by Frank H. Spearman
There goes a fellow that walks like Siclone Clark, exclaimed Duck
Middleton. Duck was sitting in the train-master's office with a group
of engineers. He was one of the black-listed strikers, and runs an
engine now down on the Santa Fe. But at long intervals Duck gets back
to revisit the scenes of his early triumphs. The men who surrounded him
were once at deadly odds with Duck and his chums, though now the
ancient enmities seem forgotten, and Duckthe once ferocious
Ducksits occasionally among the new men and gossips about early days
on the West End.
Do you remember Siclone, Reed? asked Duck, calling to me in the
Remember him? I echoed. Did anybody who ever knew Siclone forget
I fired passenger for Siclone twenty years ago, resumed Duck. He
walked just like that fellow; only he was quicker. I reckon you fellows
don't know what a snap you have here now, he continued, addressing the
men around him. Track fenced; ninety-pound rails; steel bridges; stone
culverts; slag ballast; sky-scrapers. No wonder you get chances to haul
such nobs as Lilioukalani and Schley and Dewey, and cut out ninety
miles an hour on tangents.
When I was firing for Siclone the road-bed was just off the
scrapers; the dumps were soft; pile bridges; paper culverts;
fifty-six-pound rails; not a fence west of Buffalo gap, and the plains
black with Texas steers. We never closed our cylinder cocks; the hiss
of the steam frightened the cattle worse than the whistle, and we never
knew when we were going to find a bunch of critters on the track.
The first winter I came out was great for snow, and I was a
tenderfoot. The cuts made good wind-breaks, and whenever there was a
norther they were chuck full of cattle. Every time a train ploughed
through the snow it made a path on the track. Whenever the steers
wanted to move they would take the middle of the track single file, and
string out mile after mile. Talk about fast schedules and ninety miles
an hour. You had to poke along with your cylinders spitting, and just
whistle and yellsort of blow them off into the snow-drifts.
One day Siclone and I were going west on 59, and we were late; for
that matter we were always late. Simpson coming against us on 60 had
caught a bunch of cattle in the rock-cut, just west of the Sappie, and
killed a couple. When we got there there must have been a thousand head
of steers mousing around the dead ones. Siclonehe used to be a
cowboy, you knowSiclone said they were holding a wake. At any rate,
they were still coming from every direction and as far as you could
'Hold on, Siclone, and I'll chase them out,' I said.
'That's the stuff, Duck,' says he. 'Get after them and see what you
can do.' He looked kind of queer, but I never thought anything. I
picked up a jack-bar and started up the track.
The first fellow I tackled looked lazy, but he started full quick
when I hit him. Then he turned around to inspect me, and I noticed his
horns were the broad-gauge variety. While I whacked another the first
one put his head down and began to snort and paw the ties; then they
all began to bellow at once; it looked smoky. I dropped the jack-bar
and started for the engine, and about fifty of them started for me.
I never had an idea steers could run so; you could have played
checkers on my heels all the way back. If Siclone hadn't come out and
jollied them, I'd never have got back in the world. I just jumped the
pilot and went clear over against the boiler-head. Siclone claimed I
tried to climb the smoke-stack; but he was excited. Anyway, he stood
out there with a shovel and kept the whole bunch off me. I thought they
would kill him; but I never tried to chase range steers on foot again.
In the spring we got the rains; not like you get now, but
cloud-bursts. The section men were good fellows, only sometimes we
would get into a storm miles from a section gang and strike a place
where we couldn't see a thing.
Then Siclone would stop the train, take a bar, and get down ahead
and sound the road-bed. Many and many a wash-out he struck that way
which would have wrecked our train and wound up our ball of yarn in a
minute. Often and often Siclone would go into his division without a
dry thread on him.
Those were different days, mused the grizzled striker. The old
boys are scattered now all over this broad land. The strike did it; and
you fellows have the snap. But what I wonder, often and often, is
whether Siclone is really alive or not.
Siclone Clark was one of the two cowboys who helped Harvey Reynolds
and Ed Banks save 59 at Griffin the night the coal-train ran down from
Ogalalla. They were both taken into the service; Siclone, after a
while, went to wiping.
When Bucks asked his name, Siclone answered, S. Clark.
What's your full name? asked Bucks.
But what does S. stand for? persisted Bucks.
Stands for Cyclone, I reckon; don't it? retorted the cowboy, with
It was not usual in those days on the plains to press a man too
closely about his name. There might be reasons why it would not be
I reckon it do, replied Bucks, dropping into Siclone's grammar;
and without a quiver he registered the new man as Siclone Clark; and
his checks always read that way. The name seemed to fit; he adopted it
without any objection; and, after everybody came to know him, it fitted
so well that Bucks was believed to have second sight when he named the
hair-brained fireman. He could get up a storm quicker than any man on
the division, and, if he felt so disposed, stop one quicker.
In spite of his eccentricities, which were many, and his headstrong
way of doing some things, Siclone Clark was a good engineer, and
deserved a better fate than the one that befell him. Thoughwho can
tell?it may have been just to his liking.
The strike was the worst thing that ever happened to Siclone. He was
one of those big-hearted, violent fellows who went into it loaded with
enthusiasm. He had nothing to gain by it; at least, nothing to speak
of. But the idea that somebody on the East End needed their help led
men like Siclone in; and they thought it a cinch that the company would
have to take them all back.
The consequence was that, when we staggered along without them, men
like Siclone, easily aroused, naturally of violent passions, and with
no self-restraint, stopped at nothing to cripple the service. And they
looked on the men who took their places as entitled neither to liberty
When our new men began coming from the Reading to replace the
strikers, every one wondered who would get Siclone Clark's engine, the
313. Siclone had gently sworn to kill the first man who took out the
313and bar nobody.
Whatever others thought of Siclone's vaporings, they counted for a
good deal on the West End; nobody wanted trouble with him.
Even Neighbor, who feared no man, sort of let the 313 lay in her
stall as long as possible, after the trouble began.
Nothing was said about it. Threats cannot be taken cognizance of
officially; we were bombarded with threats all the time; they had long
since ceased to move us. Yet Siclone's engine stayed in the
Then, after Foley and McTerza and Sinclair, came Fitzpatrick from
the East. McTerza was put on the mails, and, coming down one day on the
White Flyer, he blew a cylinder-head out of the 416.
Fitzpatrick was waiting to take her out when she came stumping in on
one pair of driversfor we were using engines worse than horseflesh
then. But of course the 416 was put out. The only gig left in the house
was the 313.
I imagine Neighbor felt the finger of fate in it. The mail had to
go. The time had come for the 313; he ordered her fired.
The man that ran this engine swore he would kill the man that took
her out, said Neighbor, sort of incidentally, as Fitz stood by waiting
for her to steam.
I suppose that means me, said Fitzpatrick.
I suppose it does.
Whose engine is it?
Fitzpatrick shifted to the other leg.
Did he say what I would be doing while this was going on?
Something in Fitzpatrick's manner made Neighbor laugh. Other things
crowded in and no more was said.
No more was thought in fact. The 313 rolled as kindly for
Fitzpatrick as for Siclone, and the new engineer, a quiet fellow like
Foley, only a good bit heavier, went on and off her with never a word
One day Fitzpatrick dropped into a barber shop to get shaved. In the
next chair lay Siclone Clark. Siclone got through first, and, stepping
over to the table to get his hat, picked up Fitzpatrick's, by mistake,
and walked out with it. He discovered his change just as Fitz got out
of his chair. Siclone came back, replaced the hat on the tableit had
Fitzpatrick's name pasted in the crowntook up his own hat, and, as
Fitz reached for his, looked at him.
Everyone in the shop caught their breaths.
Is your name Fitzpatrick?
Mine is Clark.
Fitzpatrick put on his hat.
You're running the 313, I believe? continued Siclone.
That's my engine.
I thought it belonged to the company.
Maybe it does; but I've agreed to kill the man that takes her out
before this trouble is settled, said Siclone, amiably.
Fitzpatrick met him steadily. If you'll let me know when it takes
place, I'll try and be there.
I don't jump on any man without fair warning; any of the boys will
tell you that, continued Siclone. Maybe you didn't know my word was
Fitzpatrick hesitated. I'm not looking for trouble with any man,
he replied, guardedly. But since you're disposed to be fair about
notice, it's only fair to you to say that I did know your word was
Still you took her?
It was my orders.
My word is out; the boys know it is good. I don't jump any man
without fair warning. I know you now, Fitzpatrick, and the next time I
see you, look out, and without more ado Siclone walked out of the shop
greatly to the relief of the barber, if not of Fitz.
Fitzpatrick may have wiped a little sweat from his face; but he said
nothingonly walked down to the round-house and took out the 313 as
usual for his run.
A week passed before the two men met again. One night Siclone with a
crowd of the strikers ran into half a dozen of the new men, Fitzpatrick
among them, and there was a riot. It was Siclone's time to carry out
his intention, for Fitzpatrick would have scorned to try to get away.
No tree ever breasted a tornado more sturdily than the Irish engineer
withstood Siclone; but when Ed Banks got there with his wrecking crew
and straightened things out, Fitzpatrick was picked up for dead. That
night Siclone disappeared.
Warrants were gotten out and searchers put after him; yet nobody
could or would apprehend him. It was generally understood that the
sudden disappearance was one of Siclone's freaks. If the ex-cowboy had
so determined he would not have hidden to keep out of anybody's way. I
have sometimes pondered whether shame hadn't something to do with it.
His tremendous physical strength was fit for so much better things than
beating other men that maybe he, himself, sort of realized it after the
storm had passed.
Down east of the depot grounds at McCloud stands, or stood, a great
barnlike hotel, built in boom days, and long a favorite resting-place
for invalids and travellers en route to California by easy stages. It
was nicknamed the barracks. Many railroad men boarded there, and the
new engineers liked it because it was close to the round-house and away
from the strikers.
Fitzpatrick, without a whine or a complaint, was put to bed in the
barracks, and Holmes Kay, one of our staff surgeons, was given charge
of the case; a trained nurse was provided besides. Nobody thought the
injured man would live. But after every care was given him, we turned
our attention to the troublesome task of operating the road.
The 313, whether it happened so, or whether Neighbor thought it well
to drop the disputed machine temporarily, was not taken out again for
three weeks. She was looked on as a hoodoo, and nobody wanted her.
Foley refused point-blank one day to take her, claiming that he had
troubles of his own. Then, one day, something happened to McTerza's
engine; we were stranded for a locomotive, and the 313 was brought out
for McTerza; he didn't like it a bit.
Meantime nothing had been seen or heard of Siclone. That, in fact,
was the reason Neighbor urged for using his engine; but it seemed as if
every time the 313 went out it brought out Siclone, not to speak of
That morning about three o'clock the unlucky engine was coupled on
to the White Flyer. The night boy at the barracks always got up a hot
lunch for the incoming and outgoing crews on the mail run, and that
morning when he was through he forgot to turn off the lamp under his
coffee-tank. It overheated the counter, and in a few minutes the
wood-work was ablaze. If the frightened boy had emptied the coffee on
the counter he could have put the fire out; but instead he ran out to
give the alarm, and started up-stairs to arouse the guests.
There were at least fifty people asleep in the house, travelling and
railway men. Being a wooden building it was a quick prey, and in an
incredibly short time the flames were leaping through the second-story
When I got down men were jumping in every direction from the burning
hotel. Railroaders swarmed around, busy with schemes for getting the
people out, for none are more quick-witted in time of panic. Short as
the opportunity was there were many pretty rescues, until the flames,
shooting up, cut off the stairs, and left the helpers nothing for it
but to stand and watch the destruction of the long, rambling building.
Half a dozen of us looked from the dispatchers' offices in the second
story of the depot. We had agreed that the people were all out, when
Foley below gave a cry and pointed to the south gable. Away up under
the eaves at the third-story window we saw a faceit was Fitzpatrick.
Everybody had forgotten Fitzpatrick and his nurse. Behind, as the
flames lighted the opening, we could see the nurse struggling to get
him to the window. It was plain that the engineer was in no condition
to help himself; the two men were in deadly peril; a great cry went up.
The crowd swarmed like ants around to the south end; a dozen men
called for ladders; but there were no ladders. They called for
volunteers to go in after the two men; but the stairs were long since a
furnace. There were men in plenty to take any kind of chance, however
slight, but no chance offered.
The nurse ran to and from the window, seeking a loop-hole for
escape. Fitzpatrick dragged himself higher on the casement to get out
of the smoke which rolled over him in choking bursts, and looked down
on the crowd. They begged him to jumpheld out their arms frantically.
The two men again side by side waved a hand; it looked like a farewell.
There was no calling from them, no appeal. The nurse would not desert
his charge, and we saw it all.
Suddenly there was a cry below, keener than the confused shouting of
the crowd, and one running forward parted the men at the front and,
clearing the fence, jumped into the yard under the burning gable.
Before people recognized him a lariat was swinging over his headit
was Siclone Clark. The rope left his arm like a slung-shot and flew
straight at Fitzpatrick. Not seeing, or confused, he missed it, and the
rope, with a groan from the crowd, settled back. The agile cowboy
caught it again into a loop and shot it upward, that time fairly over
Make fast! roared Siclone. Fitzpatrick shouted back, and the two
men above drew taut. Hand over hand Siclone Clark crept up, like a
monkey, bracing his feet against the smoking clapboards, edging away
from the vomiting windows, swinging on the single strand of horse-hair,
and followed by a hundred prayers unsaid.
Men who didn't know what tears were tried to cry out to keep the
choking from their throats. It seemed an age before he covered the last
five feet, and the men above caught frantically at his hands.
Drawing himself over the casement, he was lost with them a moment;
then, from behind a burst of smoke, they saw him rigging a maverick
saddle on Fitzpatrick; saw Fitzpatrick lifted by Clark and the nurse
over the sill, lowered like a wooden tie, whirling and swinging, down
into twenty arms below. Before the trainmen had got the engineer loose,
the nurse, following, slid like a cat down the incline; but not an
instant too soon. A tongue of flame lit the gable from below and licked
the horse-hair up into a curling, frizzling thread; and Siclone stood
alone in the upper casement.
It seemed for the moment he stood there the crowd would go mad. The
shock and the shouting seemed to confuse him; it may have been the hot
air took his breath. They yelled to him to jump; but he swayed
uncertainly. Once, an instant after that, he was seen to look down;
then he drew back from the casement. I never saw him again.
The flames wrapped the building in a yellow fury; by daylight the
big barracks were a smouldering pile of ruins. So little water was
thrown that it was nearly nightfall before we could get into the wreck.
The tragedy had blotted out the feud between the strikers and the new
men. Side by side they worked, as side by side Siclone and Fitzpatrick
had stood in the morning, striving to uncover the mystery of the
missing man. Next day twice as many men were in the ruins.
Fitzpatrick, while we were searching, called continually for Siclone
Clark. We didn't tell him the truth; indeed, we didn't know it; nor do
we yet know it. Every brace, every beam, every brick was taken from the
charred pile. Every foot of cinders, every handful of ashes sifted; but
of a human being the searchers found never a trace. Not a bone, not a
key, not a knife, not a button which could be identified as his. Like
the smoke which swallowed him up, he had disappeared completely and
* * * * *
Is he alive? I cannot tell.
But this I know.
Years afterwards Sidney Blair, head of our engineering department,
was running a line, looking then, as we are looking yet, for a coast
He took only a flying camp with him, travelling in the lightest kind
of order, camping often with the cattlemen he ran across.
One night, away down in the Panhandle, they fell in with an outfit
driving a bunch of steers up the Yellow Grass trail. Blair noted that
the foreman was a character. A man of few words, but of great muscular
strength; and, moreover, frightfully scarred.
He was silent and inclined to be morose at first, but after he
learned Blair was from McCloud he unbent a bit, and after a time began
asking questions which indicated a surprising familiarity with the
northern country and with our road. In particular, this man asked what
had become of Bucks, and, when told what a big railroad man he had
grown, asserted, with a sudden bitterness and without in any way
leading up to it, that with Bucks on the West End there never would
have been a strike.
Sitting at their camp-fire while their crews mingled, Blair noticed
in the flicker of the blaze how seamed the throat and breast of the
cattleman were; even his sinewy forearms were drawn out of shape. He
asked, too, whether Blair recollected the night the barracks burned;
but Blair at that time was east of the river, and so explained, though
he related to the cowboy incidents of the fire which he had heard,
among others the story of Fitzpatrick and Siclone Clark.
And Fitzpatrick is alive and Siclone is dead, said Blair, in
conclusion. But the cowboy disputed him.
You mean Clark is alive and Fitzpatrick is dead, said he.
No, contended Sidney, Fitzpatrick is running an engine up there
now. I saw him within three months. But the cowboy was loath to
Next morning their trails forked. The foreman seemed disinclined to
part from the surveyors, and while the bunch was starting he rode a
long way with Blair, talking in a random way. Then, suddenly wheeling,
he waved a good-bye with his heavy Stetson and, galloping hard, was
soon lost to the north in the ruts of the Yellow Grass.
When Blair came in he told Neighbor and me about it. Blair had never
seen Siclone Clark, and so was no judge as to his identity; but
Neighbor believes yet that Blair camped that night way down in the
Panhandle with no other than the cowboy engineer.
Once again, that only two years ago, something came back to us.
Holmes Kay, one of our staff of surgeons, the man, in fact, who took
care of Fitzpatrick, enlisted in Illinois and went with the First to
Cuba. They got in front of Santiago just after the hard fighting of
July 1st, and Holmes was detailed for hospital work among Roosevelt's
men, who had suffered severely the day before.
One of the wounded, a sergeant, had sustained a gunshot wound in the
jaw, and in the confusion had received scant attention. Kay took hold
of him. He was a cowboy, like most of the rough-riders, and after his
jaw was dressed Kay made some remark about the hot fire they had been
through before the block-house.
I've been through a hotter before I ever saw Cuba, answered the
rough-rider, as well as he could through his bandages. The remark
directed Kay's attention to the condition of his breast and neck, which
were a mass of scars.
Where are you from? asked Holmes.
Where did you get burned that way?
Out on the plains.
But the poor fellow went off into a delirium, and to the surgeon's
amazement began repeating train orders. Kay was paralyzed at the way he
talked our lingoand a cowboy. When he left the wounded man for the
night he resolved to question him more closely the next day; but the
next day orders came to rejoin his regiment at the trenches. The
surrender shifted things about, and Kay, though he made repeated
inquiry, never saw the man again.
Neighbor, when he heard the story, was only confirmed in his belief
that the rough-rider was Siclone Clark. I give you the tales as they
came to me, and for what you may make of them.
I myself believe that if Siclone Clark is still alive he will one
day yet come back to where he was best known and, in spite of his
faults, best liked. They talk of him out there as they do of old man
I say I believe if he lives he will one day come back. The day he
does will be a great day in McCloud. On that day Fitzpatrick will have
to take down the little tablet which he placed in the brick facade of
the hotel which now stands on the site of the old barracks. For, as
that tablet now stands, it is sacred to the memory of Siclone Clark.