Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mine Rat's A Sporting Event

Found this interesting story in the Pottsville Miners Journal, on June 9, 1890 issue.
Now we all know that the mine rat was a favorite of the miners, the miners shared their lunch with them, they chased them, talked to them on occasion,and we all know that they saved many a miners life. If you saw the rats running out the gangway it was a good idea to follow them, they had an uncanny ability to detect danger, actually they found out rats like many other animals are able to feel seismic changes. After reading this story I never realized that there were that many rats in a colliery. But a mine Rat Killing Contest? Wow what they did for entertainment in the good old 90's.

Killing The Mine Rats.
Two Wyoming Boys Slaughter nearly
Seven Thousand Rats in the Mines.

Wilkes Barre, June 8,-Not long ago somebody intimated that the stagnant condition of things about the mines might be aroused a little by the inauguration of another rat-killing contest. A twelve year old boy who had been nicknamed “Ratty” McQuade had won the distinction in smaller contests. He worked in the Hollenback colliery. It was determined to select him for one of the contestants. The stakes were fixed at $ 50 a side, the contest to last from April 30 to May 31. “Blinky” McIntyre, about the same age as McQuade, consented to enter the match against McQuade. McIntyre worked in the Empire colliery, and he too had quite a reputation for rat killing. April 30 both McQuade and McIntyre about 10 o’clock entered each colliery in which lay his field of work . They were accompanied by crowds of enthusiastic miners. The collieries are about two miles distant from each other. A good deal of money was put up by the miners who were fortunate enough to have a little spare cash. Promptly at midnight both boys set to work.
McQuade won the first rack in the Hollenback mine, knocking a pound victim down in one minute after time was called. McIntyre’s first capture was a minute later in the Empire, and weighed a good pound and a quarter. During the first twenty-four hours, McQuade slaughtered 111 rats to McIntyre’s 89. McQuade’s bunch weighed exactly 130 pounds. The second day McIntyre came to the front with 129 rats to his competitors 97. The Empire killer’s game tipped the scales at 141 pounds. Nobody was allowed near them save the judges and referees. It was a go as you please match so far as hours of labor were concerned. No one outside knew when they were at work and when they were resting. As the day advanced the town sports began to show an interest in the match. As the daily results were kept secret the wildest speculations were indulged in.
On Saturday the excitement was at a fever heat. All sorts of rumors were afloat as to what the lads accomplished. Both lads were heavily backed, and midnight was anxiously awaited by the crowds. By 9 o’clock the Empire and Hollenback collieries were surrounded by crowds of people representing all sorts of occupations, miners naturally being in majority. It was twenty minutes past 12 o’clock when McQuade stepped into the cage at the foot of the Hollenback shaft and was hoisted to the surface. His appearance was the signal for loud and prolonged cheers that were plainly heard by the crowds that thronged the Empire mine two miles away. Three minutes later the Empire sent back a response which told that McIntyre had reached the surface. It had been agreed among the judges and referees that records should be compared and the results be proclaimed at a certain hotel. As the judges had kept a daily account of the work done by the two boys, it did not take long to figure up and announce the final results, which were as follows: McQuade, 3,510 rats; weight, 4,375 pounds. McIntyre, 3,219; weight; 5,828 pounds. The total slaughter was over five tons. McQuade killed 291 more rats than McIntyre. His game weighed 453 pounds less than McIntyre’s. This is accounted for from the fact that during the month of May more work was done in the Empire than in the Hollenback colliery, and in consequence the rats got more pickings from miner’s dinner pails to eat.

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