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Click image to zoom. In stock. He always made the point that if he had really thought the thing dangerous he wouldn't have done it. And I conclude from this that being a steeple-climber depends quite as much upon how a man thinks as upon what he can do. But when I started to raise myself I found my weight had worked me down in the crotch and jammed me fast, and it was quite a bit of time before I could get free. Five minutes struggling in a sort of stone trap, stretched out helpless at the very top of a steeple where one false move would mean destruction — that is what Merrill spoke of as a funny thing!

Thanks, I thought, I will take my fun some other way, and lower down. It trembles all the time, and answers every jar on the street below. I guess old Trinity's steeple sways eighteen inches every time an elevated train passes. And St. Paul's is even worse. Why, she rocks like a beautifully balanced cradle; it would make some people seasick. Perhaps you don't know it, but the better a steeple is built the more she sways. You want to look out for the ones that stand rigid; there's something wrong with them — most likely they're out of plumb.

That is the way it takes the storm, by yielding to it. If it didn't yield it would probably break. Why, the great shaft of the Washington Monument sways four or five feet when the wind blows hard. Then he explained that modern steeples are built with a steel backbone if I may so call it running down from the top for many feet inside the stonework.

At Trinity, for instance, this backbone known as a dowel is four inches thick and forty-five feet long, a great steel mast stretching down through the cross, down inside the heavy stones and ornaments, and ending in massive beams and braces where the steeple's greater width gives full security. It's painting flagpoles, and scraping off shale from a steeple's sides, and repairing loose stones and ornaments, and putting up lightning-rods, and gilding crosses, and cleaning smoke-stacks so high that it makes you dizzy to look up, let alone looking down, and a dozen other things.

Sometimes we have to take a whole steeple down, beginning at the top, stone by stone — unless it's a wooden steeple, and then we burn her down five or six feet at a time, with creosote painted around where you want the fire to stop; the creosote puts it out. Once I blew off the whole top of a steeple with dynamite; and, by the way, I'll tell you about that some time. Conversing with a steeple-climber when he feels like telling things is like breathing oxygen; you find it over-stimulating.

In ten minutes' matter-of-fact talking he opens so many vistas of thrilling interest that you stand before them bewildered. He starts to answer one question, and you burn to interrupt him with ten others, each of which will lead you hopelessly away from the remaining nine.

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We had just taken down our tackle and staging after gilding the cross when — by the way, they say there's a hundred dollars in gold under that cross. People often do queer things like that. I painted a flagpole on a barn up in Massachusetts where there was four hundred dollars in gold hidden under the weather-vane. Everybody knew it was there, because the farmer who put it there told everybody, and my partner was crazy to saw off the end of that pole some night and fool 'em, but of course I wouldn't have it. Here was I quite off my thunderbolt trail, and although curious about that farmer, I came back to it resolutely.

Then it took a long jump straight down Wall Street, smashed a flagpole to slivers, and vanished. Say, there are things about lightning I've never heard explained. I know of a steeple-climber, for instance, who was killed by lightning — it must have been lightning, although no one saw it strike. There were two of them working on a scaffolding when a thunder-storm came up, and this man's partner started for the ground, as climbers with any sense always do. But this fellow was lazy or out of sorts or something, and said he wouldn't go down, he'd stay on the steeple until the storm was over. And he did stay there, without getting any harm, so far as anybody on the ground could see, except a wetting.

Just the same, when his partner went up again, he found him stretched out on the scaffolding, dead. Merrill shook his head. Then Merrill gave an experience of his own with a thunderbolt. It was during this same busy summer of , while he and his partner were scraping the great steel smoke-stack that rises from ground to roof along one side of the American Tract Society Building, that towering structure which looks down with contempt, no doubt, upon ordinary church steeples.

My partner, Walter Tyghe, got off his saddle and stood there where my wife was waiting she often goes to climbing-jobs with me — she's less anxious when she can watch me ; but I thought the storm was passing over, and kept on scraping, sort of half resting on the cornice, half on my saddle. Suddenly a bolt shot down from a little pink cloud just overhead, and splintered a big flagpole I had just put halyards on, and then jumped past us all so close that it knocked Walter over, and made me sick and giddy so that I fell back limp on my saddle-board, and swung there helpless until my wife pulled the trip-rope that opens the lock-block and drew me in from the edge.

That's not the first time she's been on deck at the right minute. Once she came up a steeple to tell me something, and found the hauling-line smoldering from my helper's cigarette. If that line had burned through it would have dropped me to the ground from the steeple-top, saddle, lock-block, and all. The man with the cigarette was so scared he quit smoking for good and all.


Here, in reply to my question, Merrill explained the working of a lock-block, which is simply a pulley that allows a rope to pass through it, but will not let it go back. With this block the steeple-climber can be hauled up easily, but cannot fall, even if the man hauling should let go the rope. When it is necessary to descend, a pull on the trip-rope releases a safety-catch and the saddle goes down.

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