Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Linking myself to the new country ...

Today's quote is one that my friend Dale showed to me a few days ago, and it's well worth reproducing here. It's an excerpt from an autobiographical 1947 book called My American Pilgrimage, written by a Macedonian immigrant named Stoyan Christowe. The passage is part of a chapter describing a winter Christowe spent working as part of a "section gang" helping maintain the Great Northern Railway along Montana's Hi-Line back in the 1910s.

The chapter was later excerpted in a 1970 anthology titled, Workin' on the Railroad: Reminiscences from the Age of Steam. And as for Christowe, he later became a journalist, the author of several books, and a member of the Vermont state legislature.
I watched the Fast Mail disappear into the unknown West. I felt less alone now, less cold.

"All right, men, rip her up now," Pat yelled in his high-pitched voice.

A new energy seized the workers. The claw bars clamped the spikes with iron fangs and jerked them out like frozen worms. The tongmen slung in the new thirty-three-foot rails with the lightness of sticks. I unclasped the metal hooks of my sheepskin-lined coat so as to breathe more freely, and I took off my mittens that I might touch the steel with my bare hands. And then I felt as if a candle were suddenly lit inside me, glowing within me and warming my body. In crowded St. Louis I had never felt so close to America as I did now in this pathless plain. I knew that as I touched the steel, linking one rail to another, I was linking myself to the new country and building my own solid road to a new life.

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