In the 1930s, during the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction, L. Ron Hubbard established himself as one of the most prolific and popular writers of action, adventure, westerns, science fiction and more for pulp magazines. At the time, an editor asked him to look into and write stories about dangerous professions. In order to identify them, Hubbard turned to a life insurance company, but just knowing what those jobs were was not enough for him. He immersed himself in the worlds of those who put their lives on the line, thus giving rise to The Hell Job Series.
The Hell Job Series hardcover
Sometimes the only way to make a living is to defy death …
Meet the men who will do anything … go anywhere, take any risk …
And it’s all in a day’s work.
Based on real men and real situations, these are just some of the characters Hubbard brings to life—men who risk everything every day in true jobs from hell.…
Horace Purdy Potts, radio operator on the good ship Empress—a rust bucket loaded with explosive cargo and bound for danger. The crew is bent on murder, a fire threatens to blow the freighter to kingdom come and sharks are circling in the waters below.
Sleepy McGee, a civil engineer plying his trade in the most uncivilized of worlds. His assignment: build a road. Simple enough—if it weren’t for the deep jungles, high cliffs and white-water rivers in his way.
Clip Gilroy’s job is a three-ring circus—literally—and he’s about to have a very bad day. Imagine forty jungle beasts, ten tons of big cat—claws out, fangs bared—leaping at your chest and you’ve got an idea of what’s on Clip’s agenda. A vacation would be nice—if he lives to see the day.
Meet the heroes of The Hell Job Series—stirring tales of danger, courage and adventure told as only master storyteller L. Ron Hubbard can. He lived every job himself … and has boldly and realistically brought them all to life here.
Action & Adventure
The Hell Job Series Glossary
adagio dancer: performer of a slow dance sequence of well-controlled graceful movements including lifting, balancing and turning performed as a display of skill.
adjutant: a staff officer who assists the commanding officer in issuing orders.
¿A dónde va?: (Spanish) Where are you going?
afterdamp: a mixture of gases (including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and nitrogen) following a mine fire or explosion of firedamp, which can be toxic if inhaled.
aggie: (Spanish) aguardiente, meaning “firewater,” or literally “burning water” as it “burns” the throat of the drinker. It is a very strong alcoholic drink derived from sugar cane having between twenty-nine and forty-five percent alcohol.
aileron: a hinged flap on the trailing edge of an aircraft wing, used to control banking movements.
Alpine Club: the world’s first mountaineering club, founded in 1857, devoted to worldwide mountaineering development and exploration. The club’s code of climbing ethics seeks to protect mountains, mountain regions and their people from any harmful impact by climbers.
amphibian: an airplane designed for taking off from and landing on both land and water.
Anacostia: a historic neighborhood in the southeast quadrant of Washington, DC.
Anegada: the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands.
anthracite: often referred to as hard coal; a variety of coal that has the highest carbon content and the lowest moisture content. Anthracite burns slowly and at a high temperature. The United States has approximately 7.3 billion tons of anthracite, most of which can be found in Pennsylvania.
anvil chorus: in reference to a piece of music, “The Troubadour,” by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), which depicts Spanish gypsies striking their anvils at dawn and singing the praises of hard work, good wine and their gypsy women.
arcs: high-intensity lights; spotlights.
ASI: airspeed indicator.
A tomar aire solamente: (Spanish) I am going out for air.
ballast: heavy material carried in the hold of a ship, especially one that has no cargo, or in the keep of a sailing boat, to give the craft increased stability.
ball the jack: move fast; go at top speed.
ballyhoo: a person who advertises or publicizes by sensational or blatant methods.
banderilla: a decorated dart that is implanted in the neck or shoulders of the bull during a bull fight.
band wheels: bandsaw wheels; large power-driven wheels on a bandsaw.
banjo: shovel; so called due to the similarity and shape, and perhaps because of the metallic ring when struck.
barker: someone who stands in front of a show at a carnival and gives a loud colorful sales talk to potential customers.
barmy: mad; crazy; insane.
Base Camp: in mountain climbing, it is the lowest and largest fixed camp on a major ascent (or multiple ascents in the same area).
Battle of Hastings: a battle in southeastern England in 1066. Invaders from the French province of Normandy, led by William the Conqueror, defeated English forces
under King Harold. William declared himself king, thus bringing about the Norman Conquest of England.
bear: from the phrase “come bear a hand” which means to lend a hand or bring your hand to bear on the work going on. Bear refers to someone who is helping.
belly robber: a name often given to the cook in a logging camp, especially if he was a poor one.
bends: decompression sickness; a condition that results when sudden decompression causes nitrogen bubbles to form in the tissues of the body. It is suffered particularly by divers (who refer to it as the bends), and can cause pain in the muscles and joints, cramps, numbness, nausea and paralysis.
binnacle: a built-in housing for a ship’s compass.
bitt: a vertical post, usually one of a pair, set on the deck of a ship and used for securing cables, lines for towing, etc.
blackjack: a card game in which the winner is the player holding cards of a total value closest to, but not more than, twenty-one points.
Black Mass: a ceremony in which people worship the Devil.
Blanc: Mont Blanc (French for white mountain), a mountain that lies between the regions of Italy and France. With a 15,774-foot summit, it is the highest mountain in
the Alps and Western Europe.
blue: characterized by profanity or cursing.
blue law: a type of law designed to enforce moral standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and to regulate work, commercial business and amusements on Sundays. In the 1920s through ’40s, there are examples of the blue laws being propagandized through cartoons, comic strips and other media.
bobbies: policemen. The name derives from the nickname for Sir Robert Peel, who established the present British police organization.
bobtail: to reduce in rank.
Bock: Bock beer; a strong, dark beer typically brewed in the fall and aged through the winter for consumption the following spring.
Bolling: Bolling Field; located in southwest Washington, DC and officially opened in 1918, it was named in honor of the first high-ranking air service officer killed in World War I. Bolling served as a research and testing ground for new aviation equipment and its first mission provided aerial defense of the capital.
bong tree: a type of tree in The Owl and the Pussycat, a poem written by Edward Lear (1812–1888). He was an English artist, illustrator and writer known for his literary ridiculousness. He was playful with words, often coining new words and writing nonsensical poetry. The line from this particular poem read “They sailed away, for a year and a day, to the land where the bong tree grows.”
boom: a long pole extending from a mast to which the bottom edge of a sail is attached to hold the sail at an advantageous angle to the wind.
boomtown: a community that experiences sudden and rapid population and economic growth, normally attributed to the nearby discovery of gold, silver or oil. The gold rush of the American Southwest is the most famous example, as towns would seemingly sprout up from the desert around what was thought to be valuable gold mining country.
bosun’s chair: a type of supported rigging harness. It has a hard plank seat attached to a support, and is hauled into the rigging by the use of a pulley system. This type of chair is convenient as it keeps the hands free for work and prevents potentially dangerous falls from heights. They were originally designed for use on boats, but are also employed in other industries.
Bowditch: a handbook on navigation, American Practical Navigator, originally prepared by Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838), a US mathematician, astronomer and navigator. It has been published since 1802 in a series of editions.
braggadocio: vain and empty boasting.
brass identification check: a small numbered piece of metal issued as an identification card for employees. Also called a pit check, it was usually about the size of a silver dollar, was generally made of brass and almost always had a hole or loop to make it easy to attach. There were two identically numbered pit checks for each worker: one carried by the worker and the other held by management. This was a safety system, so that management knew who was in the pit and it also acted as a means of recording the number of men working underground on any particular shift. This was essential information not only to management, but as an indicator to rescue teams of the potential number of miners involved in the event of an explosion or other type of pit disaster.
breast: a room in which coal is mined. Commonly called a pillar-and-breast, it is the system of working the coal out in rather wide rooms with pillars of solid coal between them.
Brobdingnag: of or relating to a gigantic person or thing; comes from the book Gulliver’s Travels, of 1726, by Jonathan Swift, wherein Gulliver meets the huge inhabitants of Brobdingnag. It is now used in reference to anything huge.
broke chain: shortened the chain going up or down hills. A chain consists of one hundred links, with a total length of 66 feet, and is used in measuring land. If a slope is too great for an entire chain length to be used, shorter increments of distance are measured. When the end of the chain is reached, a one-foot-long chaining pin is used to mark the spot and this spot is then used as the beginning of the next measurement. This is done repeatedly until the entire distance is measured and is known as breaking chain.
Browning: a .30- or .50-caliber automatic belt-fed, air-cooled or water-cooled machine gun capable of firing ammunition at a rate of more than 500 rounds per minute.
Bubbling Well Road: a rural thoroughfare in Shanghai, lined with magnificent trees and bordered by creeks and European-style villas. It is a synonym for the aristocratic quarter of Shanghai. Bubbling Well Road was named after an ancient spring in the vicinity whose waters were said to have miraculous healing powers.
bucko: a person who is domineering and bullying.
bull: bull of the woods; the boss or foreman of a camp or a logging operation.
bullgine: a steam locomotive.
bull man: bull hand or bull handler; circus employee who works with the elephants.
bullpen: a logger’s name for a bunkhouse.
Bund: the word bund means an embankment and “the Bund” refers to a particular stretch of embanked riverfront along the Huangpu River in Shanghai that is lined with dozens of historical buildings. The Bund lies north of the old walled city of Shanghai. This was initially a British settlement; later the British and American settlements were combined into the International Settlement. A building boom at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century led to the Bund becoming a major financial hub of East Asia.
bundoks: (Tagalog) boondocks; a wild, heavily wooded area or jungle; wilderness.
caballero: (Spanish) gentleman.
calk: a sharp piece of metal or spiked plate projecting from the bottoms of shoes or boots to prevent slipping.
canvas troupers: circus entertainers.
cap lamp: the lamp on the miner’s safety hat or cap, used for illumination only.
Cavite: a seaport city located on the southern shores of Manila Bay in Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands.
CE: Civil Engineer; person qualified to design, construct and maintain public works, such as roads, bridges, harbors, etc.
centavo: the monetary unit of Colombia representing one hundredth of a basic monetary unit. One hundred centavos equal one peso.
centrifugal force: a force that causes an object moving in a circular path to move out and away from the center of its path.
Chomolungma: Tibetan name for Mount Everest, one of over thirty peaks in the Himalayas that are over 24,000 feet high. The name is translated as Goddess Mother of the Earth.
clear his own skirts: clear one’s skirts; to remove from oneself an accusation of guilt; to clear one’s name.
climbing irons: a pair of spiked iron frames, strapped to the shoes, legs or knees, to help in climbing trees, telephone poles, etc.
come across: to pay over money that is owed or demanded.
Congressional Medal of Honor: the highest military decoration in the United States, presented by the president in the name of Congress, to members of the armed forces for gallantry and bravery beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy.
coolie: an unskilled laborer employed cheaply, formerly in China and India.
corselet: part of a diver’s suit consisting of a breastplate made of copper or iron, shaped so that it fits comfortably over the shoulders, chest and back. Once in place, the corselet is bolted to the suit and the diving helmet is then locked onto the corselet.
cove: fellow; man.
Coventry: to refuse to associate with or speak to someone. The term originates from a story about a regiment that was stationed in the town of Coventry, England, but was ill-received and denied services.
crap game: a game where players wager money against the outcome of one roll, or a series of rolls, of two dice.
crate: an airplane.
cricket: hand cricket; a small plastic object, about the size of a matchbox, with a bendable metal part that makes a cricket-click sound when pressed with a finger. The cricket, purchased in toy departments for about one cent each, was the type frequently used by elevator starters to signal the movement of the elevators.
crosscut: crosscut saw; a saw used for cutting wood across the grain.
crown pulley: a large pulley over which the drilling cable operates.
cruiser: an individual who estimates the standing timber volume and the amount of wood that can be harvested. The cruiser generally marks the trees that are to be cut.
crummie: among loggers, the fellow who cleans the bunkhouse.
cub reporter: a young and rather inexperienced newspaper reporter.
cut and fill: the process of constructing a road, railway or canal whereby the amount of earth roughly matches the amount of fill needed to make the nearby embankments.
davits: any of various cranelike devices, used singly or in pairs, for supporting, raising and lowering boats, anchors and cargo over a hatchway or side of a ship.
dawa: (Swahili) drugs; medicine.
day numbers: an astronomical calendar system invented in 1583 wherein the largest unit is the day. Each day has a value one greater than the previous and dates never cycle back to zero. For instance, at noon on January 1, 2000, the day number was 2,451,545.
decelerometer: a device that measures the rate of deceleration.
derrick: oil derrick; the towerlike framework over an oil well.
diamond drill: a rotary drill used for long holes and exploratory work, which has industrial diamonds set into the bit to give it hardness. The bit is a hollow cylinder so that as it cuts, it leaves a cylindrical core or sample behind.
dodger: a shield, as of canvas, erected on a flying bridge (highest navigation station on a vessel, often an open platform) to protect persons on watch from wind, flying spray, etc.
dome: a dome-shaped formation of stratified rock.
dope: a type of lacquer formerly used to protect, waterproof and stretch tight the cloth surfaces of airplane wings.
DTs: delirium tremens; a severe form of alcohol withdrawal; violent delirium with tremors that is induced by excessive and prolonged use of alcohol.
ducks: slacks or trousers; pants made of a heavy, plain-weave cotton fabric.
dynamo: a machine by which mechanical energy is changed into electrical energy; a generator.
El Banco de la República: (Spanish) The Bank of the Republic. It is the central bank of Colombia.
El no nos paga nada: (Spanish) He does not pay us anything.
faceboss: in coal mining, a foreman in charge of all operations at the working faces, the exposed areas of a coal bed from which coal is being extracted, where coal is
undercut, drilled, blasted and loaded.
fantail: a rounded overhanging part of a ship’s stern (the rear part of the ship).
fireboss: a person designated to examine the mine for firedamp, gas and other dangers before a shift comes into it, and who usually makes a second examination during the shift.
firedamp: a combustible gas formed by the decomposition of coal and other carbon matter, consisting chiefly of methane. Firedamp is the most common explosive gas found in coal mines. It is tasteless, colorless, odorless and nontoxic.
flying boat: a seaplane whose main body is a hull adapted for floating.
fop: a foolish person.
Fortune’s a gay dame: a variation of “Well, if Fortune be a woman, she’s a good wench for this gear” by William Shakespeare (1564–1616) in The Merchant of Venice. Fortune was depicted as a goddess and gear means business. In this scene, the character was commenting on his good fortune to have a job.
forty-leven: an expression used to describe a huge number.
Fresno: Fresno Scraper; a tractor-pulled earthmoving scraper. Invented by James Porteous (1848–1922), a Scottish-American inventor, it is named for the city of Fresno, California, where he lived. The machines were used in agriculture and land leveling, as well as road and railroad grading and the general construction industry. The Fresno Scraper was so revolutionary and economical that it influenced the design of modern bulldozer blades and earthmoving scrapers.
full kit: full uniform.
fulminate: a gray crystalline powder that, when dry, explodes under percussion or heat and is used in detonators and as a high explosive.
gaff, stand the: to weather hardship or strain; endure.
gangway: in coal mining, a haulage road, entry or airway to the surface. Airways and gangways are the chief passages of the mine.
gawblimey: blimey; used to express surprise or excitement. It is what is known as a “minced oath,” a reduced form of “God blind me.”
Gee-Bee: GB R-1 Super Sportster; a special purpose racing aircraft built by Granville Brothers Aircraft of Springfield, Massachusetts in the early 1930s. It was sometimes nicknamed “The Flying Silo” due to the short, fat fuselage resembling a farm storage building. Gee-Bee stands for Granville Brothers.
general order: a published directive originated by a commander, and binding upon all personnel under his command. The purpose of such an order is to enforce a policy or procedure unique to his unit’s situation, and not otherwise addressed in applicable service regulations, military law or public law. A general order has the force of law and it is an offense punishable by court-martial or lesser military court to disobey one.
gob: a sailor in the US Navy.
gook: a native inhabitant of the Philippines; Pacific islander.
goonie: an enemy.
grandstander: someone who performs with an eye to the applause from the spectators in the grandstand.
Gs or gravities: units of force equal to the force exerted by gravity. In the case of an airplane pulling out of a dive, the centrifugal force of the plane turning up creates airloads that can potentially break off the wings of the plane. The load factor is the ratio of the total airload acting on the airplane to the gross weight of the airplane. For example, a load factor of three means that the total load on the airplane’s structure is three times it total weight. Load factors are usually expressed in terms of “G.” A load factor of four would be referred to as four Gs.
gumbo: soil that turns very sticky and muddy when it becomes wet.
gun: open the throttle of an engine so as to accelerate.
guncotton: a highly explosive material formed by treating clean cotton with nitric acid and sulphuric acid. Used in propellants and smokeless gunpowder.
gunnery sergeant: the seventh enlisted rank in the US Marine Corps, and a non-commissioned officer. A gunnery sergeant is typically in charge of a company-sized group of Marines, or about one hundred personnel.
gunwale: the upper edge of the side of a boat. Originally a gunwale was a platform where guns were mounted, and was designed to accommodate the additional stresses imposed by the artillery being used.
Gurkha: people from Nepal and parts of North India noted for their military prowess.
Habsburg: a royal Austrian family that provided rulers for several European states and wore the crown of the Holy Roman Empire from 1440 to 1806.
hackamore: a halter with reins and a noseband instead of a bit (a metal bar that fits into the horse’s mouth and attaches to the reins), used for breaking horses and riding.
hairbreadth: having the breadth of a hair; very narrow, as in a hairbreadth escape.
hardtail: a mule; so named because they show little response to the mule driver’s whip.
Hatteras: Cape Hatteras, on the coast of North Carolina. It is the point that protrudes the farthest to the southeast along the Atlantic coast of North America, making it a key point for navigation along the eastern seaboard. So many ships have been lost around it that the area is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
hawse: hawse pipe; iron or steel pipe in the stem or bow of a vessel through which an anchor cable passes.
hawser: a large heavy rope or cable. Used figuratively.
HE: high explosive; explosive which undergoes an extremely rapid chemical transformation, thereby producing a high-order detonation and shattering effect. High explosives are used as bursting charges for bombs, projectiles, grenades, mines and for demolition.
head-balancer: a circus performer who balances objects or other people on the top of his head.
hearse plume: a feather plume, usually ostrich feathers dyed black, used to decorate the tops of the horses’ heads on antique horse-drawn hearses.
heart “thrill”: vibrations of loud cardiac murmurs. They feel like the throat of a purring cat. Thrills occur with turbulent blood flow.
highbinder: a swindler; a cheat.
high-perch: an aerial apparatus, generally a hanging perch, from where the performers hang with the help of hand or ankle loops.
highwayman: a person who robs on a public road; a thief.
hit the silk: parachute from an aircraft; bail out.
hold forth: to speak at length.
Homer: Greek epic poet and author of The Odyssey written near the end of the eighth century bc. The lead character, Odysseus, explores the land of the Cyclops, a race of uncivilized, cannibalistic, one-eyed giants.
hoodoo: one that brings bad luck.
hooker: an older vessel, usually a cargo boat.
howitzer: a cannon which has a comparatively short barrel, used especially for firing shells at a high angle of elevation for a short range, as for reaching a target
behind cover or in a trench.
huang-bao-che: (Chinese) rickshaw.
hump, over the: 1. the phenomenon of “weightlessness” one feels when a plane reaches the top of its path before going into a dive, similar to the feeling one might get going over the top of a rollercoaster. The flight path of the plane can be described as being a parabola (a curve that is similar in shape to the rising and falling path of an object that is thrown in the air). At the top of the parabola, the pilot makes an effort to gradually and steadily turn the nose of the plane downward. It is during this time the pilot experiences a zero-G environment. This weightless experience lasts while the plane does its up and over the hump maneuver. 2. cross the mountains to the West Coast, specifically in Washington State where the Cascade mountain range extends from Canada to Oregon and divides Washington between east and west.
huzzah: a cheer, used to express encouragement or triumph.
Hydrographic Office: the office of the Navy Department that produced charts and navigational publications.
ice cream pants: white flannel trousers, so called because the wool flannel material of which they were made was the color of vanilla ice cream.
ifil: a medium-sized, slow-growing evergreen tree whose wood is known for its hardness and durability.
iron doctor: decompression chamber; a pressure vessel that allows divers to complete their decompression stops at the end of a dive on the surface rather than underwater.
iron-jaw: iron-jaw trick; an aerial stunt using a metal bit and apparatus which fits into the performer’s mouth, and from which they hang suspended.
Jamón con huevos y mas jamón con huevos, entonces, jamón con huevos: (Spanish) Ham with eggs and more ham with eggs, and then, ham with eggs.
Jones: Davy Jones’ locker; the ocean’s bottom, especially when regarded as the grave of all who perish at sea.
Jugamos: (Spanish) Let’s play.
kaskaho: (Tagalog) gravel.
kinetic energy: form of energy that an object has by reason of its motion. The kinetic energy of an object depends on its mass and velocity.
kip: to perform a maneuver from a position with the legs over the upper body and move to an erect position by arching the back and swinging the legs out and down while forcing the chest upright.
kraal: a village; a collection of huts.
kudu mourneth and ivy twineth, where the: a humorous reference to Africa. A kudu is a large antelope native to Africa.
kupagawa na pepo: (Swahili) demon possession.
lamby pie: a term of endearment.
lay-down: an easy target or victim.
lighter: a large, open, flat-bottomed vessel, used in loading and unloading ships offshore or in transporting goods for short distances in shallow waters.
limned: outlined in clear detail; delineated.
line squall: a line or extended narrow region of thunderstorms, often several hundred miles long.
liquid air: air in its liquid state, intensely cold and bluish.
Little Bear: Ursa Minor, which means Little Bear in Latin; the constellation nearest the north pole, it contains the north star which is used as a reference point for navigation or astronomy.
lizard: to drag logs using a sled.
LLD: Doctor of Laws; an honorary law degree. Used humorously.
log: logarithm; in mathematics, the number of times that a number must be multiplied by itself in order to produce a particular number. Prior to the advent of calculators, extensive logarithm tables existed to aid navigators, astronomers and surveyors in making rapid complex calculations.
log rule: log scale; a log or tree measuring stick used to measure the diameter of standing trees or logs in inches and to estimate their volume or product yield.
longerons: in aircraft construction, a thin strip of wood or metal, to which the outside “skin” of the aircraft is fastened. The longerons run from front to rear, usually four to eight in number.
los niños: (Spanish) the children.
MA: Master of Arts; a master’s degree in arts and sciences. Used humorously.
Magdalena: a river that rises in the Andes mountains in southwestern Colombia and flows northward to empty into the Caribbean Sea.
magneto blasting box: a small electric generator which produces currents of high electromotive force by the use of a permanent magnet, and employed in the direct firing of blasts.
Malay States: the nine states of Peninsular Malaysia (now Malaysia) that have hereditary rulers. In practice, these rulers are figureheads and follow the principles of constitutional monarchy. The nine rulers of the Malay states elect the King of Malaysia from among their number.
Managua: capital city of Nicaragua, located in the west of the country near the Pacific Ocean.
Manchuria: a region of northeast China comprising the modern-day provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning. It was the homeland of the Manchu people who conquered China in the seventeenth century, and was hotly contested by the Russians and the Japanese in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chinese Communists gained control of the area in 1948.
Manila: the capital and largest city of the Philippines, on southwest Luzon Island and Manila Bay, an inlet of the South China Sea.
manway: an entry used exclusively for personnel to travel from the shaft bottom to the working section; a small passage at one side or both sides of a breast, used as a traveling way for the miner and sometimes as an airway or chute or both.
Marianas: Mariana Islands; a group of fifteen islands in the western Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines.
Marzo: (Spanish) the month of March.
Mauser: a bolt-action rifle; made by Mauser, a German arms manufacturer. These rifles have been made since the 1870s.
Medellín: a major city in western central Colombia.
Menos ruido: (Spanish) Less noise.
Mex: Mexican peso; in 1732 it was introduced as a trade coin with China and was so popular that China became one of its principal consumers. Mexico minted and exported pesos to China until 1949. It was issued as both coins and paper money.
Mexican liniment: petroleum; crude oil.
mganga: (Swahili) the head witch doctor.
milhois: (Swahili) evil spirits.
military brushes: a pair of matched hairbrushes having no handles, especially for men.
Mindanao: the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines.
minstrel show end man: a man at each end of the line of performers in a minstrel show who engages in comic banter with the master of ceremonies. A minstrel show is a comic variety show presenting jokes, songs, dances and skits, usually by white actors in blackface.
Mombasa: the second largest city in Kenya, lying on the Indian Ocean.
monkey: in coal mining, a small passageway or opening.
monkeyshine: a piece of monkey business; a mischievous or questionable activity.
mountain sickness: an illness that ranges from a mild headache and weariness to a life-threatening buildup of fluid in the lungs or brain at high altitudes. Mountain sickness develops when the rate of ascent into higher altitudes outpaces the body’s ability to adjust to those altitudes. It generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet above sea level and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet per day.
mudsill: the lowest sill (a horizontal timber, block or the like) of a derrick foundation, usually embedded in soil or mud and used to reinforce it.
mud-smeller: a geologist who tests dirt for the presence of oil.
mugs: hoodlums; thugs; criminals.
mumiani: (Swahili) blood drinkers; East African vampires.
mump: something being worked over by the mouth, as in food or chewing tabacco.
mustang liniment: petroleum; crude oil.
Nanking Road: China’s premier shopping street, passing through the center of Shanghai. It was first the British Concession, then the International Settlement. Importing large quantities of foreign goods, it became the municipality’s earliest shopping street.
nick: to take or have.
niño: (Spanish) child.
nipa: a palm with long feathery leaves used as roof material for thatched dwellings.
No me lo diga: (Spanish) Don’t tell me.
non-com: non-commissioned officer; an enlisted person of any of various grades in the armed forces, as from corporal to sergeant major.
No nos pagan, no trabajamos: (Spanish) We are not paid, we do not work.
Norfolk: a city in southeast Virginia in the Hampton Roads region, the world’s largest navel base. It is a commercial waterway and one of the country’s busiest ports and shipbuilding centers.
North Col: a col is a lower point that allows easier access through a range of mountains. The North Col is the pass connecting Mount Everest and Changtse, an adjacent mountain in Tibet immediately north of Mount Everest.
No se mueva, por favor: (Spanish) Do not move, please.
OD: (military) olive drab.
office: a cockpit of an aircraft; the front office (front cockpit) being the compartment for the pilot, and back office (rear cockpit) being the gunner’s seat,
positioned behind the pilot’s seat.
Old Harry: humorous name for the devil.
order arms: a position in military manual of arms in which the rifle is held vertically next to the right leg with its butt resting on the ground.
Orinoco: one of the longest rivers in South America, flowing north from the border of Brazil, along the eastern border of Colombia and northeast through Venezuela to the Atlantic.
over the hill, go: desert; leave military service, one’s post, etc.
pad room: room near the animals where pads, harness and tack for the elephants and horses are kept. It is not really a dressing room, though most of the animal people congregate there.
painter: a rope, usually at the bow, for fastening a boat to a ship, stake, etc.
pannikin: a small metal drinking cup.
panther sweat: whiskey.
parabola: a type of curve such as that made by an object that is thrown up in the air and falls to the ground in a different place.
patois: a regional form of a language differing from the standard, literary form.
Pawhunri: a mountain peak (23,180 feet) in the eastern part of the Himalayan range.
PDQ: abbreviation for pretty damn quick. Used humorously.
pearl lugger: a large boat used purely for pearl oyster fishing by the pearl divers.
peón: (Spanish) a farm worker or unskilled laborer; day laborer.
pepo: (Swahili) demon.
periculous: dangerous; full of peril.
peso: the basic unit of money in Colombia, equal to 100 centavos.
pillar: an area of coal left to support the overlying strata in a mine, sometimes permanently to support surface structures.
pillroller: a health professional trained in the art of preparing and dispensing drugs.
planta’o: (Spanish) plantalo; to stand pat.
Plimsoll mark: the load line markings on the side of any large cargo vessel, indicating a safe waterline for different conditions. Used figuratively.
polecat: a logger’s name for a tie-peeler (a man who cuts railroad ties and is looked upon as the lowliest man in camp) who camps far away from headquarters.
Potomac: a river in the east central United States; it begins in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia and flows eastward to the Chesapeake Bay, forming the boundary between Maryland and Virginia.
powder hole: a dry well; an unsuccessful boring.
Pratt & Whitney: an aircraft engine produced by Pratt & Whitney, an American manufacturer of these.
present arms: a position in which a long gun, such as a rifle, is held perpendicularly in front of the center of the body.
press bricks: to stand around in the street loafing.
Primus: a portable cooking stove that burns vaporized oil.
property man: propman; a man who looks after stage properties.
prop wash: the disturbed mass of air pushed aft by the propeller of an aircraft.
Pumori: a mountain in the Himalayas on the Nepal-Tibet border. It lies just west of Mount Everest and is 23,494 feet high.
puttee: a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee, consisting of a long narrow piece of cloth wound tightly and spirally round the leg, and serving both as a support and protection. It was once adopted as part of the uniform of foot and mounted soldiers in several armies.
QED: (Latin) quod erat demonstrandum, meaning “which was to be demonstrated.” Something one says in order to emphasize that a fact proves what you have just said is true.
Quantico: a town of northeastern Virginia on the Potomac River. A US Marine Corps base was established there in 1918.
¿Qué hay?: (Spanish) What’s up?
¿Qué traes?: (Spanish) What do you carry?
rattletrap: a car or truck that is old; a rickety old motor vehicle; a jalopy; a heap.
Reaper: Grim Reaper; Death personified as an old man or a skeleton with a scythe.
redeye: cheap, strong whiskey.
reduction gear: a set of gears in an engine used to reduce an input speed (as of a marine engine) to a slower output speed (as of a ship’s propeller).
renversement: (French) reversal; a hammerhead stall or whipstall, a maneuver in a small aircraft in which it goes into a vertical climb, pauses briefly, and then drops
toward the earth, nose first.
Resident: Resident Commissioner; appointed by the British crown, he resides in the territorial unit he is in charge of. This was the case for the British Solomon Islands from 1893 until a governor was appointed in 1952.
riding lights: lights in the rigging of a ship that is riding at anchor.
rigger: a mechanic skilled in the assembly, adjustment and alignment of aircraft control surfaces, wings and the like.
roadster: a small open-topped car with a single seat in front and often an additional folding seat at the back.
robber stick: a club carried by the logging foreman.
robbing on the advance: reducing the size of pillars; taking as much as possible off pillars and leaving only what is deemed sufficient to support the roof. Also
called robbing an entry or robbing pillars.
rockhound: a geologist who tests dirt for the presence of oil.
rod: leveling rod; a light pole marked with gradations, held upright and read through a surveying instrument.
rodman: in surveying, a person who carries the leveling rod, a light pole marked with gradations, held upright and read through a surveying instrument.
Roman rings: a pair of rings suspended at the end of ropes and used for aerial performance twenty feet and higher above the ground. This act consists of various contortions and aerial acrobatics such as spins, swings, splits, twists, roll-ups, handstands, etc.
Rongbuk: Rongbuk Glacier, located in the Himalayas of southern Tibet. It flows north and forms the Rongbuk Valley north of Mount Everest. Climbing expeditions and trekking parties use this glacier to reach the Advanced Base Camp of Mount Everest and from there, climbing expeditions try to summit Everest by the northeast ridge.
rosin-belly: a logger; a worker in a logging camp.
roughneck: a crew member of an oil rig other than the driller.
round curse: a curse spoken with full force; unrestrained.
Royal Box: a separate room with an open viewing area, placed immediately to the front or side and above the level of the stage. These boxes typically seat five people or fewer. They are considered the most prestigious in the house and are sometimes provided for dignitaries.
RSVP: abbreviation for répondez s’il vous plaît, a French expression meaning “please reply.” Used humorously.
rub: an obstacle, impediment or difficulty.
running lights: any of various lights required to be displayed by a vessel or aircraft operating between sunset and sunrise.
run over: run-over heels; old shoes where the heel is so unevenly worn on the outside that the back of the shoe starts to lean to one side and does not sit straight above the heel.
saddle, get a: one logger’s admonishment to another logger not to “ride the saw,” meaning to neglect his end of the job, or another way of saying, “don’t drag your feet.”
safety car: mine-rescue car. During the early 1900s, it was important and necessary to examine conditions in a mine as soon as possible after an explosion or fire. This need led to the establishment of mine-safety stations and rail cars. The original purpose of these stations and cars were to aid in technical studies and investigation, however, the courageous rescue work performed was such that they were soon referred to as “mine-rescue” stations and cars. The railroad cars used were former Pullman cars (railway passenger sleeping cars with beds for nighttime travel) purchased by the US government. The interiors were equipped with mine-rescue and first-aid equipment and were remodeled to include offices, training and workrooms as well as cooking, eating and sleeping quarters. The primary goal was to investigate, as quickly as possible, causes of a mine disaster, assist in the rescue of miners and render first aid. When a mine disaster occurred, the rescue cars were moved by special locomotive or connected to the first train available.
sahib: a Hindi term of respect, meaning sir, master or lord.
sand line: in well-boring, a wire line used to lower and raise the bailer or sand pump which frees the bore-hole from drill cuttings.
sawdust land: the circus.
scissorbill: 1. a worker who refuses to join a union, or who works for lower wages or under different conditions than those accepted by the union. 2. one regarded as foolish, incompetent or inexperienced.
scud cloud: small, ragged, low cloud fragments that are unattached to a larger cloud base at first and are often seen with and behind cold fronts and thunderstorm gust fronts. Used figuratively.
scupper: an opening in the side of a ship at deck level which allows water to run off.
seacocks: valves below the waterline in a ship’s hull, used for admitting outside water into some part of the hull.
seams: in mining, a stratum or bed of coal.
Sells-Floto: a show that was a combination of the Floto Dog & Pony Show and the Sells Brothers Circus that toured with sideshow acts in the United States during the early 1900s.
shake: a rough wooden shingle used as siding or roofing on buildings.
Shanghai: city of eastern China at the mouth of the Yangtze River, and the largest city in the country. Shanghai was opened to foreign trade by treaty in 1842 and quickly prospered. France, Great Britain and the United States all held large concessions (rights to use land granted by a government) in the city until the early twentieth century.
shavetail: a second lieutenant.
shooter: in the petroleum industry, one who shoots oil wells with nitroglycerin to loosen or shatter the oil-bearing formation; the man who drops a charge of nitroglycerin to clean a clogged oil well.
shooting: the action of estimating distances or altitudes by the use of a surveying instrument.
Shylock: a heartless money lender, after the name of a character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
sidewinder: rattlesnake; a deceitful or treacherous person.
siege gun: any cannon designated as an eighteen-pounder or above.
siete-y-media: (Spanish) seven and a half.
sight: an observation taken with a surveying, navigating or other instrument to determine an exact position or direction.
single jack: a short-handled hammer with a three- to four-pound head, used for punching holes in rock.
sink: to drill or put down a drill hole.
skidder: a worker whose job it is to drag the logs out of the forest to the loading yard.
skid road: a road over which oxen, horses or tractors pull logs. It is generally a short wide road rather than a main road; an excavated dirt path cut into a
mountainside that is wide enough to support the weight of a bulldozer.
slave market: employment office.
slipstick: slide rule; a thin, flat calculating device consisting of a fixed outer piece and a movable middle piece. Both pieces are graduated in such a way that multiplication, division and other mathematical functions of an input variable may be rapidly determined by movement of the middle pieces to a location on one scale corresponding to the input value, and reading off the result on another scale. A movable window with magnification and a hairline assists in alignment of the scales. This device has been largely superseded by the electronic calculator.
slipstream: the airstream pushed back by a revolving aircraft propeller.
snoose: among loggers, a strong, moist variety of finely powdered tobacco.
Sound: Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of the State of Washington.
sounder: a device, such as a line or pole, used for measuring the depth of water.
soup: liquid nitroglycerin.
sou’wester: a waterproof hat with a wide brim that widens in the back to protect the neck in stormy weather, worn especially by seamen.
sowbelly: salt pork; pork cured in salt, especially fatty pork from the back, side or belly of a hog.
Soy el señor Felipe Marzo, caballero: (Spanish) I am Mr. Felipe Marzo, gentleman.
sparks: radioman; traditionally nicknamed Sparks or Sparky, stemming from the early use of transmitters that produced sparks to radiate energy, the means by which radio signals were transmitted.
spec: spectacle; the opening procession of a circus; a colorful pageant within the tent of all performers and animals in costume, usually at the beginning of the show.
spider-to-the-fly: the use of flattery and charm to disguise one’s true bad intentions. The phrase comes from the poem The Spider and The Fly by Mary Howitt (1799–1888). The first line of the poem is “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” The story tells of a cunning spider who ensnares a naïve fly through the use of seduction and flattery.
spider webs: cross hairs; either of two fine strands of wire crossed in the focus of the eyepiece of an optical instrument for surveying and used as a sighting reference. During World War I, the threads of some spiders were used as cross hairs in instruments.
Springfield: any of several types of rifle, named after Springfield, Massachusetts, the site of a federal armory that made the rifles.
squeezes: injuries caused as a result of pressure differences between the external environment and the inside of the body. Divers can be affected painfully by inequality between high ambient pressure at depth and the enclosed air-containing spaces of the diving suit which can cause the middle ear to bulge or rupture internally. During surfacing, if too rapid, there is a danger due to air expanding within the lungs causing the lungs to rupture.
stall: a situation in which an aircraft suddenly dives because the airflow is obstructed and lift is lost. The loss of airflow can be caused by insufficient air speed or by an excessive angle of an airfoil (part of an aircraft’s surface that provides lift or control) when the aircraft is climbing.
star bit: a type of screw head characterized by a six-pointed, star-shaped pattern.
starter, elevator: elevator dispatcher; the person who operates an elevator to provide service to building patrons and employees.
stays: heavy ropes, cables or wires, used as a brace or support, as for a tall pole or mast.
steeplejack: a person who climbs tall structures, and in particular church steeples, for painting and general repairs or maintenance.
Stetson: as the most popular broad-brimmed hat in the West, it became the generic name for hat. John B. Stetson was a master hatmaker and founder of the company that has been making Stetsons since 1865.
Stinson: a three- or four-seat aircraft built by the Stinson Aircraft Syndicate near Detroit, Michigan in the 1930s.
stirrup: stirrup step; a sort of U-shaped step positioned below the door on some aircraft to facilitate getting into the pilot’s seat.
straw boss: a worker who also supervises a small work crew, acting as an assistant to the foreman.
stud hoss: stud horse poker; another name for stud poker.
stumblebum: someone who appears to do things in a blundering, unskillful manner; second-rate.
Sunday School: humorous reference to gambling; one of the early Sunday pastimes for which the establishment of Sunday Schools sought to overcome.
superstructure: cabins and rooms above the deck of a ship.
swagger coat: a woman’s pyramid-shaped coat with a full flared back and usually raglan sleeves (sleeves extending to the collar of a garment instead of ending at the
shoulder), first popularized in the 1930s.
swamp angel: a rural Southerner from the southern coastal states.
swamper: a lumberjack who removes the limbs from fallen trees and clears roads through virgin woods. In a logging operation, a swamper is the lowest caste and receives the lowest pay.
tables: logarithm tables. A logarithm is the number of times that a number must be multiplied by itself in order to produce a particular number. Prior to the advent of calculators, extensive logarithm tables existed to aid navigators, astronomers and surveyors in making rapid complex calculations.
takeaway: the train that takes the logs to the mill.
tangential force: a force which acts on a moving body at an angle to, but in the same direction as, the path of the body, the effect increases or diminishes the
velocity of the body.
tapa’o: (Spanish) tapalo; cover me, as in cover a bet; to equal or meet a bet; match a wager.
terminal velocity: the constant speed that a falling object reaches when the downward gravitational force equals the frictional resistance of the medium through which it is falling, usually air.
ticket: a certifying document, especially a captain’s or pilot’s license.
tie-peeler: in logging, a man who cuts railroad ties. He is looked upon as one of the lowliest men in camp.
toff: a member of the wealthy upper classes.
tool-pusher: rig manager; the person who supervises and is responsible for all drilling operations at a land oil rig.
top-hole: excellent, first class.
top kick: first sergeant; the senior enlisted grade authorized in a company.
torpedo: a cartridge of gunpowder, dynamite, or the like, exploded in an oil well to facilitate the extraction of oil from the well.
trades: trade winds; any of the nearly constant easterly winds that dominate most of the tropics and subtropics throughout the world, blowing mainly from the northeast
in the Northern Hemisphere, and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere.
Traigo papeles de mucha importancia: (Spanish) I bring papers of much importance.
tramp: a freight vessel that does not run regularly between fixed ports, but takes a cargo wherever shippers desire.
transit: a surveying instrument mounted with a telescope that can be rotated completely around its horizontal axis, used for measuring vertical and horizontal angles.
transom: transom seat; a kind of bench seat, usually with a locker or drawers underneath.
turtleback: the part of the airplane behind the cockpit that is shaped like the back of a turtle.
upholstered: rotund; chubby; plump.
vectorial velocity: the direction and rate an object is changing its position.
Verdun and the Marne: locations of two fiercely fought battles of World War I. Verdun is located in northeastern France and the Marne is a river near Paris.
waganga: (Swahili) the group of witch doctors.
walker: nickname for the “Walking Liberty Half Dollar,” a silver half-dollar coin minted between 1916 and 1947. (The coin is named after the design on the main side
which shows Lady Liberty walking and holding an olive branch.)
walking beam: an oscillating beam or lever used to transmit vertical motion to the drilling tools.
water jacket: a water-filled compartment used to cool something, as an engine or machine gun.
wharf rat: someone who lives near wharves and lives by pilfering from ships or warehouses.
whipstall: a maneuver in a small aircraft in which it goes into a vertical climb, pauses briefly, and then drops toward the earth, nose first.
white feather: a single white feather is a symbol of cowardice. It comes from cockfighting, and the belief that a gamecock sporting a white feather in its tail is not
a purebred and is likely to be a poor fighter.
windsock: a fabric tube or cone attached at one end to the top of a pole to show which way the wind is blowing.
windward: facing the wind or on the side facing the wind.
witch doctor: a person who is believed to heal and to exorcise evil spirits by the use of magic.
witch stick: a divining rod. Used as a nickname.
Wolf lamp: a type of miner’s lamp used to detect firedamp (explosive gas found in coal mines that is tasteless, colorless, odorless and nontoxic.)
Wonderful Lamps: a reference to the wonderful lamp featured in the tale of Aladdin from The Arabian Nights. In the story, when the lamp is rubbed a jinni appears who thereafter does the bidding of the person holding the lamp.
X job: X-planes, a series of experimental US aircraft used for testing new technologies. An early X job built in the late 1930s had stability issues and was hard to control.
yannigan: yannigan bag; duffel bag; haversack; a bag in which a lumberjack carried his clothes.
yap: stupid person; fool.
Yard: Scotland Yard, the detective department of the metropolitan police force of London.
zero ceiling: clouds or mist at ground level.
zero-zero: (of atmospheric conditions) having or characterized by zero visibility in both horizontal and vertical directions.
zimwis: (Swahili) personal demons.