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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 31, 1909

"I'm No Eskimo; You Take Charge," Chauffeur Suggests to Explorer in Evening Dress.

LONG. $7.50; LAT. 8 O'CLOCK

Dinner Waits at Friend's Home Till Peary Tramps Far and Women Companions are Rescued.

Special to The New York Times.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30.—The arctic weather last night took the arctic explorer, Commander Robert E. Peary, unawares, and with his wife and sister-in-law he was delayed two hours on the north side of an eight o'clock dinner.  Instead of a sled the party was in a refractory taxicab six miles from the city, and the taxicab, said Mr. Peary afterward, was invented in his absence and is still a puzzle to him.

The party was running merrily along toward the home of Ralph P. Barnard, son of Justice Barnard of the District Supreme Court, at Drummond, Md., just across the District line, when the taxicab paused, dashed forward, paused again, jumped off the road, and finally came to rest in six feet of snow.  The engine snorted a couple of times, back fired once, and stopped.

"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Peary.

"Gracious!" echoed Mrs. Peary's sister.

The observations made by the explorer will not be set down here.

After the first surprise was over the explorer picked up the speaking tube dangling at his right hand and hailed the bridge.

"Stuck," said the chauffeur, "and stuck good.  I guess you'd better take command of this expedition.  I ain't no Eskimo."

Commander Peary discontinued his whispered scientific observations.

"This is quite reminiscent," he remarked without particular enthusiasm.  Then the man of action glanced at the taximeter, and, producing a small artificial horizon built for pocket use, took an observation.

"I observe," he said pleasantly to Mrs. Peary and Mrs. Peary's sister, "that we are in longitude $7.50, latitude 8 o'clock."

About ten minutes later, after the chauffeur had decided there was not a ghost of a show of getting the blamed thing out of the drift without all kinds of assistance, Commander Peary, who was in evening dress and wore low shoes of the pump variety, started across country for Mr. Barnard's home in Drummond.  He doesn't seem to care to talk of the trip.  He plowed more than a mile across country, all of the time in deep snow, and sometimes in drifts up to his shoulders before he reached his destination.

The Commander, with the picture of Mrs. Peary and her sister sitting in a frigid, snow-bound, drift-covered taxicab in the middle of the lane before him, did not waste time in explanations.

"Infernal cab got stuck," he told his host.  "Ladies in it.  Come on; get 'em out.  Never saw worse weather in latitude 90."

And a few minutes later the Commander, still in evening dress, but with a pair of rubber boots replacing the pumps, and accompanied by Mr. Barnard, his host, Joseph B. Callahan, better known as "Josh," and Dr. C. P. Kiefer, started on the back track to effect the rescue.

It was a job of getting that taxicab out of the drift, and all the ropes and poles and shovels and chains carried by the party were utilized before the machine gained the road again.  Then they all piled in, and after careful running landed at the Barnard home in time to sit down at 10 o'clock to that 8 o'clock dinner.

Naturally everybody supposed that all troubles were over then.  But the soup had no more than been served when Commander Peary jumped out of his chair, grabbed Mr. Callahan with one hand and Dr. Kiefer with the other and rushed them outside.

"Ears frostbitten," he told those astonished gentlemen, as he picked up great handfuls of snow and began to massage their faces.  Incidentally, they did not have much chance to make a protest, for the commander always keeps himself strong and fit.  After about an hour of this rough treatment the Commander decided their ears would be saved for future use and tramped back into the house.  That dinner party wound up long after midnight, and as the cars had stopped running, the Pearys came to town in an automobile, although the temperature was hovering around zero.

"I ab nod zure," said Commander Peary to-day, "bud I thig I toog gold."

"We'd like to know," said Messrs. Callahan and Kiefer, in chorus, "if our ears were really frozen."

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