Saturday, May 1, 2010

Burn on, big river.

How about a joke?
A guy walks into a pub, where he sees a lonely old man sitting by himself, nursing a pint. The old man looked so miserable and depressed, the guy walks up to him and asks, "Why so glum, chum?"

The old man says, "Lad, look out there to the field. Do ya see that fence? Look how well it's built. I built that fence stone by stone with me own two hands. I piled it for months."

"But do they call me McGreggor-the-Fence-Builder? Nooo..."

Then the old man gestured at the bar. "Look here at the bar. Do ya see how smooth and just it is? I planed that surface down by me own achin' back. I carved that wood with me own hard labour, for eight days."

"But do they call me McGreggor-the-Bar-builder? Nooo..."

Then the old man points out the window. "Eh, Laddy, look out to sea ... Do ya see that pier that stretches out as far as the eye can see? I built that pier with the sweat off me back. I nailed it board by board."

"But do they call me McGreggor-the-Pier-Builder? Nooo..."

"But ya fuck one goat..."
When I was one year old, in 1969, was the last time the Cuyahoga River caught fire.

When people make jokes about the river, like a lot of Clevelanders I bristle, and want to protest, to point out how much more clean the river is these days, especially compared to other places around the nation you could mention.

But ya fuck one goat ...

The truth of the matter is, it was a filthy river, and continued to be so for a very long time. And as history has it, fires plagued the Cuyahoga since in 1868. A spark from a blow torch ignited floating debris and oils in 1936, and the conflagration lasted for five days.

John Hanzel, 36, a welder was working with an acetylene torch on the freighter Spokane, cutting it for scrap. He fell into the river and sustained first-degree burns before being fished out. There was concern that the flames might reach the far side of the river, igniting tanks of the Gulf Refining Co., where 10 million (!) gallons of gasoline were stored. Standard Oil and Shell reserves downriver held another 5 million gallons. Firemen contained the blaze to the east bank, though over $6,000 in damage was done to piles and timber owned by the Erie Railroad.

Source: The Plain Dealer, August 2, 1936

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