Tales from the Morgue: Cactus needles, phonographs and road runners

2014-01-30T09:00:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Cactus needles, phonographs and road runnersJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 30, 2014 9:00 am  • 

Oh, those versatile cactus needles. Who would have thought they could be used as needles on a phonograph?

From the Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, Feb. 1, 1914:

 

Cactus Needles Are Being Used On Phonographs
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Eastern Company Cashes Novel Idea; Soften Timbre of Music Tones
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The use of cactus spines in place of steel needles in phonographs, gramophones and other talking machines opens up a profitable industry for the country about Tucson.

"Without any preparation at all cactus spines can be used in talking machines in place of the steel needles," C. E. Rule said yesterday. "The spines can be used just as they are taken off the plant, and the result is very satisfactory."

People living about Tucson also use mesquite needles for the purpose when they run out of steel needles and the resulting tone is also very pleasing. The timbre of the tone produced by the cactus or mesquite is softer and less penetrating than that produced by the steel needle.

A company in the east is already manufacturing needles for the phonograph made by treating cactus spines by a certain secret process. These are on sale on the local market, and appear to give good satisfaction. They are of course more satisfactory than the ordinary cactus spine and give a very nice quality of tone. The only trouble is that once in a while an imperfect needles is found. The new idea opens up a new industry which could be opened up in Tucson.

Well, it beats using the spines to fence in rattlers. And on that subject, there is more.

Tales from the Morgue told of a visitor from Elmira, N.Y., hoping to run down the story of road runners using cholla spines to fence in rattlesnakes so they could be more easily killed. It would seem the visitor had an old friend in Tucson who hoped to reconnect.

From the Star, Thursday, Feb. 5, 1914:

LYNCH HUNTS CHUM WHO HUNTS ROAD RUNNER
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Boyhood Friends Back in Old Elmira Come Close Together but Fail to Meet; Writes "John Anderson" Letter
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The search of John Feeney for the elusive truth about the Arizona rattlesnake-roadrunner yarn which carried him from Elmira to Tucson took the New York nature lover pretty close to his old childhood playmate and chum R. B. Lynch of this city. The only trouble was that Mr. Lynch who is a bowling expert and spends a good deal of his spare time knocking down the wooden pins, didn't know that his old pal of Elmira was in the Old Pueblo, and didn't get wise until the Star story telling of Feeney's relentless pursuit on the trail of the road-runner. Then he couldn't find him.

In hopes that the eye of his former friend may light upon the epistle, Mr. Lynch has penned a letter which is redolent of the happy days back in old Elmira when a regular galaxy of Who's Who stars played together on the back lot ball diamond. Mr. Lynch says:

John Feeney, Come Forth.

"Where are you, John Feeney, of Flatiron fame? Gee, but you have strayed a long ways off from the old corner. And you are looking after the interest of the road-runner.

"You always did in the olden times look after the sporting events that took place around the old Flatiron. Remember those days when the Father Matthew boys and the Kancueolas used to have a battle royal on Thanksgiving Day, and how we used to leave the old corner with our pockets empty and you the stakeholder?

Auld Acquaintance.

"Remember Tommy Fennel and his brother, Duke Lineen Holleran, and Red Murtaugh, now leader of the New York state senate, Muggay McGraw, Birmingham, now leader of the Cleveland Naps, and the Moxey brothers?

"The road-runner didn't bother you then. But they say that's what old age will do, John. The Father Matthew boys never needed anything to kill the snakes, John, and the Kancueloa boys—well I refer you to "Ed" Roll or Chief Elliott.

"Elmira is a good old town anyway you take it, John, but it has no road-runners except Casey and his horse car."

While the bunch of celebrities mentioned who used to be lads in old Elmira are pretty well known, it may be a little mystifying as to Father Matthew's boys. It is a matter of history that Father Matthew was a celebrated temperance advocate, which explains Mr. Lynch's reference to the killing of "snakes" by that body.

The Morgue Lady expects to see more of this story and will share it as it shows itself.

She does not understand the reference to the killing of "snakes" and its relationship to temperance. Perhaps someone is able to enlighten her.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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