A Night I Will Never Forget
By Gary Emmons
Highball number two, snapped Conductor Hough's voice over his Motorola radio mounted on top of the control stand on the engineers side of the Northern Pacific Railroad F-7 diesel.
I began to worry about the weather. I peered down at the telegraph operator Ernie Harrison at Kanaskat, Washington. He struggled to clear a path through the foot of snow from the baggage room to the waiting room. I was toasty in the diesel engine cab. I knew by the steam flowing from Ernie's nostrils that it was bitter cold outside.
Engineer Jimmy Darker responded with two hoots from the chimed whistle of the lead F-7 diesel, released the independent brake valve and with his deft left hand quickly notched the throttle from idle to run one. Then two. Notches three, four, five and six, followed with a sense of urgency. A piercing white light from the wheel slippage indicator momentarily illuminated the weathered face and steely clear eyes of this little Northern Pacific Railway engineer. Jimmy instinctively nudged the sanding lever dispersing sand to the groaning wheels and the light quickly went out. His face vanished into the blackness of the night.
Don't know why Charlie made a stop here at Kanaskat tonight. Jimmy grumbled as his 4500 horsepower (A-B-C) triplet (6511C, 6512B and 6512A) groaned but responded to two more gentle jerks on the lead units throttle.
Conductor Hough indeed had radioed engineer Darker as they passed Ravensdale to stop the seven car, Northern Pacific's Mainstreeter passenger consist at Kanaskat, a flag stop in the first subdivision timetable, this snowy 1963 Christmas night.
I didnšt see a damned person get on or off. Did you, Bill? Jimmy yelled to his fireman over the roar of the three diesels now firmly responding to run eight but still a few amperes away from final automatic transition.
The fireman shook his head. Bill wondered why Jimmy asked at all since from Billšs position in the cab he couldn't see the depot. It didn't matter though. Bill knew Jimmy Darker hated to waste time or words when he was running. So Bill peered straight ahead into the blinding white sheet of snow, smiled to himself and squinted for the next block signal, hoping for an emerald green.
A ghost must have gotten off, I said feebly with a smile in my voice. Jimmy did not respond. After all, I was a seventeen year-old extra telegrapher deadheading from Tacoma to my next job at Lester and Jimmy was a sixty year-old Northern Pacific veteran engineer who was the best of the best. For him railroading was serious business.
Maybe he didn't hear me over all the noise in the cab I thought, but I knew better.
The snow continued to pile up along the right of way and the thoughts of me leaving this cozy environment for the harshness of the winter night started to become real.
Lester depot calling number two, the operators voice crackled over the VHF radio.
Number two. Go ahead, Elmer, engineer Darker answered into his black handset.
Yea, Jimmy, I got you lined up on the westward to Stampede. Too much snow on the eastward. Nobody's been up the eastward for twelve hours. Orders are in the rack, came the gruff sounding voice of Elmer Schweppe, second trick operator.
Lonely little Lester was at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It marked the beginning of double track operations on the eastbound mountainous grade to Stampede. Dispatcher authorized CTC controlled entrance of train traffic into the single track, two mile long bore under the Cascades. Double track then re-emerged at Martin through to Easton.
With a flick of two switches and on order from the train dispatcher, Elmer had lined number two against the current of traffic to Stampede.
OK, Elmer, were comin' atcha. Were going to drop off your relief operator. He's up here in the cab, Jimmy said.
Up the westward, Jimmy! shouted the fireman, as the signal aspect red over green suddenly appeared. And we've got an order board too, as the yellow home signal glowed 19 in the distance.
OK, Bill. Grab the orders, and Ill help this kid off the head end once I get 'er stopped.
Jimmy Darker? The Jimmy Darker helping me off the head end of his train? Wow! What an honor I thought. What a way to start off my night -- third trick operator at Lester!
The sound of gushing, venting air filled the cab of the engine as Jimmy reduced six pounds of train line air and quickly bailed off the engine air.
Jimmy spotted the head end of number two about five cars east of the turn-of-the-century, weathered depot.
Did you get the orders? Jimmy barked to the fireman.
Yessir! Bill sang out. Just one order -- reverse track to Stampede.
OK, kid. Off you go, Jimmy reminded me. Climb down the engine ladder with your face toward the cab, and then Ill toss you your grip.
I yanked open the door of the fireman's side of the F-7. Cold air sliced my face. There were no lights. I couldn't see a thing. I felt like an aviator bailing out of a perfectly good airplane! The ice cold hand railings of the engine ladder were no match for my warm moist hand. Flesh from my thumbs stuck to the frozen railings.
My God, I thought. I'm going to rip the skin right off my bones.!
Instinctively I jerked my hands from the railings and immediately lost balance. Backwards I fell into the snow bank beneath me.
Buried in snow, no visible lights and feeling very foolish, I dug out of the white fluff and peered toward the cab.
Jimmy leaned out of the engine and shouted. What the hell did you do?
Ah, just lost my footing, sir. Just toss me my sleeping bag and Ill walk back to the depot.
Jimmy tossed me my bag, slammed the fireman's door and climbed back into his command chair. Hough gave him a highball over the radio. Jimmy released the independent air, belted the chime horn twice and began to massage his diesel electrics.
Number twos rear end markers faded into the distance.
Now what am I going to do?, I thought. I've got to dig my way back to the depot and go to work at a telegraph office I've never seen before. What kind of night is this really going to be?
Third trick at Lester was going to be a very interesting challenge.
Mainstreeter number twos red markers disappeared into the inky black night. The fading growl of Jimmy Darkers three F-7s charging the 2.2 percent mountain grade approaching Kennedy echoed through the snow capped western foothills of the Cascades.
Snow continued to pummel the earth.
My eyes focused on the dimly lit, two story depot--about four coach lengths away.
But first I had to dig my way out of the snow, find my sleeping bag and my sack of groceries. Slowly but surely I inched my way forward through the crusty snow and staggered, exhausted, into the depot.
The anticipated warmth of the telegraph office engulfed me.
I burst through the door and expected to be greeted by the second trick operator, Elmer Schweppe. Instead, a large, sinister looking German shepherd blocked my entrance.
Come on in, Emmons, snorted Elmer, not even looking at me. The dog ain't eaten anybody since yesterday. Besides, there ain't no meat on your bones anyway.
I didn't take my eyes off the large canine. I maneuvered around his girth and carefully laid my gear on the table near the center of the small telegraph office.
Elmer had his feet on the operators desk, his chair balanced on its two rear legs and his head tilted so far back that it almost hit the top of the Underwood manual typewriter. He measured about six feet--large but not fat. His graying chin hair accentuated his ruddy, flushed complexion. And I could tell that he was a grump.
You ain't Abe Emmons kid are you? Elmer snapped.
He caught me off guard. I hadn't heard my grandfathers name mentioned in years.
No. I said. My dad is Bud Emmons. My grandpa, Abe, died in 1958, when I was about eleven years old.
Well, Ill be a son-of-a-bitch! Elmeršs deep, gravelly voice belched. You're Abe Emmons grandkid. Well, Ill be a son-of-a-bitch!
Yeah, I said not knowing exactly who this old coot really was. Did you know my grandpa?
Know him? Hell, I lived with him up here in these mountains! Stampede, Martin, Lester, Eagle Gorge, Abe and I knew them all. I even worked with your dad at McCarver Street in 1943! Ill be a son-of-a-bitch. So you're Abe Emmons grandkid! Elmer again shouted.
I wasn't sure what to make of Elmer. I made my way to the oil-fired stove near the center of the depot and exposed my frozen hands to the open metal grates. I didn't feel the intense heat until a few seconds passed and the flesh on my fingers started to burn.
Ouch, I screamed as I jerked my hand away from the stove.
Elmer didn't budge from his reclined position.
Ill be a son-of-a-bitch, he said, but this time less loudly and more reflectively.
My God! Is that all he can say, I thought? He didn't even acknowledge my burning flesh!
Elmer, still with feet on the desk but his head now in a more upright position, stared through the small frosty depot window panes out into the empty night.
My eyes, however, moved from object to object in the depot, as I wondered what the coming night would bring. Both eastbound and westbound train order boards were clear. No train orders were hanging around like one would find at Centralia, U.P. Junction, Reservation or other heavy train order jobs. No telephone sounds. No train dispatcher selector sounds. Nothing. Just Elmer mumbling, Well, Ill be a son-of-a-bitch, now definitely in a meditative mood.
And the dog--the German shepherd--his interest in me waned. He appeared to be asleep under the desk with his nose dangerously close to Elmer's tilted chair.
Ill be a-son-of-a-bitch.
Ah, I've never worked here before. Is there anything I need to know before you leave, Elmer? I asked as I interrupted Elmer's obvious memory trance of images of my grandpa Abe, and I noted the Seth Thomas displaying two minutes until midnight.
No, ah, no. This place is dead. Anybody can work Lester, Elmer flatly stated. Just do what the dispatcher tells you to do and don't stop six hundred. That will get you in all kinds of deep shit!
With that comment, Elmer sprang to his feet. The shepherd, however, had let his tail drift near the suspended legs of the wooden chair. All of Elmer's 200 or-so-pound frame came crashing down on poor Fido's 18 inch appendage. The dog let out a howl and smashed his head rising, stimulus-response head on the operators desk.
Damn, stupid mutt, Elmer barked. I oughta throw you outside with the wolves!
Is that your dog? I asked.
No, I don't like animals. This mutt belongs to the boys upstairs--the Haugh's. Hell go upstairs about one or two in the morning. Just let him be. Hešs a good watch dog.
Upstairs, I thought. Living quarters upstairs? Hmm. This is an old depot.
Well, mama is waiting for me back at the house, and I've gotta get out of here, Elmer said. Don't stop six hundred, Emmons!
Why would I want to stop six hundred, I thought? Must be an important train.
Elmer disappeared into the snow and blackness of the night as he departed the rear of the depot for his house. I couldn't see his house in the darkness, but Elmer looked like he knew where he was going. As his figure vanished, his voice didn't.
Well, Ill be a son-of-a-bitch, Well, Ill be a son of a . . . .
I sat down in the operators chair still filled with the warmth from Elmer's torso and shredded dog hair skewered to the bottom two chair legs. I studied the operators rectangular, eight inch-long by four inch-wide transfer sheet. It was blank except for the signature of E.O. Schweppe as the operator being relieved. I signed my name under his as the relieving operator and began to immediately inspect the premises for any signs of telegraph things that I should be doing during this eight hour shift, third trick Lester.
I looked down at the dog, his chin was flat on the floor. His droopy eyes gazed back at mine.
I don't know your name, dog, but what the heck goes on here anyway? I asked, momentarily embarrassed that I was talking to a German shepherd at fifteen minutes past midnight on the 26th of December 1963.
The dog yawned and closed his eyes.
Great, I thought. Even the dog wont give me a decent transfer.
I stood up mindful not to step on that dog, and walked around the small office.
OK. There are the train order hoops and strings. Gee, I need to tie some more strings. He only left me with a couple. And here are the green pre-stuffed-with-carbon-paper Form 19 order blanks, four, seven and a bunch. Clearance form As are ready to write on and the yellow torpedoes, fusees near the door. OK, everything that I need to work here tonight looks like its in place.
I wonder what phone the dispatchers on?
I took the phone jack plug and inserted it into the hole labeled 901. Over the ever-present 60 cycle line hum gurgled the voice of the Tacoma-based dispatcher issuing an order to the operator at Yakima depot. It was something about number two having no signals arriving at Yakima. That didn't make sense to me. Number two must now be somewhere around Easton, but this was the first time that Id ever worked as an operator on the Mountain division and a lot of things felt strange.
The dispatchers voice sounded familiar--Jimmy Fredrickson. I didn't know him, but my dad did. I wonder if my grandpa Emmons did? Well, Išll be a...
I plugged the reddish colored jack into the other circuit hole labeled 902--the message wire phone. Nobody on. I then saw that I had one telegraph wire circuit--wire 13. I didnšt have my bug with me, but I thought that I could just stick with the hand key tonight--if I needed to telegraph at all.
My eyes froze on something I hadn't noticed at the far end of the table near the window. It was a miniature CTC panel board about the size of a bread box with a diagram of two tracks narrowing to one white line. A normal-reverse lever for the power switch operation and a signal lever completed the apparatus on the mini panel.
I knew that Lester was the beginning (or the end, depending on direction) of double track operations in this mountain territory, but I didnšt know that I controlled the access.
I wonder where the double track switch is? Is it a few feet or a thousand feet west of here, I pondered?
Oh, well, Ill just ask the dispatcher when I get around to it.
My anxiety eased as I assumed the same position of repose that Elmer occupied an hour earlier. After all, I rationalized, I had experienced one hell of a night already: the cab ride, Jimmy Darker, the jump from the F-7, the dog, and this bizarre meeting with Elmer.
I needed a break.
One thirty in the morning.
Not even a peep from the dispatcher and not a click on the telegraph. Silence dripped from the aging green clapboard walls of the twenty by thirty foot telegraph office. The fan on the oil stove was the only sound. Everything else was dead silence. As my eyes drooped, I wondered how many years ago my grandpa Abe occupied this same seat at Lester? Twenty, thirty or could have been forty years ago. And how about my dad? When did he sign the operators transfer and assume duties of the on duty operator? Could they have imagined that a son or grandson would be here in December of 1963? Images swirled in my tired head of my dad and grandpa Emmons as tranquillity consumed my tired body.
What was that?
I jumped up, startled. It was 2:30 in the morning.
The ringing sound was coming from the black ten by 12 inch telephone selector box hanging on the wall behind me.
I placed the black round one piece head phone over my left ear, secured the wire head band over the top of my head, made sure the jack plug fit firmly into the 901 hole and stepped on the foot pedal that allowed voice access to the dispatchers phone, a continuous open line stretching 150 miles from Tacoma to Yakima.
Lester, I spoke into the transmitter portion of the phone mounted on a scissors-like mobile mount.
Yeah, Lester, nineteen east, four for number six hundred, came Jimmy's voice into my left ear via the receiver.
This is it! This is what Elmer warned me about! Where are the train order forms? Did he say four? I cant get my chair turned around. Where's that shepherd? This typewriter is jammed! And, oh my gosh, the train order board. I gotta throw that to 19.
I squeezed the top portion of the metal handle releasing the movable pin that allowed the steel train order arm to free fall from green to amber indicating train orders for eastbound number six hundred. The sound of the metal pin snapping into place at the faded, color coded, yellow position on the wooden mount echoed through the depot was like a rifle shot. The dog jumped to life, faced me and growled.
Nineteen east Lester, but just a second, dispatcher, I nervously responded as the flimsy, tissue-strength, carbon-laden green train orders fell out of my hand and on top of the riled German shepherds nose.
Decision: Do I gently peel the train orders from the dogs nose or just grab another pre-stuffed batch from the bin? What if the dispatcher has more than one order for me? I will just lift the orders from the dogs nose.
Groooooowl, threatened from deep within the dogs voice box. Nuts. I will just grab four more. That lousy dog can eat those.
Lester. Are you there? Came the concerned voice of Jimmy.
Yeah, nineteen displayed east, Lester, I again confirmed that the order board was in position to display amber for eastbound trains.
Thank goodness. Are you OK? Came the inquisitive voice.
Yep, just a little problem getting oriented here at Lester, I said. My first time here.
OK. Order number two hundred and ten, two-one-naught. Ellensburg to C&E number one, o-n-e. Lester to C&E extra fifty-four-hundred-seven-D, five four naught seven D East, e-a-s-t, Lester period.
Number one, o-n-e, engine sixty-five-oh-five-A six- five-naught-five-A, wait at Thorp, T-h-o-r-p, until four ten, f-o-u-r, o-n-e, n-a-u-g-h-t, four-one- naught a-m; Kountze, K-o-u-n-t-z-e,< four nineteen, f-o-u-r, o-n-e, n-i-n-e, four-one nine a-m; Bristol, B-r-i-s-t-o-l, four twenty-two, f-o-u-r, t-w-o, t-w-o, four-two-two am; Teanaway, T-e-a-n-a-w-a-y, four thirty, f-o-u-r, t-h-r-e-e, n-a-u-g-h-t, four-three-naught, for extra fifty four hundred and seven, five-four-naught-seven-D- dog east, e-a-s-t. I-W-B.
Since the train order was restricting the movement of number one, Ellensburg repeated it first and received a complete from the dispatcher.
I repeated the order without a hitch and received a complete at two fifty one, two. five one a-m, I-W-B, from Jimmy. I quickly wrote com, the time and my last name on the bottom of the Form 19.
That will be all for him, Lester, he said.
Lester clear extra fifty-four hundred and seven, five-four naught seven D dog east with one, o-n-e order number two hundred and ten. I said with authority.
I got the OK at two fifty two, two-five-two a-m, I-W-B, from the dispatcher.
Hell be hitting it out of Maywood any minute now, Lester, came Jimmy's voice of instruction. Go ahead and line him up the eastward main right now so he can get a good run at the hill and you don't slow him down.
By the way, dispatcher, I asked. Just where is the switch to the double track? Out in front of the station?
Nope, it is quite a way west of you--about a half mile or so. If you have any trouble, just let me know, he said reassuringly.
I looked the control panel over carefully. The small toggle switch with a white light in the center pointed to the reverse position, which was left that way from the reverse track movement by No. 2. Elmer had not thrown it back to N, or, normal position for the eastward main.
I moved the lever from R to N and noticed that the white light on the center of the lever came on, and stayed on. Son-of-a-bitch. Now I am saying it. The switch is full of snow.
Dispatcher, Lester, I spoke into the telephone.
I don't think the switch is working right. The white light did not go off, I explained.
Yep. Throw it back and forth, and back and forth. The switch must be jammed with snow, Jimmy said.
I moved the lever back and forth, and back and forth. The light still wouldn't go out.
Six hundred calling Lester telegraph, came a crackled transmission from the speaker embedded in the Bendix base station radio located at the opposite end of the desk.
I removed the black telephone hand set from its cradle, pressed the speak-to-talk button on the handle, noted that the red transmit light was illuminated and said, Lester with all the gusto the 50 watt transmitter could muster on its 161.1 megacycle frequency (It wasn't called Hertz back then).
Out of Maywood, six units and about 3,000 tons. Ya have us lined up the eastward OK? Came the call from the head end of 600.
I'm trying, I'm trying. I cant get it to lock up the eastward. There must be snow packed in the points. I yelled into the handset suddenly realizing that talking louder would not make my voice go any farther.
Well don't stop us. Keep trying to get the switch to lock.
I know. Don't stop six hundred!
My focus went back to the toggle lever controlling the switch points at the end of the double track. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Brrrrrg! The dispatcher again.
Lester how are you doing with that switch?
Not good. I will keep trying.
Six hundred calling Lester, came the call over the radio again.
I didn't answer. I knew what he wanted--a green over red approach signal showing that it was lined and locked up the eastward.
Don't stop six hundred!
The approach light on the control panel lit and the bell sounded. Six hundred has been out of Maywood ten minutes and coming up the CTC track circuit.
Then it happened. The white light dropped off and I quickly turned the signal lever to normal. It locked. I got the high green for six hundred!
Brimming with pride, I told the dispatcher that six hundred was lined and locked up the eastward. Jimmy sighed with relief.
I sat down and felt that I had beat nature and overcome the elements.
As I savored my victory, a sharp stinging white light caught my right eye.
My attention had been so focused on the switch problem, I forgot to assemble six hundreds orders and string them into the train order hoops!
He's right on top of me!
The carbons are still in the train order!
The train order clearance Form A still had carbons in it!
Where are the strings? Where are the hoops? My mind raced faster than my hands.
I grabbed the top copy of the train order, threw in the top clearance and cinched the string around the orders choking them into a tiny wad.
I will get the head end, I rationalized, then come back into the depot and put the caboose orders into a hoop.
It seemed like eternity trying to fit the string through each slot on the end of the bamboo quarter-inch diameter rods which protruded in the shape of a V from the metal base of the train order hoop.
The roar of the six diesel units filled the telegraph office. But I knew I could make it.
Don't stop six hundred!!
I could see the fireman lean out of the cab, coaxing me closer to the place where the outside rails of the eastward track should be. I moved as close as I thought was safe, held the hoop up as high as I could and buried my head in my left arm pit.
What occurred in the next few seconds defies gravity, logic and the natural order of the universe.
The front end of the diesel pulverized a huge snow drift twenty feet in front of me spraying an avalanche of snow in every direction.
Snow, wind, roaring diesel engines. Human screams. Orders. Hoops. My body. All converged into a gigantic protoplasmic ball as six hundred plowed its way by me and the depot.
Did the fireman spear the orders out of the hoop? I don't know, but they are gone.
Flat on my back and buried in snow, I couldn't see the orders anywhere and I didn't hear the engineer set the air brakes.
I made it! I didn't stop six hundred.
But wait a minute. What about the conductors orders? They are still in the depot and not in the hoop yet. I gotta get out of this snow!
I carefully rolled to my right side with the train rumbling on my left side, stood up, brushed myself off and headed back into the telegraph office to put the rear end orders together.
I pushed on the door, but it wouldn't open. I forced it open with a bang, only to find that the shepherd was waiting for me--his teeth bared and dripping with saliva. Now he was really upset.
I had to get in. But I didn't want to be attacked either.
Don't stop six hundred.
My victory was hollow. I couldn't get the conductors orders and I couldn't get by the angry dog without being eaten alive. What do I do now?
The roar of the passing freight train echoed through the depot. The shepherd still glared at me--with a snarl--and blocked my entrance to the telegraph office.
Over the din of the passing train came a plea on the radio from the engineer on 600.
Six hundreds head end to the rear end, over.
Ya, go ahead Jitter Bug.
I'm not sure, but I think we may have killed the operator when we picked up our orders. There was snow everywhere!
Killed the operator, I thought? That's Me! No, I'm all right, I'm alive!
Tell you what, came the engineers voice over the radio, If you don't see that kid out there with the orders, well stop and go back and look for him.
Don't stop six hundred.
To hell with this canine, I shouted, as I pushed the dog out of the way showing the mutt I was in charge here, not that four legged bully! I'm not going to stop six hundred because the train crew thinks they ran over me!
I shoved the dog aside, grabbed two copies of the train order and clearance, strung the hoop and ran back outside.
I'm not going to stop six hundred.
The green markers on the caboose were clearly in sight and I stood straight and proud--just as my grandpa Abe had done forty years before and my dad, Bud, had done twenty-five years before.
The wind from the train cut into my face. I didn't care anymore. I knew that I had a job to do--an important adult job to do--and I wasn't going to wimp out. I'm not dead. I'm the telegrapher at Lester.
The conductor hooked the string around his extended arm from the passing caboose and at the same time dropped the soup ticket carefully tucked in between three folded Dixie drinking cups on the ground a few feet from me.
I didn't stop six hundred.
I hurried back into the depot, returned the two hoops to their hangers on the wall.
The German shepherd was no where to be found.
As I sat down in the operators chair, I heard the conductor over the radio on six hundred tell the head end that the operator was okay and looked as if he knew what he was doing all along.
Of course I know what I'm doing, I thought. I'm the operator in charge here at Lester!
As I went to complete the entry into the Northern Pacific Railway Company's station record of train movements, NP Form 463 B.E./9-24, I noticed that I had not filled out the new heading for today, December 26, 1963.
OS Lester, I confidently articulated into the black mouthpiece of the telephone as my foot simultaneously depressed the foot pedal on the floor.
Dispatcher, came the calm voice from Jimmy Fredrickson.
Lester, extra east, fifty-four hundred and seven-D by at three thousand and ten, three naught one naught tons.
All right, okay Lester, Jimmy replied. Easton, are you there?
Here's some track for six hundred. Three eleven a.m. extra fifty-four hundred and seven, five-four- naught-seven-D east may use track Stampede to Martin, IWB.
The Easton operator repeated the CTC authorization from Jimmy. Then Jimmy called for Lester again.
Another train? I thought.
I just wanted to let you know that usually we put number one and number twenty-five in the hole for six hundred. But tonight there is a business car and vice president on the rear of number one, he explained.
OK, I said. I guess the urgency of not stopping six hundred tonight was not as important as other nights, I inquired?
Well, we don't like to stop any trains unnecessarily on the Northern Pacific, but I guess you can say that the consequences of delaying six hundred tonight were somewhat less, he said.
Well, Ill be a son-of-a...
This is just one of many stories out of Ruth Eckes railroad anthology Rail Tales. Ruth is in the process of publishing more than 200 interviews which she has collected from railroaders all across the United States and Canada over the past few years. While she has stories from rails off the Santa Fe, CN, CSX, BN and others, she has many fine items on the Pacific Northwest.
Rail Tales and Blow the Whistle Softly available from Ruth directly for $15 US (plus $2.50 shipping and handling) by contacting her at:
35603 Military Road South
Auburn, Washington 98001
Author: Gary E. Emmons. Title: A Night I Will Never Forget.
© March 20, 2001