JUNE 2017

JUNE  2017
J.P. Morgan as a young man in his own words - "The Public Be Damned."

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Friday, December 30, 2011

HUNTING THE BIG UMBER BIRD

I have to tell you a very dull story. It relates no shootouts, no hangings, no burnings at the stake. This story would make a really bad comic book, er, sorry, graphic novel. Heck, it would make an uninspiring regular novel. And as a television series it is just a non-starter. So it must not be important, huh. And because it lacks all of those dramatic threds to string you, the reader, along, it will never make it on the news networks - which are in fact rarely new. But it really is an important story. And if I try and gin it up a little bit, you may agree. The facts, I assure you, are all accurate.
The central character is a guy named Charles Pollock. He lived in Boston in the 1890’s, a dull town in a dull time. And Charles worked in a bank; dull, dull, dull. But at least he was narcissistic. That made him a little interesting, if only to himself. Then, in 1894, dull dull Charles took a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court. It was that case which made Charles the hero of the modern anti-tax movement. And here let me suggest you imagine a really big explosion, a sucide bombing maybe, with piles of innocent people dead and dismembered laying all over the place, because, really, the anti-tax movement is just a looney tunes version of suicide bombing- you blow up yourself and everybody around you.
I don't like paying taxes. I never have, I never will. There are some things my taxes have helped pay for that I don't approve of; a couple of wars, subsidies to a few domestic monopolies and some foriegn dictators, to name just a few. But those pale in comparison to the sin of not having a state to protect me and you. And, call them libertarians or anarchists, those who oppose the power of the state to tax its citizens resemble, to borrow a description from Tom Wolf, “…the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.” (“From Bauhaus to Our House”) To whit:
The U.S. government has been taxing income since 1861, as permitted in the Constitution under Article 1, Section 2 ("Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states…") and Article 1, Section 8 ("The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes,…"). But in 1862 Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, the author of the Dredd Scott decision which had helped to bring on the Civil War, became incensed that money was actually being taken out of his paycheck to help pay for the Civil War. Taney was a very strong believer in slavery and in being treated as somebody special.
And Taney’s objections to paying taxes for the Civil War also struck a cord with those who might not like slavery but who thought they were also special and did not deserve to be paying taxes. We're talking about rich people here, very rich people, who had no compunction about buying politicians to get what they wanted. Buying politicians is what is currently known as free speech, if your logic can somehow equate "buying" with "free" in the same thought without your head disappearing up his own fundamental aperture.
Anyway, in 1872 the rich people had the income tax laws repealed. Unfortunatly for Taney he was already dead and he wasn't getting his money back. Or his slaves. For that he would have to wait until the "Inheritance Tax" could be redefined as the "Death Tax". But I digress...
For the next twenty years the Federal government struggled along supported by import duties alone, which amounted to less than 2% of the nation’s gross domestic product.  And yes, that is how we funded government before 1861. But before 1861 we were primarily an agricultural economy, where farm workers do not require much education, where populations were scattered and where all health problems were local, bcause transportation was by foot and horse. After 1861 we were a growing industrial economy. Factory workers required a high school education (or better). They were concentrated in population centers, and railroads were making  public health a regional problem. In other words, economic conditions had changed.
Now, besides being unable to support an effective government, import duties (taxes on imports), raised the price of all consumer goods, imported and domestic. In fact, during the 1880's import duties added as much as 48% to the final price consumers paid, for milk, for steel, and for everything in between. This protected domestic companies and allowed them to keep their prices high enough to ensure high profits. Are your eyes glazing over, yet? Picture this; you walk into your local 'speak easy ' and discover that overnight the price of a beer has gone up 50%. You ask the owner what gives. He tells you that he has new suppliers, and the cost of beer from them is 50% higher than it was from the old suppliers. You ask why he switched suppliers, and he explains, "They made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
Congressman William Jennings Bryant of Nebraska labeled high tariffs “socialism for the rich”. “They weep more because fifteen millions are to be collected from the rich than they do at the collection of three hundred millions upon the goods which the poor consume.” But it ain't like they did it in secret.
Between 1871 and 1891 sixty separate bills were introduced in congress to reestablish an income tax. That's right, people were actually fighting for the right to pay taxes. The Republicans, the party in power at the time, beat all of those efforts back. And then in 1893 a new tariff reform bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. William Wilson of West Virginia. Wilson's bill was primmarily intended to lower the import duties on foreign iron ore, coal, lumber, wool and sugar. But the bill also included a minor amendment, introduced by Rep. Benton McMillan from Tennessee, which read, “That from and after the 1st day of January, 1895, there shall be levied, collected, and paid annually upon the gains, profits, and income of every person residing in the United States, derived from any kind of property, rents, interest, dividends, or salaries…a tax of 2 per cent on the amount so derived over and above $4,000” during any five year period (equal to $88,400 today).
The pundits paid little attention to Mr. McMillan’s amendment because so many income tax measures had been introduced so many times before, and none of them ever came to anything. This was because the rich and powerful had a secret weapon, sort of a human tommy gun, a Homo sapian Chicago typewriter, if you will.
His name was Senator Arthur Gorman of Maryland, and he was a tool of the rich and powerful. Gorman helped the opponents of the Wilson bill attach more than 600 amendments which reinstated almost all of the import duties the bill had attempted to lower. It was a St. Vaentine's Day Massacre on the floor of United States Capital building, right in front of God and everybody, as my father used to say.
With the “Tariff reduction” bill thus bullet ridden and bleeding on the floor, no one believed that President Grover Cleveland, who had campaigned on a lower tariff platform, would ever sign the misbegotten bill into law. And he didn’t. He simply let the bill become law without his signature. It didn't cost him anything. At least the tariffs had been marginally lowered. At least he could claim that he had done everything he could to lower prices for working class Americans, while not having to actually do anything to openly offend his rich campaign donors.
But imagine the mobster's shock the next morning to discover that Al Capone had beat the rap for murdering the Bugs Moran's gang, but he was going to jail anyway for income tax evasion. That was the shock felt amongst the rich and powerful. America had returned to a national income tax. And the response was just what you would expect it would be from the rich and powerful. They sued.
The fine print of the accidental income tax law required that all stock companies pay the income tax for individuals before distributing any dividends to them. Dividends were income. And when he received his notice from the Farmers' Loan and Trust Company (because he owned all of ten shares of stock in Farmers’ Loan and Trust) Mr. Charles Pollock was very angry. He was angry enough to hire high priced Wall Street top gun lawyer named Joseph Choate, who filed a lawsuit against the bank claiming the income tax was unconstitutional.
The Massachusetts courts disagreed, as did the Federal courts. They both upheld the law. But somehow Charles Pollock found the money to appeal his lawsuit all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which, to everyone’s surprise, agreed to hear the case immediately.
On April 8, 1895 the court ruled 5-4, in favor of Mr. Pollock. That slim majority was saying in essence that the source of income mattered; salary could be taxed, but income derived from property – rent, interest on savings or dividends paid on stock - were not “apportioned” by population, and thus the government was denied the power to tax it.
The dissenting opinions were intellecutally devstating. Justice Brown wrote that “This decision involves nothing less than the surrender of the taxing power to the moneyed class…Even the specter of socialism is conjured up to frighten Congress from laying taxes upon the people in proportion to their ability to pay them.”
And Justice Harlan argued that the court's majority opinion, “…declares that our government has been so framed that,...those who have incomes derived from...bonds, stocks and investments...have privileges that cannot be accorded to those having incomes derived from the labor of their hands, or the exercise of their skill, or the use of their brains.” These were both powerful arguements. But then the greedy have always been willing to lose the intellectual arguements, as long as they get to keep their money.
Middle class Americans however were outraged. They were infuriated. They were fighting mad. And it would still take 11 years before the will of the people could overcome the power of the “moneyed classes”.
In 1909 President Howard Taft proposed a Constitutional Amendment (in part because he thought it would never pass) to allow a Federal Income Tax. On July 12, 1909 the 16th amendment passed the Congress and was submitted to the states, in part bcause the congress never thought the states would pass it. The amendment was brutally blunt and short. It reads in total, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Period. End of Amendment.
Alabama took less than a month to vote for the 16th amendment. Kentucky, South Carolina, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Maryland, Georgia and Texas all passed it in 1910. Twenty-three more states followed in 1911, three more in 1912, and six more in 1913.
It was with the vote of the New Mexico legislature, on February 3, 1913, that made the 16th amendment the law of the land. Six states either rejected the amendment or never took it up, but that did not matter. The Constitution only requires that two-thirds of the states approve of an amendment to make it the law.
And so, when some lunatic or confidence man or woman tries to seduce you with a magical scheme to avoid paying taxes, you can now explain to them that, by placing the source of support for the government in the people’s hands, income taxes places the power there as well.
The relevancy of this tale of narcissism to your life may become clearer when you realize that on June 1, 1929 the Farmers Loan and Trust Company named in the lawsuit changed their name to City Bank Famers Trust. And then in 1976 they changed their name again. This time they shortened it to Citibank.
This is the same Citibank that in 2009 swallowed some $320 billion of taxpayer (meaning your) bailout dollars. Oh, as of 1894, Charles Pollock was an employee of Farmers Loan and Trust in their Boston branch. And it seems likely to me that he sued his own employer with their connivance. Looking at history it seems to me that the limits to which the rich will go to avoid paying their fair share of government remains endless. These people just think they are top of the world, ma!
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

AN AMERICAN TALE

I bring to your attention one of the great criminal partnerships in America, qualified to stand alongside Frank and Jesse James, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, and the three Hunt brothers, Nelson, Baker and Herbert. But would William Miller have achieved fame as a criminal mastermind if he had never fallen under the influence of Robert Ammon? I can assure you… You betcha!
William F. Miller was living proof of the ancient maxim that upon finding yourself in a hole, you should stop digging. In the late winter of 1898 he was a twenty-six year old, “small, pale young man” working out of space rented in a grocery on the corner of Marcy and Park Avenues in the wealthy Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. Every night William took the elevated train north along Marcy Avenue and then walked to his apartment at 144 Floyd Street, a three story tenement house in the working class Williamsburg neighborhood. Around him, wedged between factories and breweries, lived some 200,000 second generation German-Americans, each of them, like William, sharing what Thoreau described as “lives of quiet desperation”.
William attended church regularly. He was the father of twin 14 year old boys, John and Louis. He was a dreamer. He was a failure. His wife was ill. And if she had known the truth she would have been sicker. William had lost the family nest egg buying and selling stocks in an illegal “bucket” shop, where the profits were made by separating the original “day traders” from their cash. To maintain the image he had of himself, William told his friends that, in fact, he had recently made valuable business connections on Wall Street, and now had the inside “dope”and would soon be rich. The owner of the grocery William rented space from must have felt sorry for the lad, because on Wednesday, April 20th, he gave him all of $10 to invest. William wrote him the following receipt; “Received from Mr. Gus. Brandt; the sum of ten dollars ($10.00) for a one share interest in the “Franklin Syndicate”. Principal guarantied against loss, and may be withdrawn at any time. Dividends to be paid weekly in sums of one dollar and upwards per share until principal is withdrawn. Signed, William F. Miller.”
On Friday, Mr. Brandt handed him another “investment” of $10. And as Brandt must have expected, William only invested the money in food and rent for his family. But on Monday morning he was careful to pay Mr. Brandt $2, which he called a “dividend”. After this apparent success was made known to Brandt's employees, and his acquaintances in the neighborhood, William found himself swamped by dozens of small “investments”. And each Monday William would personally deliver the “dividends” to his “customers”. By June, even the practical, pragmatic Mr. Brandt was convinced. He invested  $100 in William’s “Franklin Syndicate”. In Brooklyn the boy was earning a reputation as a financial wizard. . He was overheard on the grocery store’s "pay" telephone arguing with J.P. Morgan, and other Wall Street magicians. Of course, these were imaginary conversations -  play acting. But they hint that William was desperate to convince his peers of his success. That seems to have been William's real goal.
With growing confidence, and desperate to bring in enough money to meet his weekly dividend requirements, William began to make the rounds of the brokerage houses on “The Street” trying to sell his new investment plan to professionals. He found no takers, until his entered the offices of Robert “Bob” Ammon, a Wall Street lawyer with a reputation as advisor to swindlers and confidence men, of which there were on the Wall Street of 1898, no fewer than there are today. Bob Ammon towered over the shallow youth, physically as well as intellectually. He perceived instantly what William was actually selling. He had sold it himself a number of times. But Williams’s “Franklin Syndicate” had one distinct advantage over all the others Bob had executed; it had William as front man.
Taking the boy in hand, Bob Ammon agreed to act as the lawyer and agent for his “Franklin Syndicate”. He began by making up a list of 1,488 of his previous victims...er, customers, and sent each one the following telegram - collect of course; "To my Depositors: Owing to the enormous success of the Franklin Syndicate, and to the urgent request of a large majority of my depositors, I have decided to incorporate the Franklin Syndicate on December 2nd next, with a capital of $1,000,000….As all depositors are entitled to stock certificates in the corporation, it will be necessary to compare the receipts you now hold with my books, and just as soon as I receive your receipts I will immediately send you your stock certificate to which you are entitled…It is my belief that the Franklin Syndicate shares will be selling at $400 to $500 a share before March 1st next. (But) after December 2nd…I shall open no new accounts for less than $50. All accounts which I now have of less than $50, will have to deposit sufficient to make their account $50…Yours very truly, William F. Miller.  P. S. …it is the intention of the Franklin Syndicate (Incorporated) to continue paying 10% a week.”
Now, none of those receiving this telegram had ever heard of the Franklin Syndicate before, nor of William Miller. The wise who read it laughed at the impertinence, crumpled the telegram and threw it away. But several hundred were intrigued enough to wonder who this man Miller was, who claimed to be able to pay 10% interest a week – 520% interest in a year. And a few were so intrigued they immediately sent cash by return post to the offices of the Franklin Syndicate. Others felt the need to deliver their money directly to 144 Floyd Street, Brooklyn.
Under Bob Ammon’s guidance, William had taken over the entire third floor of the building he lived in, and hired a staff of twenty-two to open the cash bearing envelopes, and greet the mobs of optimistic investors eager to hand over their meager wealth. The staff spent their free time making bank deposits and writing dividend checks. Mr. Brandt was encouraged to write a letter detailing his previous profits from the Syndicate. An  article, which was  placed in 700 newspapers nationwide, ran under the headline, “Wall Street Astonished. Franklin Syndicate a Big Winner.” In the accompanying article William Miller was referred as “the Napoleon of Finance”. There was no mention of Bob Ammon. In a follow up letter to the investors, William explained, “"…you know there must be a way where one can double their money in a short time, or else there would be no Jay Gould, Vanderbllt…and other millionaires and syndicates who have made their fortune in Wall street starting with almost nothing….The equilibrium of Wall Street is maintained by the fluctuations between the vast army of losers and the privileged few who win…Our 'inside tips' are from the fountain head of speculative interests, and never fail us. This advantage we not only possess here, but over the Washington wire as well.” Of course William had merely signed the letter. It had been written by Bob Ammon.
By the end of October the Franklin Syndicate was taking in something between $80,000 and $160,000 (today’s equivalent would be $1.5 million to $3.7 million) each week. But the business practices of the Syndicate were unusual enough that two banks closed their accounts, and most others simply refused to do business with them. The press were beginning to get suspicious, as well, identifying the entire project as a pyramid scheme. And Bob Ammon could sense that after a brief few weeks the scam had just about run its course. So one more telegram was issued over William’s name; “We have inside information of a big transaction, to begin Saturday or Monday morning. Big profits. Remit at once so as to receive the profits.” All that week more cash poured in to the offices.
The machinations and sudden growth of the syndicate had reduced William to a nervous wreck. Racked by guilt, followed by private detectives (who may have been government men or in the employ of the lawyer Ammon), William was ready when, in late November, Bob suggested, “Billy, I think you'll have to make a run for it. The best thing for you is to go to Canada.” With William’s help, Bob saw that all the funds in the Syndicate’s accounts were now transferred to his own private bank account, "to protect them". The total amount was some $250,000 ($5 million today). William then boarded a train for Canada under an assumed name, and disappeared.
To the investors, and to those outside the scheme, the collapse of the Franklin Syndicate was sudden and precipitous. It resulted in injury to thousands of lives, Miller’s wife and children being just three more victims. William had left his family protected only by the promised kindness of Bob Ammon. Bob's kindness extended to only $5 a week to Miller's wife and her children. Bob also assured William’s wife that this pittance was all that he could afford. In fact the syndicate’s funds were safely hidden under Bob’s various nom-de-corporate disguises. And that is the way the story would have ended, except the Montreal police arrested William in December.
He was placed on trial in New York in the spring, and convicted of grand larceny. And on April 30, 1900 William was sentenced to ten years in Sing Sing. And still Miller refused to believe that Bob had betrayed him. To maintain the fraud, Ammon had paid for William’s lawyers, had acted as one himself, and during the trial had increased payments to William’s wife to all of $40 a month. But once the trial was completed and William safely locked behind the granite walls of Sing Sing, the veil began to slip from poor Miller’s eyes; tuberculosis helped puncture the fantasy.
In 1903 William Miller shuffled his way to the witness stand one more time. He was skeletal. He suffered from a hacking cough. He seemed to be dieing. And when he pointed his bony finger at Bob, the jury believed him. It helped that William willingly confessed his own crimes, and had helped prosecutors locate $60,000 of the stolen cash which had somehow slipped through Bob's hands. And it helped that Bob was only charged with receiving $35,000, which was all that could be conclusively proven. Convicted, Ammon got five years in Sing Sing. In exchange for his testimony, William Miller had his sentence commuted to time served.
William Miller did not die of tuberculosis. He never got rich, but he stopped trying to. He got a regular job, as a store clerk. And then he dropped out of history. The Miller's became just another average American family, struggling to survive in a world that catered to millionaires. Bob Ammon served his time in Sing Sing, and then he too dropped out of history. He became just another average millionaire, living in nation that considers it impolite to inquire how its citizens attained their wealth, but far from impolite to celebrate how much wealth they have.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

AIRHEADS Part Eight Windswept

I would say there were four truly amazing things about Cal Rodgers’ transcontinental flight of late 1911. The most amazing thing (to me) is that Cal smoked 19 cigars a day during the 49 days it took him to cross America: that's 931 cigars in total. Where did he get them all? How was he still breathing when it was all over, after inhaling all those engine exhaust fumes and all that tobacco smoke? The second most amazing thing is that he burned 1,230 gallons of gasoline to cover 3,220 miles, for an average of 38 miles per gallon; not bad! Detroit couldn’t match that a hundred years later. The third most amazing thing about the flight of the “Vin Fiz Flyer” is that during those 49 days Cal had been actually airborne just three days, ten hours and four minutes of total actual flying time, giving him an average air speed of about 53 miles per hour. That means that he was “grounded” for forty-five days, sometimes because of bad weather, but mostly because of mechanical problems and crashes. And that brings me to the fourth amazing thing about Cal Rogers’ flight. Despite all the bandages he had adorning his body and the leg cast he was wearing after his last crash in Arizona, Cal had survived. He even survived when his engine exploded less than 200 miles from the finish line.
It happened on November 3rd, the day after Cal’s brief meeting with Bob Ward in Arizona. Cal had just left a refueling stop in the desert at Imperial Junction, California, (meaning he had crossed his last state border!) and was climbing out over the expanse of the Salton Sea. Without warning the Number One cylinder in his Wright engine exploded catastrophically. It blew out the entire left side of the engine block, and Cal’s right shoulder and arm were peppered with shrapnel. Screaming pain tore at his consciousness, and Cal’s right arm was almost useless. Somehow, he executed a banking turn over the salt waters and glided the “Flyer” back to Imperial Junction. He managed to land safely, again, with just one arm: Cal had become quite a pilot. After two hours of surgery a doctor was able to remove most of the metal from Cal’s arm.
The engine was destroyed (above), but the “Vin Fiz Special” carried a spare, which “Weggie” was able to install. It took a little longer because the crew was short handed. An explosion of estrogen in the Pullman Car of the "Special had driven The master mechanic Charlie Taylor to quit and jump ship back in Texas. The man who had built the original engine for the Wright Brothers had had left the "Vin Fiz Special" and set out alone for California.
The next day Bob Fowler, heading the other way, was almost across New Mexico when he ran into his own mechanical problems. A clogged fuel line chocked off his engine near the isolated water station of Mastodon, 16 miles lonely outside of El Paso, Texas. There was no town at Mastadon,  just a water tank where the single rail line and a siding ran between sand dunes, and it was a very lonely place at the time. It still is, especially since the railroad has "moved on". On satellite photographs today it looks like a drawing, all straight lines through a tan background. It was only a little more lonely in 1911. New Mexico wouldn’t even become the 47th state for another 68 days. Once he was safely down, Bob cleared the clogged fuel line, restarted his motor and tried to get airborne again. But the the Cole Flyer couldn’t break free of the sand and sagebrush. Bob Fowler would have to wait for a shift of the wind. Except, it didn’t shift.
Meanwhile, still headed west, Cal didn’t even wait for his wounds to heal. Early on the morning of November the 5th, wearing an arm sling to match his leg cast, he made the hop from Imperial Junction through the San Gregorio Pass to Banning, and from there on to Pomona, where he made a last refueling stop. And finally, at 4:08 p.m. on Sunday November 5, 1911, Cal Rodgers landed at the Tournament of Roses Park, on the current grounds of Cal Tech. He was met by 10 to 20,000 cheering people, most of whom had paid a quarter apiece to be there. The New York Times reported, ''...a maelstrom of fighting, screaming, out-of-their-minds-with-joy men, women and children.'' Cal was loaded into a car and driven around and around the stadium. And amongst all of the cheering and back slapping, poor deaf Cal kept asking, “I did it, didn’t I? I did it?”
They draped him with an American flag (above), and posed him next to the “Rubenisque” 1911 Rose Queen, Miss Ruth Palmer . And almost nobody who was in that crowd cheering Cal Rodgers had any idea that a deaf man had just flown coast-to-coast. It was quite an achievement. And nobody was prouder of Cal than Mable, unless it was "Weggie", his faithful mechanic, beaming up at him in the photo below.
Cal’s personal victory came a week later, in the Maryland Hotel, when he met with a representative for Mr. W.R. Hearst. W.R.'s pride was burning from the negative publicity over his refusal to extend the $50,000 prizes' time limit. So in an attempt to soften the blow  to his reputation, Heast wanted to present Rogers with a trophy, a loving cup.  Cal turned it down. He still wanted the money. And he wasn’t going to let W.R. off the petard he had hoisted himself upon.
Unnoticed by the press was that the Armour Meat Packing Company had spent $180,000 (including Cal’s fee of $23,000) to support the flight. And they had paid all this to sell a really terrible soft drink that quickly disappeared after the publicity of the flight died down. Then, on November 10th, the "Vin Fiz Flyer" was in the air again. The city of Long Beach had offered Cal $5,000 to actually complete his journey right up to the Pacific Ocean, in their town. This final flight was going fine until half way there, when the engine quit. Cal landed, fiddled with the Wright engine himself, and started again. And again, the engine coughed and died, this time over Compton. And this time Cal plowed into the ground. And this time he did not walk away. He was pulled unconscious from the wreckage, with a concussion, a broken ankle, broken ribs, an injured back and burns. But his lucky bottle of “Vin Fiz” was still undamaged, hanging from the broken wing strut. By now Cal must have really hated that bottle.
Meanwhile, out in the wilds of Mastodon, New Mexico, Bob Fowler was still stuck in the sand and beginning to think he would never get out. Finally, on the 10th of November, a two man Santa Fe work crew appeared over the horizon, pumping a handcar. And that gave Bob had an idea. He talked to the railroad and they agreed to help him out. Using railroad cross ties they fashioned a platform to sit atop a hand car, and struggled to secure the “Cole Flyer” atop that platform. On the morning of Monday, November 13th, the entire contraption was pushed from the siding onto the main line. Bob Fowler clambered into the pilot’s seat. The motor was started. And with railroad workers running alongside to stabilize the wings, the “Flyer” began to move along the track (below). This was much like the system the Wright brothers had used to launch their orignal flyer, back in 1903. 
And just as the Cole Flyer began to pick up speed Bob looked ahead to see a column of smoke rising from the tracks. Instantly Bob realized he was on a collision course with a steam locomotive, headed straight for him. The two objects quickly ate up the ground between them, heading for the most unlikely collision in either aviation or railroad  history!
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NEXT WEDNESDAY: AMAZING RACE; PART VIII - AN ASIDE

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