Our numbers are dwindling but there are still many among us who remember how it was, here in the sun-hammered State of Texas, before the introduction of air conditioning. I was ten years old in the mid 1960’s when Dad brought home that first window unit. I will always remember how we all sat there in the living room that sweltering August afternoon waiting for the blessed machine to work its magic. What transpired was very nearly a religious experience. With curtains drawn and iced teas in hand we breathed a collective sigh of relief as the thermometer on the mantle dipped below 95 degrees, then 90, then that magical barrier of 80 degrees Fahrenheit… Like a great, wet blanket of misery had been lifted from our backs, our brains began to function for the first time since mid June and our spirits soared. The enemy, that relentless soul-killing heat of Texas summer, had been purged from our little home once and for all. Warm food began to flow once again from my mother’s kitchen. Life, sweet, cool, precious life was restored to us and our world was forever improved… all because of one man.
His name was Willis Haviland Carrier, now widely regarded as the ‘Father of Air-Conditioning’. I like to refer to him “Saint Willis, Patron Saint of the Civilized South”. I have petitioned the Vatican to have Willis canonized but have not yet heard back from them… Over a hundred years ago, in1902, Carrier built the first air conditioning unit for a Brooklyn printing company, which solved a technical problem the owner was having. The fluctuations in temperature and humidity altered the dimensions of the paper enough to decrease the quality of the four-color printing process. Carrier’s little invention remedied the problem and thus began a revolution that would slowly change the world. It wasn’t until 1906 that Willis Carrier received his first patent (US patent # 808897- ‘Apparatus for Treating Air’). Many other patents were to follow for this young engineer from Cornell and in 1911 Carrier presented his basic ‘Rational Psychrometric Formulae’ to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. This formula is the basis for all fundamental calculations for the air conditioning industry. While waiting for a train one foggy night, Carrier claims he received his 'flash of genius'. In the foggy darkness he was pondering the problem of temperature and humidity control. By the time he boarded the train, Carrier felt he finally understood the relationship between temperature, humidity and dew point. It was this ‘Eureka!’ moment that is responsible for much of the progress, growth and industrial gains we have experienced during the past century. While air conditioning has undoubtedly improved domestic life during summer in the South, one does not have to look very hard to see how all manner of industries have greatly benefited through the advent of stable temperature controls. Food, textiles, film, medicine, movies, entertainment, not to mention automobile air conditioning… the list is endless and it is difficult to imagine a high-tech business, or any sort of indoor business, operating nowadays in the absence of modern air conditioning. Southern civilization would surely collapse in the absence of air conditioning, or at least move north of the Mason-Dixon line during the summer. Now here at my home and business on my little farm I know I COULD live without an air conditioner… I am almost certain it’s possible, at least in theory… I could sit here in front of a fan, dripping sweat onto my melting keyboard in between trips to the fridge for more ice but I’m just not clear on why anyone would want to go back to those ‘good old days’. My window unit hums its approval as I write this.
Call me soft, call me jaded but certainly call me cheap. That is why when I am shopping around for a small window unit for one of the several buildings on my place I am always looking at the energy efficiency rating (EER) of the air conditioner I am considering. In fact all new window or portable units sold in the US must have the EER clearly displayed. In general, the less expensive units will usually be rated around 9.8 with 9.7 being the minimum standard. 10.7 EER is considered good and most buying guides recommend looking for an 11 or higher. The price may be a bit higher but over the lifetime of the unit you should realize significant savings and use less electricity in the process.
Now if you’re buying a central air-conditioner look for a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 13 or higher. The minimum is 10 and in 2006 the minimum will rise to 12 or 13. I can’t really comment on those new-fangled central air conditioners since I live, as many of us do out here in the country, in an older home not designed for central AC. We do have indoor plumbing though and that’s a real treat.
The greatest of changes often happen the most slowly as was the case with air conditioning. It wasn’t until 1915 that Willis carrier and six other engineers gathered together $35,000 and started Carrier engineering Corporation. The company has done rather well over the years… From that first unit in 1902 to today where the company is producing one unit every four seconds. Every four seconds a marvelous, mood-enhancing, marriage-saving machine is born and civilization marches on, one cool room at a time.
"I fish only for edible fish, and hunt only for edible game even in the laboratory." - Willis Haviland Carrier on being practical.
World war II was the story of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. Reluctant hero’s who seldom thought of their deeds as heroic. One such ordinary man was 24 year-old Lieutenant Harry R. Greenup. One summer he was pumping gas and selling sodas in Kalamazoo Michigan and a few months later he was piloting one of the hottest fighters in the U.S. Air Force, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He was there in the skies above France not for the thrill of flying or the glory of downing enemy aircraft but because he had a job to do and his country needed him. It was the fighter pilots job to defend the B-17 bombers during their bombing runs over enemy territory. Of course the German aviators had their job to do too and they did it all too well.
It is difficult for those of us never having been in war to imagine going to work not knowing if you would live or die that day and yet these men went, day after day, trusting in fate. One winter day, January 27, 1944, fate decided that Harry would not return to his base and that his plane would not be seen for another 52 years.
27 P-38’s took off that morning to escort two groups of B-17 bombers over France. 26 returned….
Over the roar of the B-17’s engines, the bomber pilot can hear Lt. Greenup’s distress call. A few miles off the French coast, Harry’s wingman, fellow P-38 pilot Lt. Arthur W. King reports that he and Greenup had broken off into a group of three enemy fighters and Greenup had not returned. Harry was in trouble.
In the cramped cockpit Harry fights for control of his damaged plane. His right engine is in flames. Oil pressure zero, hydraulics failing, and Harry knows he’s going down. He braces himself for a water- landing in the bay below. The right wing and engine are torn off upon impact and the plane flips over, sinking almost immediately. Somehow though, Harry survives the crash but is soon captured by German soldiers. For Harry the war is over.
50 years later, France’s Bay of Lecques has become a popular area for divers and boaters and the specter of war is but a distant memory. But, as two divers found out, there are reminders…. On November 12’th, 1996 the helmsman of the diving boat ‘Pilot Garnier’ was returning to port when he picked up a faint but unusual echo from the sea floor. The site was marked and later that day divers Marcel Camilleri and Alain Costanza donned their gear and descended to check out the find. At 40 meters down the featureless sand came into view and they began the search.
Time passed. Then suddenly, below them they made out a large object covered with an old fishing net. An airplane! The divers, almost out of air, returned to the surface slowly but they were bursting with excitement. They thought there was a chance that they had discovered the crash site of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, WW II pilot and famed author of The Little Prince. Saint-Exupery’s plane, also a P-38, was shot down and crashed on July 31, 1944 and many suspect it crashed in this bay based on eyewitness accounts of an aircraft going down in the sea here on that date. His plane has never been found and as luck would have it, this wreckage would prove not to be it.*
On November 14, 1996 the wreckage was reported to the French department of Maritime Affairs and a proper assessment of the site was begun. The wreckage was cleared of sand, the radio set and ammunition were removed and serial numbers were recorded. The wreck proved to be an American P-38 Lightning that was reported missing, along with its pilot on January 27, 1944. Lt. Harry R. Greenup’s plane.
Several months after the initial discovery, Marcel Camilleri returned to the crash site with his friend, underwater photographer Michel Dune, who took the photos accompanying this article. The water clarity was remarkable for the area, as Dune reports…
From above, an insistent sun tries to penetrate the depths. Lower, a vague form takes shape gradually. Two blades of a propeller look like arms reaching towards the sky in regret. And then, the wreck delivers itself entirely in the shimmering blue depths.
Here time stopped on January 27, 1944. Landed on its back, the plane lies on sand at 40 meters depth and in front of my eyes, the ghostly silhouette of the aircraft calls to the brutality of its end even after a half-century of sleep.
The crystalline blue water, allowing sunlight to illuminate this depth, enables me to obtain a clear overall picture of the wreck. The right side engine, torn off during the crash, lies next to the left engine, which is still fixed to the fuselage. The central part of the airframe is intact with the double fuselage broken at the air intake openings, showing the control cables, which disappear into the main structure. Lying upside down, the cockpit is buried in the sand and difficult to reach. The wheels are visible through the half opened shutters. At the nose are four 12.7 mm guns and a single 20 mm gun.
Through a break in the fuselage one can see the rotary charger of the gun entirely covered with a scarlet sponge. A school of fish wanders interminably around the shelter of the wing while another fish perches on the 20 mm gun and seems to have found a satisfactory observatory. Isolated on the sand, the wreck has become a refuge and shelter for an astonishing variety of sea life. Three or four conger eels come to greet me and curve away skillfully between the antennae of a group of lobsters. Under a metal sheet, one enormous lobster seems well decided to defend its territory. The right engine, isolated a little further out on the sand, has been adopted by a fork-beard fish, hesitating between prudence and curiosity. The metal structures are covered by multicolored sponges and urchins. Here and there, various tube worms flower the metal sheath with life. This entire small world seems to live in perfect harmony, disturbed only by my intrusion and a few flashlights.
According to French maritime law, the wreck still belongs to the United States Government but I suspect it will remain where it is to serve as a reminder of brave deeds done by ordinary men during difficult times and as a peaceful refuge for the myriad of creatures that now call it home.
As to the eventual fate of Lt. Harry R. Greenup, the story is tragic and sadly ironic. Apparently Harry survived being a German prisoner of war, returned home safely, and was honorably discharged from the service in 1945. He got married and had four children, two sons and two daughters. Then fate caught up with Harry again. On October 6, 1957 Harry and his wife were killed in an automobile accident. He had lost control of his car and drove it into the Colorado River where they both drowned.
Rest in peace Harry.
* In April of 2004 the wreckage of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Lockheed Lightning P-38 was found on the Mediterranean seabed near Provence, France.
Those wishing to visit the crash site may contact:
Lecques Aquanaut Centre
Phone: 14 94 26 42 18, 06 09 55 24 26
My grandfather, Leo Turner, was a cowboy. He was born in 1888 and was 13 years old when he saw his first automobile. He fought in the trenches in France and lived to see men walking on the moon. But of all the things he saw and did in his life, his most fond memories were of being a young cowboy in those innocent years before World War One. As an old man, he wrote me this story…
“I am old and my memory is not to be trusted. However, some things that happened when I was twenty years old, with good horses to ride and earning a dollar a day, are as clear and bright in my mind as if they happened only yesterday.
One sunny day early in the spring of 1908 I sat with a small group of other cowhands and watched a vast herd of ten thousand steers move across a valley and over a ridge of hills. The entire herd was in sight for only a few minutes until the lead cattle went over the crest of the hills and out of sight. Ten thousand cattle is quite a herd by any standard. But these all wore the same brand; raised by one man on his own land. They belonged to Captain Charles Shreiner. Shreiner was selling off large numbers of cattle to make room for sheep and angora goats. He was starting a program that was to stabilize the economy of the Texas hill country and bring lasting prosperity to an area larger than many states. Schreiner was not only one of the largest cattle ranchers in the state but he was also a merchant and banker. His bank was sound and his general store in Kerrville was one of the largest in the area. Being a smart businessman he wanted to see the hill country supporting hundreds of small ranches rather than a handful of enormous spreads. He felt that sheep and angora goats, together with a few good cattle, would be an ideal combination for the rocky, hilly terrain.
In order to demonstrate the soundness of his theory, and to provide room for the sheep, Mr. Shreiner had sold his steers to Bevans and Russel, with delivery to be made in March at the James River Ranch. At that time, Schreiner lands were scattered all over central Texas, often as much as seventy-five miles apart. I doubt very much if anyone knew exactly how much land Schreiner owned. At any rate, he was one of the largest land owners in the state at that time. In order to gather all those cattle within the time limit it was necessary to use four complete cow outfits. Jim and Bill Heffner each had an outfit, a Mr. Colbath had another and Tom Reynolds, foreman of the great Paint Rock Ranch near Rock Springs had the fourth. I rode for Reynolds. Jill Shirley of Rock Springs and Bud Bartley from Telegraph, Texas were also riding with Reynolds.
Cowmen used to say that given enough time, one good outfit could work all the range that lies outdoors. Perhaps, when time permitted and the range was ordinary country. Schreiner’s lands were not ordinary country. Most of it was so rough that only horses raised in the mountains could be used there. The rocky hills were covered with scrub oak and the hated, and sometimes deadly, cedar brakes.
Most of the steers were wild, as wild as deer, and living in the dense cedar brakes and canyons. The orders were explicit. Get them all! To round them up took time, top hands and fast horses. Often they had to be roped and led out. A man might be a first class cowhand in another part of the country and still not be able to catch even one ordinary range cow in this sort of country. Catching an old outlaw steer in the cedar brakes was a highly dangerous undertaking. A dead cedar snag can go through a man’s body like a lance. I’ve seen it happen. But, however dangerous and difficult it was, it was a routine part of the job.
The four outfits rounded up their steers and arrived at the Live Oak rendezvous on schedule. Robert real, boss of the Live Oak, had cleared a four-section (2,560 acre) pasture ready for the steers. We set up guard that night, two men to each corner to keep the cattle from bunching up in the corners. At sunrise the cattle were lined out and counted twenty-five hundred to each outfit. We reached James River Ranch without further incident and there Bill Bevans and his men took over.
When any considerable number of cattle were sold, the buyer usually reserved the right to reject a certain percentage of the herd. These rejects were called “cut backs”. The process of separating the rejected steers from the main herd, in this case, was a sight worth seeing. It called for men who knew cattle. They had to be experts, as well as good riders. Everybody has heard of cutting horses; many people have seen cutting horses, but only a few have ridden a top-rated cutting horse long enough to work a big herd. After such a horse gets warmed up and really gets going he is hard to ride. I have seen men who could ride a bucking horse easily, have to claw leather to just stay on a cutting horse. Mr. Bevans and his top hands worked those four herds in just one day.
We took eight hundred cut backs with us when we started back to Paint Rock Ranch the next morning. We lost a big old brindle longhorn steer late one evening. Perhaps we were a little careless. The trail led up a hillside at the edge of a great cedar brake and the temptation was too much for the old brindle. He ran and in seconds was in his favorite kind of terrain. We might as well have tried to catch a rabbit in a briar patch. We just let him go. After all, he was on Schreiner range and someone would get him sooner or later. Other than losing that one renegade, our trip home was uneventful. The tired horses, cattle and men had little to do. It was a small herd of trail broken steers, the easiest of all to drive.
There was one old longhorn who appointed himself as leader. Every morning as we left the bed-ground and moved them out, he would go to the front of the herd and keep his place there all day watching every move the point men made and leading the herd accordingly. It took a week to get back to the Paint Rock Ranch and it was a real pleasure trip. One of the men had a good tenor voice and sang a great deal. The song he liked best was “Sweet Evelina”. It had an unlimited number of verses, all ribald and unprintable.
One night we made camp at the 7OL Ranch. As a surprise and a special treat, the cook bought all the eggs Mrs. Carson, wife of the ranch manager, had. Seven dozen eggs scrambled in a big skillet tasted mighty good and put everyone in a happy mood. After supper we heard more startling disclosures about “Sweet Evelina” and were forced to the conclusion that Evelina was a very naughty girl indeed.
Beneath all the kidding and fun was the sobering realization that the ranch would never again muster so many steers. The days of the big herds were gone. We all knew that Mr. Schreiner was going into the sheep business. Bob Real, at the Live Oak Ranch, had crews of men out building what he called wolf-proof fences. He had eighty-seven wolf hounds in his kennels and when a pasture was completely fenced he would go in with the hounds and run down and kill the predatory animals. Bob personally rode after those dogs night after night and his men said that when the chase got real hot he made more noise than the dogs did. The fencing program continued until all the Shreiner lands were enclosed by sheep proof fences.
The main reason for building sheep proof fences was to eliminate the necessity of herding the sheep and goats. Since the time if the biblical patriarchs sheep have had their shepherds. Captain Schreiner was going to prove that sheep and goats would do just as well without herders. Many small ranchers could not afford to hire any help and they soon learned that good fences and convenient water was all that was need except during lambing time or in bad weather. The idea caught on in a hurry. Every ranchman who could possibly do so began to build sheep proof fences. Within a very few years practically all ranches in the Texas hill country were sheep proof and shepherds were as obsolete as the ox wagon. Mr. Schreiner helped them get started; he sold them land or loaned them money and encouraged them in every way. He established a market for wool and mohair and arranged a warehousing system so that it could be stored until sold. Incidentally, Mr. Schreiner’s big store in Kerrville sold enormous quantities of fencing materials and his bank made many a loan, As I said before, he was a good businessman.
Some of the boys stayed on and learned to be good sheep and goat men and a few even grew rich in the process. Many of the descendents of these pioneer small ranchers are experts today in the field of animal husbandry. Many are college graduates. One became Governor of Texas (John Connally), and another President of the United States (Lyndon B. Johnson).
I, being less adaptable, chose to drift westward, ahead of the wooly invaders.
Today, as I remember the crowning glory of a vast cattle empire marching across that sunlit valley, to be seen by only a few trail weary cowboys, I don’t wonder that we all sat tall in the saddle for a little while.”