Injuries caused by the trains
To illustrate how dangerous life was in the railroad yards, Strickland tells a story about how one of his coworkers lost his leg.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
That switching job, you got to
kind of have to watch your step. Them wheels'll get you.
They'll cut you, but it ain't no respect of
person. If you ever fall or make a miscue or step in front of there,
they'll cut your leg off. I'll tell you a fearful
story if you don't mind. After I was conductor after a long
time, a fellow, Dick Robinson, here in Charlotte. The Seaboard railroad
give him a job as operator. Anyway, me and Dick was up there at the top
of the hill switching one day, and a brake wheel broke off, one of them
Ajax brake wheels. The thing hurled out, right in the hub of the wheel.
Dick had both hands on that rim of that wheel, and when it hurled out,
he wasn't holding nothing else but the wheel. He fell right
backwards off in the middle of the track. He
caught that front and it drug him sixty feet down the track to that
switch, and while it was dragging, it cut his leg off about six inches
below his knee. Bless you, his leg and his foot with his shoe on it was
standing up out there on a little old path with a little old walk
alongside the track. It drug him up in that switch. That switch point
caught the skin on his leg and just split that skin all up into his
thigh. That caught his leg, and he was up under there. It was holding
him, and he couldn't get out from under there. He begin to
scream and holler. I was right on the ladder with him, right beside him
when that brake wheel hurled out with him. He fell back, and I jumped
back and grabbed my hat off—Ike was the
engineer—whopping him down and signing him down trying to get
him to stop. He drug him about sixty feet on down. Ike finally got
started, but he was up under that car screaming and hollering. I climbed
up there, and he couldn't get out. That piece of skin was
hung into that switch forhim. He couldn't get out, he
couldn't get a-loose. I tried to get out, I got back out and
I tried to get Ike to back up. I was making all those funny motions. Ike
got scared. He wouldn't move; he knew the railroad. You
wouldn't move your equipment till you know exactly what was
going on. That's one of the rules, but he done right. I was
going to try to get him to back off so I could get Dick out from under
there. Ike wouldn't back up, so I took out my pocket knife
and crawled back up under that coal hopper and finished cutting off his
leg. Course, that frees him out from under that switch point. Then he
humped on his elbow and crawled back out from under the car. His leg was
up that a way and the blood was just spouting. Bill Ray was
firing—one of them eleven hundred's—he
come running down. I had sent Bill down there. He held his brake right
on that engine; that was his responsible to do that. He sent his fireman
down there and Bill come running down there. I
said, "Bill, for God's sake, go get
me—I'm an old railroad man; I know that first
aid—go get me a string or rag or something. I'm
going to make a tourniquet put it on his leg." Blood was just
spouting. So Bill flew back up to that engine and got some old waste,
some old rags and come running down there. I tied a couple of those rags
together and made a tourniquet and put it up there above his knee. Got
me a stick, I picked up a little old shart stick and twisted it and made
a tourniquet on his leg. That stopped that blood from spouting. I
hollered one of those colored men working on the switch down there just
below. I hollered and told him. He come running out the yard and they
called the ambulance. They come up there at the end of Church Street
right up the top of the hill. I held that tourniquet right on his leg
all the way to the hospital. We come back through coming to the Mercy
Hospital. Dr. Douglas Neal was surgeon for Seaboard at that time. He was
- LU ANN JONES:
Seaboard had a surgeon?
- RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Yeah, he was a Seaboard surgeon. Dr. Neal, they called him and he come
running. He knew me; I know Dr. Neal. He says, "Has he lost
much blood?" I said, "I don't know, Dr.
Neal. His lower leg is spouting blood. I really don't
know." Then he turned to the nurse. I had my tourniquet on and
holding it all the time. They went and got a hospital tourniquet and put
it on his leg and stopped that blood. Then he begin to order blood
plasma. I told him his leg was cut off just below his knee, about six or
eight inches, about halfway I'd say. I says, "Dr.
Neal, is there any chance of you saving that leg below his
knee?" I knew. He shook his head. He said, "I
don't believe so, Strick. I'm going to have to
…" He did. He cut his leg off above his knee. The
boy lives right over yonder right over there next to that mint museum is
where he lives now, Dick Robinson. He got over it. He was real strong,
young fellow. He just gritted his teeth.
It's funny how a person will react. I won't say a
dirty word, but he used some profanity, and I did too just cursing
because I was excited. I was gritting my teeth and cursing and kind of
helping the situation. But after it got over at the hospital, and got
that tourniquet on his leg, I just turned chicken then. They had to go
get me a cup of ammonia and fan me around there. All that time,
everything was going on, I was mad as a wet hen. I just cussing and mad.
After I got over there and the doctor got there, then I relaxed.
- LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember what year that was?
- RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
Around in the 60's sometime, about 1955, 1960.