Today, the term “Don’t yank my chain” probably means something like stop trying to pull the wool over my eyes when you think that somebody is trying to deceive you. Back in the day though, it had a whole different literal and practical meaning.
I was watching the History Channel yesterday and this show came on that caught my interest. It was called “How the States Got Their Shapes” and besides being informative was also quite entertaining.
Anyway, on one segment they went deep down into Mother Earth and were wandering around in an old abandoned mineshaft. They were talking about how railroads helped shaped many of the borders of the Western States and then wandered off topic a bit.
Back in the days of old mining for gold or any other precious metal was no walk in the park. Pounding a hammer and chisel into stone walls for up to ten hours a day would takes it toll on just about anybody. When you consider that you were down there for that long nature had to come calling at least a couple of times a day and the need to take a dump would eventually have to be realized.
It seems that the toilets that the miners used had wheels and were on tracks so that they could be moved and emptied when they became full. For some strange reason these porta johns on wheels were known as “honey buckets” and were usually fixed with a braking system that could easily be released.
It seems that in order to relieve the boredom of being underground some practical jokes were in order. Picture this.
There you are, sitting on the throne taking a nice dump when all of a sudden one of your fellow miners sneaks up behind you. As you’re there contemplating the finer things in life such as whisky and women, your good buddy releases the brake and gives the mobile shitter a nudge and you are sent careening down the tracks with your pants down around your ankles and no way to stop.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to try and take a shit or wipe yourself when you're moving along at a brisk pace but it must have looked funny as hell to the other miners.
Anyway, in order to prevent these circumstances from occurring some entrepreneurial miners began carrying a length of chain with them. Before mounting the mobile outhouse they would lay the chain in front of one of the wheels so that it would act as a brake should one of his fellow miners decide to pull this prank. When the miner released the brake and the toilet stopped after a couple of feet due to the chain being in place the guy doing the shitting would call out "Don't yank my chain!"
And no, I'm not yanking yours right now.
Or am I?