The Thing on the Fourble Board
Date: 9 August 1948
CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... FADE FOR)
ANNOUNCER: The Mutual Broadcasting System presents "Quiet, Please!" which is
written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and which features Ernest Chappell.
"Quiet, Please!" for tonight is called "The Thing on the Fourble Board."
(MUSIC ... THEME ... END)
PORKY (narrates, in conversation with an unheard guest): Me, I'm a roughneck.
Well, I was a roughneck, I mean, twenty years ago -- a little too old, too
slow now. Besides, I got a dollar now, I don't have to be a roughneck, y'see.
Married, got a nice home. Hafta meet my wife. (calls out) Hey, Mike!
(narrates) Her name's Maxine but she likes to be called Mike. (calls out)
Mike! (narrates) I guess she's busy out in the kitchen someplace. Besides,
she doesn't hear very well. Shame, too -- she's so pretty and everything.
Well, you'll meet her... Sit down... I was sayin' I was a roughneck...
Well, no, that doesn't mean exactly what you think it means. A roughneck is
an oil field worker, specifically, a guy on a drilling crew. Call 'em
roughnecks like ya call a section hand on the railroad a gandy dancer or a
garage hand a grease monkey. Same time, you work around a drilling crew for a
while, you're gonna be a roughneck in every sense of the word, boy. The
derrick floor or a fourble board's no place for a guy with a bow tie 'cause
when you have to fool around with drillin' holes that go farther down in the
ground than it is from the top of Pike's Peak down to sea level... Yeah, sure
they do. Time I was a roughneck, we got this one well down to seventy-three
hundred and thirteen feet. That was a record. But last May, Pure Oil brought
one in out in the [Natrona?] Valley in Wyoming at fourteen thousand three
hundred and nine feet. That, friend, is almost three miles. Quite a hole
(MUSIC IN AND UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): Sure, I don't think there's an oil man in the world that
don't wonder one time or another what's down there besides rock and oil and
gas. Oil that's made out of trees that died twenty million years ago. Oil
that's made out of dinosaur bones. Oil that's maybe... made out of the flesh
and blood of men, maybe, that beat each other to death with a stone axe, ate
saber tooth tiger for lunch. Yeah, you get to wondering. You look at the
cores that come up from way down there and sometimes there's little shells,
trilobites mostly, that was alive when Manhattan Island, where New York is,
was under half a mile o' ice. We found somethin' once, me and Billy
Gruenwald. And... something found us. I'll tell ya about it.
PORKY (narrates): Clear down to around fifty-four hundred feet, we'd set
casing that began to get water so we had to stop drilling and cement off.
Well, you see, when water begins to seep in the hole, you pull your drill
pipe, then you let down a cementing shoe inside the casing, and you plug up
the bottom of the hole, casing and all, with quick-hardening waterproof
cement. Then, when it's hard, you drill through the cement and go on down and
the cement outside the casing at the bottom keeps the water out. Well, we had
the drill pipe all pulled and racked. The cement was setting, see? So we
were shut down, waiting for it to harden. We'd been coring just before...
Well, you see, uh, a core drill is hollow. And, as the bit digs down, it
stuffs the drillings up inside it so, when you pull it out, you've got a
sample of the kind of stuff you're going through. And a geologist can tell a
lot from that. So, there's nobody around the rig except me that night. The
rest of the crew's gone into town. I was toasting some pork chops over the
porch for myself when I heard a car pullin' up.
SOUND: (Automobile ENGINE.)
PORKY (narrates): Look out, it's Billy Gruenwald, the geologist, and I give
him a hello. (to Billy Gruenwald) Hi, Billy! Come and have a pork chop!
BILLY (from a distance): All right, Porky!
SOUND: (ENGINE out.)
BILLY (closer): Where's everybody?
PORKY: They all went to town. I'm the whole crew.
BILLY: I had three blow-outs between here and Oxnard.
PORKY: Yeah, I wondered where you was. Ted said you'd be in here about three.
BILLY: Yeah, I would've been except for my tough luck. Aw, I'm dead.
PORKY: Here, I got six, no, seven pork chops. And bread. And some coffee,
BILLY: Swell. Hey, I got a bottle in the car.
PORKY: Heh heh. We're gonna have a banquet.
BILLY: Hey, where's that core? That's what I came up here to look at.
PORKY: Ah, back there on the bench. Look at it after supper.
BILLY: Didn't you say you were all alone here?
PORKY: Uh huh.
BILLY: I thought I heard somebody talking.
PORKY: I don't see anybody. Keep an eye on that pork chop, you won't have any
BILLY: Yeah, I'm watching it.
PORKY: Here, lemme put the coffee on.
SOUND: (Coffee pot CLINKS onto grill.)
PORKY: Like so.
BILLY: When'd you finish cementing?
PORKY: This morning. Last tower only made about ten feet of hole so Ted shut
down before we'd get flooded out of house and home.
BILLY: Funny about that water.
PORKY: Mm? How?
BILLY: Oughtn't to be any at that level, according to my figuring.
PORKY: Well... there is.
BILLY: Is it salt?
PORKY: Sure, right out of the bottom of the ocean.
BILLY: Hmm... that's funny. Well, maybe I'll be able to tell something from
the core. Yeah, I hope so. Well, last core I looked at, I'd've sworn we were
getting into shale.
PORKY: Ain't seen none yet, from the cuttings.
PORKY: Here, your pork chop's done. Take some bread.
BILLY: Yeah, thanks.
SOUND: (Billy Gruenwald EATS his chop.)
BILLY: Oh, man!
PORKY: Good, huh?
BILLY: Mmm hmm.
PORKY (laughs): Put on another, I had two already 'fore ya come.
BILLY: Yeah, much obliged... Yeah. You know, you never can tell what's down
there. You get it all mapped and plotted out, all the strata, and all ya know
is what comes out of the hole.
PORKY: Yup. I'd like to go down there sometime, if I was little enough.
BILLY (chuckles): Never get you down a hole.
PORKY: You'd fit. You're skinny.
BILLY: I'll stay up here and look at the cores, bud. Where is that one?
PORKY: Behind you. Over there.
BILLY: Hm? Oh. Well, I'll have a look at it.
SOUND: (Billy WALKS off.)
PORKY: Why don't you wait till you finish your supper?
BILLY (off): I'm just gonna look at it. Uh, put on another pork chop for me.
BILLY (off): Wow, I wish those screech owls would keep--
PORKY: What's the matter?
BILLY (off): Hey, wait a minute, Porky.
PORKY: Well, what--?
BILLY (off): Listen.
SOUND: (Somewhere above, a piece of metal SCRAPES.)
PORKY: What's eatin' you?
BILLY (off): You know, I'd've sworn there's somebody up there on that fourble
PORKY: Aw, you're crazy. There's nobody up there.
BILLY (off): Standin' against those stands of drill pipe.
PORKY: Ah, they're just racked crooked. One of 'em slipped. Come on back and
eat your pork chop.
BILLY (rejoins Porky): Yeah. Yeah, I-I-I guess so. Only, I--
PORKY: Aw, whatcha so jittery bout, Billy? Come on, eat your sandwich. Here.
BILLY: Yeah, well... thanks, Porky. I don't know, I -- I'm just naturally
that way I guess. I'm always scared of the dark. Doggone it, I hate to be a
baby but I can't help it.
PORKY: Scared of the dark? Honest?
BILLY: Stupid, ain't it?
PORKY: Oh, I don't know. Everybody's scared of somethin'. Me, spiders scare
the tar out of me. Black widows. (shivers, laughs) I know how you feel,
BILLY: There another light over here?
PORKY: Yeah. Here.
BILLY: Ah. Oh, that's better. Hey, listen, um, Porky, go out to the car and
look in the left-hand door pocket and bring back that bottle, will ya? That's
what I need.
PORKY: Okay, kid. (moving off) Okay. (narrates) So, I picked up a
flashlight, I turned around and went outside. I found the car. And I got the
bottle. And the floor of the derrick was all lit up and when I saw a beam of
light suddenly flash up toward the fourble board, I laughed. Ha ha ha. Billy
Gruenwald and his ideas... Sure, I looked up. There wasn't a darn thing up
there. 'Cept the drill pipe racked against the fingerboard... Oh, this, uh,
fourble board. Well, you've seen oil derricks or pictures of 'em? You know
that little platform that runs around the outside of the derrick about halfway
up? Well, that's the fourble board. Well, you see, drill pipe comes in
lengths and you handle them with several lengths screwed together so as to
save time gettin' 'em in and out of the hole. Two lengths is a double, three
is a treble, four is a fourble. When you pull the pipe, ya heist it up inside
the derrick with a traveling block which moves up and down from the crown
block at the top of the derrick. Then, when a fourble of pipe is pulled out,
it's held in the rotary table. You break the joint with tongs, like a great
big Stillson wrench, y'see. Snub a cable that's fastened to the handle over
the cat head on the draw works and that breaks the joint. Then, you hold the
tongs on the pipe, give the rotary table a few turns to unscrew it, you heist
away with the traveling block and swing it over against the fingerboard, lean
it against the derrick. The guy up on the fourble board takes off the
traveling block. You do it all over again till you got all the pipe out. You
see? Well, there wasn't anybody up on the fourble board. Except a screech
owl and it flew away. So, Billy turned his light off and I come on inside.
And just as I come up the steps, he let out a yell.
SOUND: (Billy lets out a YELL.)
(MUSIC QUIETLY IN AND UNDER)
PORKY: What's the matter? What's the matter, Billy?
BILLY: (off) Hey, come here! Look here!
SOUND: (Porky's FOOTSTEPS approach Billy.)
PORKY: Well, what's it--?
BILLY: Look, Porky.
PORKY: My--! Where did you find that?
BILLY: Now, listen, Porky, I give you my word. That was embedded in the core.
PORKY: Oh, why, it couldn't be.
BILLY: I tell ya, it was. Look where I dug it out. Do you know what? That
rock there comes from a mile underground. And it's been a mile underground
for a million years. Man, look at this.
PORKY (narrates): And I did look. And what he was holding was a gold ring.
And it was all carved and filigreed just like jewelry. And there wasn't any
kidding about it. It was real.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, THEN UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): Now, now, now, wait a minute! Hang on! I ain't done. I
poked at the core of rock that looked like a, uh, kind of... petrified salami
or something. And then it was my turn to pretty near jump out of my pants.
Because right alongside the place where Billy dug out the ring, there was a
mud-covered but very unmistakable... finger. I picked it up. And it was
cold. And it was heavy. And... it was solid rock. At least, it felt like
solid rock. And I looked at Billy and Billy looked at me. He started to rub
the mud off this here... stone finger. And as he rubbed it, it begun to
disappear... No, he could-he could still feel it, he said, but when the mud
was gone, neither one of us could see it. And he dropped it to the derrick
floor. It went clunk and... we couldn't find it anyplace. So, you know what
we done? Well, we took that bottle and we took and finished it, Billy and me.
We finished it in one slug apiece and it was a full pint of bathtub gin that
tasted just like so much well water to me.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, THEN UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): And then we sat down on the derrick floor and we looked at
each other. We didn't say a word. My eyes got heavier and heavier. The last
thing I remember was I heard some kind of noise that seemed to be coming out
from, well, the fourble board, eighty feet above us. I shut my eyes a minute.
(Weird MUSIC EFFECT to indicate dreaming.)
PORKY (narrates): I guess I went to sleep.
(Weird MUSIC EFFECT intensifies.)
PORKY (narrates): And I had awful dreams. Black widow spiders crawling all
over me with gold rings on their legs. Things I could hear but I couldn't
see... up on the fourble board. Billy Gruenwald climbing up the ladder
outside the derrick in the moonlight. Faces looking at me. I couldn't figure
out who they were. Then I was waked up by a horrible scream. A crash
alongside me that shook the whole derrick.
PORKY (narrates): I opened my eyes to see Billy Gruenwald, lying on the floor,
two feet away... with a broken neck.
(MUSIC UP AND UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): With a broken neck and his left hand-- Well, he put the
gold ring on the little finger of his left hand and the way his arms were
spread out... His left little finger... and the ring... were gone.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, THEN OUT)
PORKY (narrates): Well, friend, I got out of there. I run down to where Billy
had left his car and I got in. I stepped on the starter.
SOUND: (Automobile ENGINE -- it won't start.)
PORKY (narrates): And then I couldn't get it to go. And I remembered after I
pretty near run down the battery that Billy had taken a key. I wasn't going
up there and go through a dead man's clothes to get it. So I sat there in the
car, shivered all by myself till daylight.
(MUSIC IN AND OUT)
PORKY (narrates): And then Ted and the crew came. Afterwards, a state cop,
and everybody in the world was asking me questions.
TED: Did you and Billy have a fight, Porky?
PORKY: I told you we didn't, Ted.
TED: But you had been drinkin'?
PORKY: We only had that little pint, Ted!
TED: Ah, what was he doin' up on the fourble board?
POLICE OFFICER: Did you threaten him? And did he run up there to get away
PORKY: Listen, cop, don't be a chump. Billy Gruenwald and I were good friends.
POLICE OFFICER: Then why'd you push him off the fourble board?
PORKY: I didn't, I tell ya! I-I wasn't up there.
TED: Well, what did he go up there for?
PORKY: I don't know. I was asleep.
POLICE OFFICER: How do you know he was up there?
PORKY: I didn't say he was. You said so. Besides... how would he break his
neck if he didn't fall from way up there?
TED: Well, look, Officer, I think it was just another accident. I mean, we
haven't got anything on Porky and... personally, I don't believe he did it.
POLICE OFFICER: Well, it's mighty mysterious.
TED: So it is. But we got work to do. Now, how about it? That cement's hard
down there and I want to start drillin' again and I'm short-handed. Will you
let Porky stay here till I run in my pipe again? And, well, then you can take
him and ask him questions till you're blue in the face.
POLICE OFFICER: Well, okay.
TED: Let's get rollin'. You got [steel up, Happy?!]
HAPPY: I'm all set!
TED: All right. Porky. You go up on the fourble board.
PORKY: What? Not me, Ted.
TED: Aw, don't be such a boob. There's nobody up there to shove you
overboard. Hey, you can put a safety line around you if you want to.
SOUND: (Machinery CRANKS into gear.)
TED: And, besides, you're getting paid to do what you're told. I've lost too
much time already! Come on, get going!
(MUSIC IN AND UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): So, okay, I go up on the fourble board. And you can bet I
took a good gander around before I did anything else. No, I couldn't see a
thing. So I signaled to the driller to let down the traveling block and he
did. Came sailing down from up above. I was just reaching for it to pick up
the first fourble of drill pipe... gave a big jerk and the cable broke. And
dropped and nearly pulled me off the fourble board.
(MUSIC effect to indicate falling pipe.)
PORKY (narrates): And it landed... right on top of Ted. And if you have any
idea what a guy looks like after two tons of metal land on him from eighty
feet up... (sigh) you keep your ideas to yourself.
(Somber MUSICAL bridge, then UNDER.)
PORKY (narrates): Well, that was enough -- two accidents in a row. The whole
crew quit. They-they wasn't gonna wait for a third. And it was Ted's money
that was payin' off. There wasn't any more. And... as far as I know, the
abandoned derrick is still there. And that was twenty years ago. Oh. I
forgot to tell you something. That traveling block was right in front of my
face when it broke loose. It was hanging by steel cable, three quarter inch
steel cable. And I saw that cable break right before my eyes. Looked just
like a... piece of string when you snap it between your fingers. I could
almost see the... fingers. And you know what? There WAS something up there
on the fourble board with me.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, then UNDER)
PORKY (narrates): And so a couple of days later, I came back. I-I don't know
if there's anything in the world as desolate, as dismal, as dead-looking as an
abandoned oil well rig. There it stands, like a skeleton off on a deserted
side road in the bare yellow hills surrounding it and... it's the deadest
thing you ever saw. I sat in my car for a long time, looking at it.
Everything was just the way we left it. I looked in at the floor, the smashed
traveling block was there alongside the rotary table. There was a little
mutter of steam from the boiler. That was all. Then I heard a... tinkle of
something as it hit the ground alongside me. I looked around. There wasn't a
soul in sight. But, at my feet, was the gold ring that Billy Gruenwald and I
had found in the core of rock that came from a mile underground and from a
million years ago in time.
(MUSIC UP AND OUT.)
PORKY (narrates): And I heard a little sound, the sound of a kid crying.
SOUND: (A high-pitched voice WAILS forlornly.)
PORKY (narrates): There wasn't any kid up there.
SOUND: (The voice WAILS louder.)
PORKY (narrates): But I heard it again and it came from above my head and...
and I-I took out my revolver. I loaded it carefully. I started up the ladder
to the fourble board. Well, there wasn't anything up there, nothing I could
SOUND: (The voice WAILS even louder.)
PORKY (narrates): There was a voice crying, the voice of a little kid. And
there was a movement behind the rack of drill pipes and I saw the pipe move
and I yelled: (calls out) Come out of there, whoever you are!
SOUND: (Whoever it is, it lets out a long, horrible high-pitched SHRIEK.)
PORKY (narrates): Come out or I'll start shooting! (narrates) Then the stand
of pipes shivered and I thought, What can it be that it can handle a heavy
pipe like... like jackstraws? Then, there was a crash.
SOUND: (Metal pipes CRASH and ROLL around the floor.)
PORKY (narrates): The whole stand of pipe fell over and I just got out of the
way in time. And I was alone... on the fourble board... with the... Thing.
But I couldn't see it.
SOUND: (The Thing WAILS again.)
PORKY (narrates): I felt the platform tremble under my feet again as something
moved toward me... I fired two or three shots.
SOUND: (Three GUNSHOTS.)
PORKY (narrates): And nothing happened. I started backwards. I knew it was
following me because I could hear it meowing like a cat.
SOUND: (The Thing MEOWS like a cat.)
PORKY (narrates): My feet tripped over something. I saw it was a big can of
red lead that somebody had left up there. Without thinking, I picked it up
and I threw it at the sound and it splashed.
(MUSIC: Piano GLISSANDO.)
PORKY (narrates): And there it was...
SOUND: (The Thing CRIES softly under the following:)
PORKY (narrates): And I wish I-- I wish... The face of a little girl,
frightened. Crying with hunger and terror. Hands like a human being. And a
finger... missing from the left hand. And a body... Well, I'll tell you about
that. I told you how I'm scared of spiders. But I knew where it came from.
It'd come from the bowels of the earth, come riding up on the drill pipe as we
yanked it out of the well. Come to an alien world. And was lost. It stood
there dripping with red paint, blood-red from head to foot, like some horrible
dream. And it put its hand on my arm. Its hand was stone. Living, moving
stone. And it looked into my eyes. And mewed like a lost kitten.
(MUSICAL bridge, then OUT)
PORKY (narrates): Twenty years ago. I discovered many things about it: what
it used for food; that it was deaf; that it was invisible and couldn't see
people when it was invisible; that if you sprayed it with mud or paint or
greasepaint -- make-up -- then it could see people. And, believe me, I didn't
want to see its body -- I can see that in my nightmares. But its face... I
can't help wanting to see that pathetic, little girl face. I'm afraid maybe
I've fallen-- Ah, but it's very beautiful. And when it's well made-up,
it's... But making it up, rubbing greasepaint on a stone face that looks at
ya and smiles and it makes sounds like a lost kitten yet. I can disguise the
body in long dresses. She can't hear very well and when she's hungry, I have
to stay out of her way. I found out what she likes to eat, remember?... No,
no, sit still... (firmly) Sit still, do! ... (harshly) Sit still or I'll have
to shoot you. (long pause) I want you to meet my wife. Or rather... my wife
wants to meet you. (calls out) Mike? Mike?!
SOUND: (The kitchen door OPENS.)
PORKY (narrates): There she is.
SOUND: (Mike CRIES like a baby who sees that its dinner is ready.)
PORKY (narrates): Come on in, dear.
(MUSIC ... THEME. FADE FOR)
ANNOUNCER: The title of tonight's "Quiet, Please!" story is "The Thing on the
Fourble Board." It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and featured
ERNEST CHAPPELL: And Dan Sutter played Billy Gruenwald. Pat O'Malley was Ted.
And Cecil Roy... (chuckles) was... also a member of the cast. As usual, music
for "Quiet, Please!" is played by Albert Buhrmann. Sound? Sound by our good
friend Albert April. Now for a word about next week, here's our writer-
director, Wyllis Cooper.
WYLLIS COOPER: Well, I'm reasonably sure that all the characters in tonight's
story were completely fictional -- at least, I, for one, hope so. Next week,
the story is called " Presto Change-O, I'm Sure ".
ERNEST CHAPPELL: And so, until next week at this same time... I am quietly
yours... Ernest Chappell.
ANNOUNCER: This program was heard in Canada through the facilities of the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This is the Mutual Broadcasting System.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... END)