An imaginary article used in logging. A greenhorn is sometimes sent to the boss to get one. Aroostook County, Maine.--Joseph Carr's A Word-List from Eastern Maine, 1907
April Fool's Day
Into the twentieth century, it was common in both England and America to make fools of apprentices by having them perform mildly humiliating tasks known as "sleeveless errands." Examples included sending naive naval recruits to retrieve the key to the "starboard watch" or to "Davy Jones' locker" (the sea floor). Their rookie counterparts in the army were dispatched to bring back a "firing line" or a "bucket of recoil." Young printers were sent to look for "italic periods," a "paper-stretcher," or bottles of striped ink, while inexperienced butcher boys went in search of a "meat-auger." Veteran tailors loved pretending to need a dozen buttonholes, and electricians might request some "short circuits." Even bankers would sometimes send an office boy out for "white carbon paper," naughts for the adding machine, or a nonexistent piece of furniture called an "interest table."
Okay, I admit it, "a bucket of recoil" is pretty funny.