American Book of Golden Deeds - James Baldwin

The Dynamite Hero

Richard Owens and Richard Hughes were two workmen whose homes were at Bangor, Pennsylvania. One day they were blasting rocks in an excavation, when an accident occurred which made one of them a hero. Owens had just lighted a fuse to set off a charge of giant powder. He had risen to run out of danger, when another, but smaller charge, which was closer to him, exploded. His eyes were blinded, and his clothes were set on fire. He started to run, but could not find his way out of the excavation.

Richard Hughes, who was already in a place of safety, saw his companion's peril. He knew that in another moment the spark of the fuse would reach the second charge. He saw Owens groping within a few feet of that charge, and knew that if he remained there he would be blown to atoms.

Hughes was not the man to hesitate in the face of danger. He dashed out of cover and ran swiftly back. He caught his blinded friend just as he was about to stumble into a deep pit. He seized him in his arms and carried him right over the place where the powder blast was about to be exploded. He scrambled out of the excavation, dragging Owens up behind him. But he was a moment too late. Before they could reach a place of safety there was a blinding flash, a thunderous roar, and the air was filled with flying rocks. Both men fell to the ground, stunned and almost senseless.

A few minutes later, however, Hughes dragged himself out into the open air and shouted for help. Men ran to his assistance, and found that both he and Owens were much burned and badly though not dangerously hurt.

"You saved my life," said Owens.

"Oh, don't speak of that," said Hughes. "What are we here for, if not to help each other?"

From that day Hughes was known among his friends as the "dynamite hero." The commission gave him a silver medal and two hundred and fifty dollars for his bravery.