked elgs of the passage. . The sides of the channel are lined
with platforms and runways, with here and there a crossing wide
enough to give secure footing for the pike men, or drivers, who
urge the floating cakes along.
The ice is close upon the -conveyor when it Is subjected to a
final subdivision into cakes containing but two of the primary
Habits of Exercise of the Several Presidents
THE present occupant of the White
House and his immediate prede
cessor are the only presidents
that have been given to regular
and systematic exercises.
Aa to the early presidents, they lived in
an age when tennis and golf were unknown
in this country, and not one of thm would
have thought of boxing or single stick as a
mode of exercise. The Virginians all rod.?
on horseback, and George Washington, an
active outdoor person all his life, although
he thought himself old when lie entered
upon the preidency, was still fond of riding.
It was aa president in New York and
Philadelphia that he first found himself a
regular and permanent resident of a consid
erable city, though he took what opportunity
he could to get away to Mount Vernon, and
once there, resumed his regular outdoor life,
riding and walking for hours daily over the
plantation. In New York he drove out in
his state coai h. rode on horseback and occa
sionally walked the streets with that great
stride of his that all men who saw him ever
after reTjemhrd. but he must have missed
his accustomed open-air life of camp and
plantation. Hla health was ordinarily good
in spite of his changed mode of life, though
he nearly died of anthrax In New York.
The Virginians who followed Washington
in the presidency, and John Adams, liked to
get away from the seat of government to
their country homes, where they all lived
muca In tha open air, though not one of
them waa so active a man aa their great
predecessor. The truth is that Washington,
whom most persona think of as born to lux
ury, probably endured mora genuine physical
hardship than the poorest man that ever oc
cupied tha chair.
Jefferson, like the other Virginians, rode
on horseback, but It la probable that he went
on foot to his first Inauguration In spite of
tha picturesque tradition of his tying his
horse to tha fence about the capitol grounds.
He took his greatest pleasure at his planta
tion. All the early presidents after the removal
of the capital to Washington appeared freely
and unattended on the street and upon
foot, for the smailness of the population pre
vented them from attracting crowds. John
(Continued oa Page Three. )
squares. Then with a fiual shove
the pike men force the ice into the
range of the reach of the conveyot
belt, which is constantly rising from
the wnter at the end of the channel.
Up the chute the conveyor pulls the
cakes at higti speed, dumping them
off onto inclined planes, which whirl
the ice into the "runs" or platforms
that run along the sids of the Ica
houses, reaching the open doors of
the storage roomj where the ice
reaches its resting place for the n;st
of the winter.
At stations along thi route
stand men ready to keep the ica
from jamming up into heap, ob
structing the passages. The steady,
movement of the slippery stuff
means a great deal of activity and
dextrous effort. These men are
equipped with sharp-pointed pike
poles like those used out on the lake
in the big channels, but they are
lighter and with shorter handles.
The ice goes sailing down the chutes
into the storage rooms at a
mm' high rate of speed. At the end
of the chutes It is delivered to the packers, who put it up in piles
which as the harvest advances mount close to the roof. These piles
are separated by several inches of air space which allows drainage
and ventilation when the ice slowly melts through the summer season.
The men who stow away the ice within the houses are the
skilled laborers of the harvesting force. They are paid the top
wages, which means that they receive about 25 cents an hour. As
the Ice passes along the chutes Into tha houses it is subjected to
Inspection and defective or dirty cakes are thrown off and discarded.
When the house Is filled the top of the big mass of ice is covered
with a layer of hay or straw several feet thick to protect it frem
the heat that filters through the roof. The preservation of the ice
depends on keeping It Insulated from the heated atmosphere out
side. The big ice houses are double walled, with an alt space of
twelve Inches between. This layer of air suffices to keep the light
and heat from penetrating to the Inner wall which lies next to the
Ice. With this protection the ice simply cares for itself.
- Snow Helps Much
The snow which covered the first crop of Ice this season, while
it meant more labor and expense. Insured a finer quality of ice than
has been cut from the lakes of eastern Nebraska for many years.
The snow blanket effectually covered and laid the dust of the roada
and fields about the lakes, preventing contamination of the lake's
surface from that source, and again It covered the young Ice as soon
as formed and prevented the accumulation of stray particles of
matter in the ice itself. When the protective covering of snow Is
swept aside it leaves the Ice clean and clear.
The visitor to Cut-Off lake finds a mirth-provoking reminder of
the gay days of summer on the water. At regular Intervals about tha
shores of the lake are' signs bearing a warning to each and every
person that he must not swim In the lake without a bathing suit.
With some hundred acres of Ice about, a landscape covered with
snow and the breezes driving a temperature of 4 degrees below
zero into one's anatomy, the suggestion of at least the protection of
a bathing suit seems almost unnecessary.
When once the ice field is marked off Into squares the harvesters
are put to considerable puins to keep the lake from undoing their
work. When the blocks are cut out of the field the exposed edge
of the ice is in danger of being overflowed by the water, which in
freezing fills again the cuts of the checker board made by the
markers. To prevent thin a gang of workmen Is kept ousy making
Uttle dams of snow in the ends ot the tiny cracks cut by the markers
next to the water's edge. x
The finest of the natural ice produced is that taken from tha
second cutting, when the weather continues cold enough to freeze
over again the area stripped of the first crop. The second crop
of ice has a wonderful purity. The big translucent slabs of blue
are bright and clean.
What Omaha Uses
The consumption of ice in Omaha la high- The dealers estimate
that about nearly half a million tons are annually required by tha
city and its Industries. The packing houses require thousands of
tons of ice in the refrigeration of tha trains which carry their
products out to the world. Then a great city Is to be supplied at
home. The natural ice is much cheaper than tha artificial product.
The big ammonia gas freezers produce Ice at aa average cost of
between J 1.73 and 12 a ton, according to the statements of tha
manufacturers. The natural Ice can be stowed away for the summer
at less than half of that when weather conditions are favorable.
The annual ice harvest gives employment to about 1,000 men
In and about Omaha and- frequently at a time when other work for
the laborer is hard to find. The big packing houses of South Omaha
and the dealers of the city. Including the refrigerating plants, all
take advantage of the Ice crop to store np tha winter's cold. The
Ice houses about the lakes within an easy radlns of Omaha cover
many acres of land. Most of these big lea houses are served wlfh,
their own special system of railway tracks, over which the thousands
of tons of ice nust be handled in Its distribution to the consumers.
Today finds the ice harvesters at work on Cut-Off and Seymour
lakes iu large numbers, while another big force la cutting the crop
at Ashland for the nse of a big packing concern. The Ice cutting
began this year much earlier than iu usual and the storage com
panies will probably be able to fill their houses. The large produc
tion of natural ice they Intimate may have a tendency to keep n rices
down in the summer. The natural Ice crop Is always, however,
reinforced with several thousand tona dally ai artificial lea.