Copyright 2010 by David Lynch

All rights reserved under the Pan American and International Copyright Conventions.


Ablaze, crimson hues of amber fashion the stampede of cotton ball clouds that sweep the western sky. Golden beams of sunlight flicker through the tree branches that are dancing with the wind like the flames of a mid-winter fire. In stark contrast, shadows extend from the horizon undulating back and forth like waves of the deep blue Atlantic. The black of dusk approaches from the East setting the stage that is to close out this most memorable Saint Valentine’s day. February 14th, 1844.

Amidst the spectacle of windblown colors, a burly man from the county of Meath in Ireland stops to rest on an out crop of granite. While enjoying the moment of glory provided by his God, James Lynch utters a prayer to Mother Mary giving thanks and asking to be forgiven. As James absorbs the natural splendor of this glorious moment, his words give way to a subtle mumble barely audible. Deeply consumed by a peaceful bliss, James begins to drift off in the dreams of why he came to America.

Flashing back to the days of his youth. Many Irish families were broken apart by the potato famine, and word spread across the country side that there was a chance to make a better life in America. While being trained by his father to be a rock mason, James never expected that he would work endless hours laying mile after mile of iron rail making way to the zero mile marker in Marthasville.

James startles to his feet taking notice that the shadows from the trees have taken the shape of a slender man. Not sure if this is real or a dream, James calls out, Who goes there? The shadow clearly emerges into view when James hears, "A great war comes to this land." After a short pause the man continues to say, I am Church, of the Cherokee. Hear me of this warning.

A red halo of sunlight casts a glow around the face of Church letting James see a confident smile. Church looks into the eyes of James and says, "History joins us forever." James turns to walk away not understanding what Church was trying to say. Church calm and collective sits on the ground then says, "Death stands near your family."

The Irish blood in James ignites as he tells Church, "Quiet now, before you get hurt. You are a crazy fool." With little change is his tone Church says, "The iron horse will bring much bad to this land." James in a strong voice says to Church, "Why do you wish to burden me with your N Sanity? The railroad shows great promise to this land, and for God we work hard to reap the benefit of this land."

Church looks to the sky taking a deep breath and says, "The sky above grew dark in the middle of the day three times." Church places his open palm to the ground and starts to rub at the dirt. Church lifts up a fist full of dust and says to James, "This dirt is stained red with the blood of many great men. Cherokee and Istichata."

With a swift flick of the wrist, Church tosses the hand full of dirt towards the setting sun. For an instant, the brilliant light from the sun grew dark. James looks at the red clay of the ground and for a second is drawn into the conviction of Church. Church rises to his feet, stretches out his arms, opens his palms to the sky, and starts to hop and skip in a small circle chanting some Indians words.

Church looks directly at James and says, "Brother will kill brother, no place will be safe." James sits back down on the rock and asks Church, "How do you know of this great war?" Church turns to the sun, bows mid waist, and slowly twists with his head still lowered and says, "When the sun grew dark three times, the greatest medicine men of our tribe told us that this land has soured. To try and make the land better, we danced and told stories of our people. We asked our ancestors to heal this world. Yet the signs kept pointing to a time of great death."

James blurts out, "You asked your dead relatives?" Church lifts his head and says, "Do you not speak to your God for answers. You kneel. We dance. In our dance we speak to our ancestors, and then we look to this world around us for the answers to our questions. With a soft murmur, Church speaks words in his language, then he says, The signs speak that we have little time before the great battle between the Cherokee and the Istichata is to come again. This time the death will be to your people. "

James turns looking at the rich red of the evening sky. Church says, "The sky warns you of the blood that will flow on this land. Some much blood that the land will be soaked covering all the rocks that hold up this world. The rivers and streams will flow red just as they did when the Cherokee took battle with their brothers the Istichata. Brother will fight brother. The world will be split in two."

As Church begins to walk away, he says, The blood of my ancestors talks through the stones. Your house of worship will echo like thunder to the ears of the one that is to listen." James asks, "The one that is to listen?" Church says, "Your faith looks to a God for answers. In your house of worship listen to the stones.

James watches as the waves of shadows consume Church into oblivion. Snapped from the moment by the nip of the evening air that begins to bite, James rustles his feet down the path towards the work camp. The sounds of the work camp grow louder and louder. The ping of rail spikes being driven gives way to the bark of men giving out final instructions to close out the work day.

Arriving in camp just as the dinner bell clangs, James walks towards the crowd making their way to the chow line. Standing behind the mass of men seeking their evening ration, James scans the camp looking for his brother John. With each glance for John, the words of Church, Brother against brother echoes louder in James head. As if blinded by thought, James neglects to his own brother that sits just feet away. John calls out to James, Here. Over here James.

With his plate of chipped beef in hand, James takes a fire side seat next to John. As good Catholics before the first bite has been drawn, James and John give grace to God. They thank Father in heaven for another day of beautiful life and especially for the substance of food. A short moment passes, and then with a sullen voice James asks John, Have you met Church? John turns his head to the side to look directly at James to say, Why sure. Every Sunday next to you. James chuckles as he scarves down his rations.

While staring deep into the fire, James says, I have been burdened with a message. One that I know not how that I can deliver. Why has our lord opened a door for me that I know not how to close? John asks, You running a fever? Are you ok? What do you mean? James looks deeper into the fire then says, “I am well. I am sure that the good lord has his reasons. I hold faith close to my heart. The must be a reason.”

John looks to the camp filled with the diverse groups of workers. John says to James, You hit the spike on the head. What we need here is a towering Catholic church with a top drawer preacher. The men of this land have drifted away from the good lord’s message. John points towards a large group of Irish men and says, “See there. Those men. Every one of them will help us build a traditional Irish Catholic church, and then in the Church that rests on our foundation will you be able to unburden yourself from the Indian’s message.”

James says to John, “Thank you brother. On that kind thought I am off to rest my bones.” James decides to keep the details of his conversation with Church to himself. James slowly walks to his shanty shack that is a collection of branches and sticks that provide little comfort beyond a dry head during a light rain. As James struggles to find warmth, the words of Church fade into just another memory. Exhaustion takes over. James drifts off to sleep.


The silence of night is torn by moans that grumble through the entire camp. James ears begin to fill with the voices of various men that are complaining about the dawn of another back breaking workday. James wipes the sleep from his eyes then sharply barks out to the complainers, Hush up. Be thankful to have a paying job. A short silence descends upon the smoke filled camp, and then a crackly distant voice says, You get paid?

As loud laugh echoes the hills, as a distant voice calls out, “Lynch. James. Report to Mr. Peters. Now!” With only one thought in his head, Oh no. James jumps to his feet to grab his work clothes. While urgently dressing James looks to John and says, I do not know. With a short hop skip and a large jump, James swiftly trots, almost runs, down the path to report to Mr. Peters. Just as James finishes buttoning his shirt, he arrives at the stairs leading up into Mr. Peter’s rail car.

Huffing between breaths James says to supers assistant behind a small desk in the corner, James Lynch reporting as ordered. The assistant looks up under his brow only long enough to tell James Have a seat. While seated James regains his composure as his eyes gander at the collage of maps that fill the west wall of the rail car. Quickly picking up on the location of Augusta, James follows the rail line to Madison, and finally noticing a red circle around the town of Marthasville.

In a strange way, the construction maps littered with the name of J. Edgar Thomson scribbled on them reminded James of the days spent in his youth watching spiders build their webs. From the complex color coded map of built and not yet built rail ways, James could see clearly that, the town of Marthasville was going to explode in population. James murmurs to himself, I am a spider, and I see my feast

Not noticing that the man that had walked in the door at the far end of the rail car was Mr. Peters, James hears a deep voice say, Are you with fever? Mr. Peters was smiling as James popped to his feet uttering, I was just looking at the construction map. Reminds me of a giant spider’s web. Mr. Peters looks to the map and says, I see. Then Mr. Peters asks James, Are you strategic? James not sure how to answer says, I can learn what is taught.

Moving towards the maps, Mr. Peters says, You are looking at the construction plans for the longest single stretch of railroad in the entire world. Once the rail is laid to Marthasville, the cotton growers of the deep south will have an efficient and cost effective method to ship their product to any textile mill they choose. If we remain on schedule, the first train opens service in late 1845. As you can see, the Georgia Railroad has come a long way from the first tracks laid from Athens to Augusta, and J. Edgar tells me that the real work begins in 1846.

As Mr. Peters looks James in the eyes he says, What I need to carry this project into the future is a honest man ready to perform a very important job. He must be able to deal with the physical items that are ordered in and deal with financial payments sent out. This man is to keep track of the entire inventory. Are you that man?

Without a blink of an eye James responds, You can count on me sir. Mr. Peters reaches out to grasp James hand, and with a firm grip the he says, Starting today, take the brown filly with the gray tail that is hitched out front to Madison. At the post office, pick up all correspondence heading to our site. On your return, my assistant will inform you of the rest of your duties.

With a click of his heals James nods his head and says, I will not let you down. Thank you for this chance to show you my skills. Turning with a spark in his steps, James jumps down the stairs and briskly walks over to the brown filly. To get acquainted with his mount, James reaches out with a slow hand to stroke the firm warm neck of his new friend. With a strong pat on the shoulder, James endearingly asks, Are you ready for the saddle?

As James has done a thousand times with his land lords horses back home, he readies his mount for the ride to Madison. James smiles as if he has seen heaven. The blanket, saddle, bags, bridle, and bit all go on with pleasurable ease. With one final check of the horse’s shoes, James is ready to step up to his new position. James places the outgoing mail in the saddle bags, then says, One, two, three, as he mounts the confident filly.

A quick tug on the reigns, and James is off down the trail to Madison. On top of the filly, the same path that James has walked so many times before has taken on a new perspective. While winding up the hill towards the main road to Madison, James passes the rocks where just the day before he was approached by the Cherokee Indian Church. In that short moment gazing upon the stones, the talk with Church fades to a distant memory.

A swift heal kick brings the filly to attention. Without hesitation, the filly continues to walk up the path to the trail to Augusta. With a tug of the reigns James barks out, Giddy up. The filly breaks from a walk into a trot. The trail fairly dry gives James the confidence to push his mount into a gallop. The trail is well worn down the middle, and the filly avoids the ruts down the sides left from the multitude of daily wagon wheels.

While just getting into the pleasure of the ride, James has to slow down for his approaching the town of Madison. Breaking the filly down to a trot then quickly into a walk, James arrives just in time to watch the morning fog lift from the center of main street. To his right is the Madison terminal that is a weather worn dark gray wooden one story building that stretches about fifty feet in length. In front of the terminal, standing next to the rail are several people waiting to receive the morning train from Augusta.

Taking note of the location of the livery, James pats the filly on the neck and says, Lets go get you checked out. The filly steps into a trot heading directly to the livery. Briskly hopping off his fifteen hand mount, James walks into the livery looking for a fist full of hay. Walking up to the blacksmith replacing a hind leg shoe, James says, “I will be at the terminal. The filly out hitched front needs a good look see.” James then asks, “Take a snack to her?” With an affirmative nod from the blacksmith, James grabs a pile of hay.

Walking back out to his filly, James stops beside his new friend and drops the hay beside a trough of water. James says, Now, you are set. I will be back before long. James gets the outgoing mail from the saddle bags, and then strolls back down main street. James stops for a moment to look at the foundation that is being laid for the new Georgia Railroad terminal. A sparkling dust glitters before James’s face as he watches several men toss red brick after brick from the second to last rail car.

The distant rumble of the steam engine cuts through the dense trees. James turns towards the tracks to watch the train with its screeching wheels come to a stop. Walking through the small crowd that is departing the train, James heads to the post office to finish his business. Arriving just at the time that the box car doors slide open, a man tosses the postal bags down to an attendant. James follows the mail bags inside the post office.

Looking at the post master, James delivers the outgoing correspondence then says, Is there anything for the Georgia Railroad? The postmaster says, Not yet. James nods his head then walks to the front corner of the post office. Standing to the side, James watches the rest of the people go about their business.

After a few moments, a tall bright-eyed, red-headed man walks in sporting his military colors. Looks to the post master and asks “Where is the mail coach?” The postmaster responds politely, “They will be here.” The military man says, “I have need of federal transportation. My orders are to report to Marietta.” The postmaster with a smile on his face says, “Ok captain. You need the afternoon coach. When they get here, I am sure that they will oblige.” The military man says, “Damn. I will be at the saloon. When the coach gets here, send them down there to get me. Have them ask for second lieutenant Sherman.”


James watches Sherman walk down the dirt road towards the general store. Flashing back to Ireland, James cannot separate his disdain for the British soldiers from the American soldier now fading from view. Taking a few deep breaths, James knuckles under his anger for the British government that enforced laws against teaching Irish children to read and write.

Georgia Railroad. Georgia Railroad Radiates the post office walls. A short silence before the postmaster loudly calls out, Is anyone here to pick up for the Georgia Railroad? James raises his left hand and says, “Here” With a quick jump step, James swiftly walking over to the post master. As James grabs the twine bound bundle of mail, the post master slides a receipt to James.

James thanks the post master then makes his way down the dirt street towards the livery. On the way, James decides to walk in the general store. The hustle and bustle of the store is impressive. Amidst all the commotion, the man behind the counter takes time to welcome James into the store. Slowly moving through the front of the store that is nearly elbow to elbow with women purchasing fabrics and food, James notices out in back of the store there is a collection of men haggling over the sale of cotton bales.

In a matter of thirty minutes, James watches the transactions amount to nearly one hundred dollars. Doing the simple math, James can see that the store could produce sales in the range of a thousand dollars per day. Under his breath speaking to himself James says, For a Thursday, this place is packed. This is the type of business for me.

A loud bump sound rattles the shelves drawing James attention to the back door. A wagon filled with bales of cotton is being unloaded onto a large scale. A shop keeper is keeping tally of the weight as each bail is shuffled on and off the scale. As the last bail is tossed to the floor, a total load count is called out to the front register, Store credit two hundred seventy seven pounds. Blalock farms. With a hand shake the cotton deal is done.

Looking out the front windows of the store, James notices the shadows are suggesting that the time for a mid-day meal has arrived. As James walks towards the door, a voice calls out, Thanks for visiting. With a quick nod of the head, James walks out the front door looking for a place to eat. Turning towards the center of town, James walks to a gray wood structure with a sign offering steak and eggs.

Upon entering the establishment, James heart jumps a few beats. The dust filled air casts a glare around the very military man that caused James to recon back to Ireland. Sitting at a table with his back to the wall, Sherman chews on a cigar as he swirls a whiskey with slow intentions. James walks towards the back wall looking for an open seat facing away from the front door.

Not more than a minute passes before a pretty young lady walks up to James asking, What will it be mister? James turns his head to train his eyes on the woman asking him a question. Before James can utter a word, his eyes are captivated by her beauty. With a slight giggle, she says, Hi my name is Anne. You are new around here?

With a deep swallow, James says, Working on the rail to Marthasville. In town to fetch the mail As James settles back in his seat, Anne leans forward exposing the milky white skin of her chest with her cleavage hiding just from view. The good catholic in James tries not to notice, but his eyes are drawn to her like a magnet. With a soft tone, James asks, What is good around here?

Anne giggles as she leans back and says, Well sir. We have lots to offer a young man. James watches as she starts to sway her hips side to side. James eyes watch intently as she slips her hands down her thighs to grasp her dress. With a quick tug, Anne’s dress ruffles up. Time after time Anne tosses her dress while swaying her hips side to side. Just as James starts to ask about the steak and eggs special, his attention is drawn to the scent of a woman. As James eyes widen, Anne smiles knowing that she has caught his attention.

Anne lowers her dress and leans towards James placing her hand on his arm and asks, How can I please you today? What is it that you desire? The hair on the back of James neck tingles electric. Never before has James dealt with such flattery, so James mumbles, I would really like the steak and eggs. With a firm grip of her hand on James arm, Anne says, Anything for you. How about a drink from our fine selection of liquor? James smiles and says, Water please.

Turning to the bar Anne yells, One steak and eggs. Turning back to James, Anne smiles. With two quick tugs on her dress, Anne ruffles her petty coat filling James nostrils with her womanly scent. As she turns to walk away, Anne says, I suggest that you come back for the muffin.

James watches Anne walk towards the front of the saloon. Time seems to stand still as Anne’s scent fades from memory. Only to be replaced by sight of the sunlight bouncing off the floor illuminating the dust particles the flow around Anne’s figure. The sparkle is that of an angel. A halo of fast moving dust that looks to be glittering out from her inner being.

The steak and eggs are tossed down on the table. Looking down upon James is a young man with his arm outstretched holding his hand open and palm up. The soft spoken boy says, Four cents. James tosses a half dime into the boys palm and says, Thank you. The change is yours. Bring me water. With wide eyes the boy scurries off only to return seconds later with a glass and pitcher of water.

As the boy smiles and slowly walks off, James bows his head to say grace. Father I give thanks for this meal that I am to receive. Praise be to you. Thank you for watching over our humble family in Meath, and we all, with your grace, soon be joined together again under the same roof once again. Amen. Looking up towards the door where Anne left the room, James mutters softly, and Lord, thank you for sending me an angel.

Returning his focus back to his meal, James tucks the napkin under his chin, then lifts his knife and fork to abruptly slice, the eggs. As the yolk begins to spread under the steak, James turns his attention to the well charred piece of meat. With several long strokes of the knife, James frees his first bite of steak in months. Swirling the steak in it juices, James takes a deep breath just before devouring the entire meal.

Lifting his head, looking around the saloon, James stands up tossing his napkin over his well cleaned plate. With a tug on his shirt, James turns towards the door with his eyes searching for one last glimpse of Anne. As James exits the saloon, the sun stands high in the mid-day sky. Looking down at his shadow, James realizes that the time has come to return back to camp.

Glancing up and down the street, James takes note that the general store has several wagons in front being heavily loaded with supplies. By far, the general store is the most active place in town. Turning to walk towards the livery, James picks up his pace striding swiftly back to his filly. James asks the attendant, How much for the feed? The attendant says, The rail road has done me good. Take her home. James grasps the filly’s reigns, and nods his head in appreciation.

Standing before the filly, James takes one last look down the main street. With a swift jump, James mounts the filly for the ride out into the woods. James tugs on the reigns and softly heal kicks the filly to start walking down main street. At the edge of town, James tugs on the reigns and firmly heal kicks the filly into a trot.

With a firm tug in the reigns, James double heal kicks the filly into a full gallop. The warmth of the day sheds away from James face by the cool air that is filtering out from the dense woods. In what seems like only a matter of minutes, the trail head back to camp comes into view. James slows the filly down, and trots back into camp.

Climbing up the stairs into the supervisor’s office, James proudly delivers the mail. The assistant looks to James and says, Wait right there. The super wants to see you. James not willing to even sit down stands in place. Mr. Thomson walks in asking James, How was the ride to town?

With Mr. Thomson standing inches from James face, James says, The ride was great. The filly is well suited for the ride. The road is with deep rut and rock. The super says, Fine then. You got the job. You are the first man to come back all year without liquor on his breath. Be here bright and early just after first meal. Tomorrow you begin your new task of camp accountant.

James smiles and says, Yes sir. With a single hop down out of the rail car, James hustles down the tracks searching for John. The wale of men barking out lyrics helping them to carry a rail segment, James spies John standing ready to guide the placement of the new section.

Once the men have released their load, John looks to James and says, I see you still have your job. What did you get called up front for? James smiles and says, You are looking at the new camp accountant. John nods his head and smiles while backing up into position to receive the fast approaching rail segment. John yells to James, Now get back. Make way for the real workers. You will need all those fingers and toes for counting with at you’re your new position.


With exuberance busting from his heart and visions rambling through his mind, James makes his way back to his shanty. Too excited to rest, James takes the time to work on the place that he calls home. While taking a short walk in the woods to look for suitable materials, James mind wonders off with visions of Anne standing with him. Quickly snapping back to the task at hand, James finds several large branches that are perfect to strengthen his home against gusting wind.

Consumed with the task at hand, James consumes the last few hours of the day with making the shanty a small fortress against the elements. With the sound of the dinner bell calling James to camp, the day light starts fade into the glow making the approach of another night.

John finds James sitting on a stump not far from the tracks. James says to John, I had a vision. Today while in town, I saw a future. One that will bring fortune to us both. I ask of the lord to divine me a plan. John with a giggle says, What is her name? I hear that Madison is filled with visions. James looks up from his plate, There is that, but there is no money in thinking those thoughts. I am talking about opening a general store. A store that sells everything a family needs.

James continues with his recollection of the transactions that took place in less than an hour. After a long rant John interrupts to ask, Where we going to get the money to open such a place? Silence ensues as James looks to the heavens. Moments pass as John finishes his food just as James utters his response, We will cross that bridge in Marthasville.

With a laugh John says, Funny that you say. Speaking of bridges. I volunteered to join the bridge builders. The pay is much better. Soon you will have this ole shack all to yourself. James looks to John and says, Pay. I did not even ask what the camp accountant gets paid. Surely there will be an increase. No matters. I am going to learn the business, and you cannot buy that kind of knowing.

John retires to sleep as James paces around the camp for hours. Looking at all the different items that belong to the Georgia Rail Road. The process of making mental notes has left James in a mental tizzy. James retires to sleep with thought after thought ravaging through his head. Tossing and turning the morning arrives before James feels that he has even gone to bed.

John steps out of bed looking down to James and says, Did you stay up all night? Go to the creek. Wash your face in the cold before reporting to the superintendent. James rustles out of bed and swiftly proceeds to the creek. The chill of the morning air condenses a fog lifting off the ground that is illuminated by the sun. James splashes the nearly frozen creek water on his face. With a loud shrill, James splashes his face several times. Standing up with a quick turn towards the sun, James embraces the brief moment of cold creek water mixed with warm sun.

Meandering back to camp to eat the morning meal, James focuses his mind on becoming a new man. Saying softly “Today is the day. Today is the day.” Busting with confidence James climbs the stairs into the superintendent’s rail car. With his head up and shoulders wide, James reports for duty. The assistant welcomes James with a stack of papers and says, Make sure we got these.

Tossing James a pencil, the assistant says, Your job today is to count the inventory of items that are on hand here at the camp. Make sure you count every box in the camp. Put an X next to the items that match the list. Underline the items that do not match. Now go to it

James asks, “When do I ride back into town to get the mail?” The assistant says, “Mail only comes twice a week. I expect that list in your hand will take you a couple of days to go through. If you want to go to town for the next mail shipment, you better have finished with the count.”

Thumbing through the pages of items to check, James says, “Yes sir. I will be back before you know I am gone.” With a hop skip, James heads to the door and jumps out of the rail car. After taking a few steps, James starts to realize that the list is a collection of items that are not in order as to their location in the camp.

The first few hours of the day pass quickly. James walks endlessly from one end of the camp to the other searching for each and every item on the list. Thirty Rail segments. Check. Fifty cases of spikes. Check. Then James reads, 900 yards of gravel. Only to blurt out, “How do I count a yard?” Not letting this stop his required duties, James walks to the gravel pit. Several men were loading a wagon with shovels of gravel.

Watching for a few moments, James asks, “How may yards does that wagon hold?” One man turns to grunt out, “Too many.” James giggles and another man says, “About three.” Perplexed by the task at hand, James shakes his head side to side trying to figure out how he is going to count the gravel for the inventory.

So James asks, “How many yards in that pile there that you are digging?” Silence fills the air as the men stop shoveling. One man says, “That there pile is about half what it was. We must have dug out 500 years this week.” James thanks the men, and makes his way back to the superintendent’s rail car.

The assistant looks up and asks, All done? James says, Not quite. May I have a sheet of paper please? The assistant complies with a perplexed look on his face. James sits to the side and starts to draw out a map of the camp. Fumbling the inventory list, James writes down the items at hand and places the number at their corresponding locations. Then with a swipe of the pencil. James divides the camp into four sections.

Standing up to hand the inventory to the assistant, James says, Most my day was spent walking end to end searching for items on the list. This map will let me check off the items on the list when I am in one section before moving to the next. Where can I keep it? The assistant looks to James and says, “Each inventory is different.” I make the list out when I get a bill for materials. What I Can do is use your map to create my lists. One for each section. James nods his head with a grand smile of appreciation on his face.

As if a great weight had been lifted from his entire being, James, breathing a sigh of relief, leaves the office and makes his way towards the camp. Spotting John in the distance, James briskly walks over to his brother. With a smile that extrudes pure joy, James proclaims that he had a very successful day in his new position. James tells John, My day started with a huge worry wart growing on the back of my neck, and the day ended with the assistant taking to heart one of my suggestions. Brother. The good Lord Father in heaven has shined his everlasting glory upon our souls.

John bows his head in silent pray, the he looks up and James and says, As long as I get to keep building things. I ask nothing more of our Lord. James remembers Mr. Thomson talking to a group of men saying that the Yellow Creek bridge is behind schedule. With a slight giggle in his voice James asks John, How would you like to build a bridge? John looks James square in the eyes and says, “This must be a dream. What, where, when?”

James backs up and sputters to John, I heard some talking the other day. I will drop your name with the boss tomorrow. James and John settle down to their evening chow. Slowly partaking of their meals, both James and John have a distant look in their eyes. James softly says, I can see the American dream. It is there before us. John turns and without a blink in his eyes, nods his head up and down and says, “I see it too.” As if time stood still, the dusk had been replaced by night. The day had come to its end.


The sound of hundreds of birds chirping fills the morning air. James knows that twilight has come and he jumps to his feet anxiously readying himself for another day. Heading out of the shanty before John has stirred to wake, James grabs a quick bite to eat then heads over to the office to wait for Mr. Thomson. With childlike expressions, James strolls back and forth knowing today is John’s day.

The instant that Mr. Thomson walks around the corner, James looks up ready to speak, but Mr. Thomson blurts out, Lynch, I need you in Madison. A shipment for our next camp should be there today, and it needs to be counted before it is placed on wagons. James buckles under his desire to bring up John for the bridge project and says, Right away sir.

With little delay, James jumps up the stairs into the office. The assistant hands James a pouch filled with papers and says, “Make double sure that each item is counted, and follow the wagons to the new camp.” James looks at the assistant and says, Will do, Then James clears his throat and asks, Are you still looking for men to build the bridge down the way? My brother John has experience building rock bridges back home. The assistant says, “I am not sure. I will ask.”

Buckling under a feeling of not doing John justice, James heads to the stable to ready his filly for the ride to Madison. Focusing on the task at hand, James saddles his mount making sure that he places the inventory pouch in the saddle bags. As James climbs up on the filly, he notices that the sun has begun to change the morning dew into a beautiful fog rising from the ground.

With head strong focus to accomplish the task for Mr. Thomson, James trots out of camp up to the trail where he kicks the filly into a gallop. The cool morning air envelops James with each stride of the filly. As James begins to approach the outskirts of Madison, thoughts of Anne start ramble into his mind.

Not able to clear his mind from the image of her hourglass figure, James decides the first stop after the livery will be the saloon. Grabbing the inventory pouch out of the saddle bags, James walks with determination in each step down main street. Step by step, James tries to think of something nice to say that will smile Anne’s face.

Standing outside the door to the saloon, James tucks his shirt in and brushes off his pants. While trying not to smile, James walks in the saloon looking side to side for Anne. With no Anne in sight, James walks to the bartender and asks if Anne is working today. The bar keep looks up and says, “Which Anne? We got a few. Most girls here come and go. Try back tonight. Now, what will you have?”

James stricken with a feeling that something is just not right today, smiles and says, Thank you. James turns to leave, and he takes a look around the saloon. One of the girls catches James eye. She is sitting at the table next to the exit. With a big smile on her face, she says, New around here? I am Colleen. Can I get you something? James pauses and says, “Do you know Anne?” She was in here the other day. Colleen quickly says, Marietta Anne? She filled in for me last week. She is a real looker. She works at night. That is when the big money is here. Who should I tell her came calling?

Filled with disappointment James says, That is ok. My nights do not allow me to venture up this way. Thank you. Colleen reaches out to take James by the hand. James looks down at her hand in his feeling the softness of a woman’s touch. Time stops as Colleen asks, Is there anything that I can do for you in her place? James averts his eyes to the ground, and he slowly pulls away from Colleen and says, “You are most kind.”

James slumbers out the saloon and down to the rail station. Trying to regain focus, James pats the inventory pouch with his open hand. Walking past the general store, James looks in to see how business is going. Several ladies and a few men were buying goods. James says to himself, This is the kind of business for me. Sit back and take people’s money.

With a renewed vision, James continues down to the rail station. In the distance, is a train whistle blowing. James picks up his pace shuffling down the street. With plenty of time, James turns the corner around the rail station. James sees about twenty wagons end to end waiting for the train to arrive.

As the train pulls into the station, James readies himself facing the first wagon. The steam of the train ruffles his pants and flutters the documents in hand. The train bell echoes chime after chime as more and more people collect at the station. A loud slam of the rail car door opening grabs James attention. The man says, Georgia Rail Road?, and James says, Yes.

The man reaches into a pouch pulling out a stack of paper. James reaches up to take the inventory list. Man after man climbs into the rail car forming a continuous line of workers that begin offloading the goods. As each item in placed in a wagon, James strives to keep an exact tally of everything heading to the camp. The large group of men makes quick work of loading the wagons.

As the afternoon sky fades, the wagons pull out of Madison heading for the camp. James rides behind the wagons making sure that not one single item falls off to the road side. With each rut in the road, James scans his eyes from side to side ensuring that nothing gets ditched. James knows well that his job is on the line, and that arriving at the camp with items missing would strongly suggest that goods had been stolen.

Each mile of the trip brings more darkness to the road. The glow of the setting sun gives just enough light for the wagons to pull into camp. With much work still to do, James walks the filly over to the stable. Removing her saddle, and brushing her down. James checks her shoes, and feeds her a large portion of hay. James pats her on the neck, and turns to walk away just as the camp dinner bell begins to ring.

James hustles to the supervisor’s office with the inventory documents in hand. Climbing up the stairs, James opens the door to find Mr. Thomson drawing on the construction plans. James places the inventory documents on the supervisor’s desk and says, Sir. Every item is accounted for and is in the camp. Mr. Thomson looks over at James and says, Good job. By this time next week, the tracks will be in place to bring the supplies directly to camp. No longer will you need to make that long ride to Madison.

The realization hits James like a locomotive. Hearing that he will not be going to Madison shocks James soul with mixed emotions. Deep down inside, James aches knowing that his dream of seeing Anne again is coming to an end. The walls of the rail car seem to be squeezing the breath out of James.

As Mr. Thomson looks back down to continue drawing, James obediently says, Yes Sir. That should speed up our progress considerably. James looks down at the plans where Mr. Thomson is drawing the final section to Marthasville. Mr. Thomson says, The last contracts have been signed. Our suppliers have agreed to exchange stock in the Georgia Rail Road for the supplies needed to reach our destination.

Mr. Thomson pauses for a second then says, The tracks are set to be laid all the way to Marthasville within the year. James forces a jovial smile to his face and says, I will do my part making sure every rail spike is accounted, and If I may, my brother John is hankering to help build that pesky bridge over the Yellow River. Back in Ireland, our father taught us how to be masons.

Mr. Thomson replies, Dully noted. Then with little temperance James blurts, “Sir, If it will help us reach Marthasville, I am willing to defer payment for my services in exchange for company stock?” The silence in the rail car is broken by the sound of Mr. Thomson dropping his pencil. Suddenly James is looking square in the face of Mr. Thomson. With a slight stutter James says, “I was just wondering.”

After a moment that lasted forever, Mr. Thomson slowly nods his head up and down saying, “Let me think about that request.” With egger enthusiasm, James bids a good night to Mr. Thomson, then James steps from the office rail car mumbling, Marthasville, Marthasville, Marthasville. Less than a year to Marthasville.

With each step James takes, a feverous chill engulfs his entire body. Like a bolt of lightning had shivered his skin. James blurts out, Marthasville. The end of the line. What better place to open a general store? With a smile on his face and with the dream of a general store warming his soul, James peacefully endures another chipped beef dinner.

The dust of the red Georgia clay scatters the evening sunlight casting shadows from the hundreds of rail workers filtering into camp dragging their weary legs. From the left side of the crowd, John emerges with his dinner plate in hand. Stopping in his tracks John looks to James and says, Brother. Brother James. Are you with us? Speak to me.

A smile appears on James face as he says, We should go to Augusta. I seek the blessing of a Church priest. For my mind is filled with sin. Money consumes my every thought. John takes a seat on the well-worn log next to James. John tries to catch his brother’s eye. Only to find James with harboring a distant gaze through the dust of the camp.

With a cheek full of over cooked beef John says, From the look of your being, I thought you were in lust of a woman. If your greed of money is that great, we must make the trip to see the Right Reverend John Barry. Our many Catholic brothers here tell me that he is a most righteous man.

James bows his head and stirs his food then says, There is Anne in Madison. Her radiance has captured my desires. She looks to be of good nature. Pausing for a moment James looks over to John and blurts, Brother, I am to be twenty one this year, I must be readying myself to provide for a family. Before long, only a spinster will want to share my bed. Speaking of bed. Night brother.


The first light of day breaks upon a group of men standing beside the wagon that is to take them to Madison. The driver jumps into his seat barking out his command for the men to load up. With no delay, James climbs onto the back end of the wagon making room for John to sit beside him. Several of the men are still drunk from the previous evening start singing songs praising the lord.

As the wagon bumps and grinds down the road to Madison, James takes notice of the vultures circling above the road. Forced by habit, James starts counting God’s creatures, Nineteen, Twenty. Again and again, Nineteen, Twenty. James elbows John, Did you notice the birds? There are twenty.

John looks to James and says, “So? What does it matter?” James shrugs his shoulders and says, I was just noticing. Ever since I took my new position, I find myself counting everything, and the numbers seem to have some kind of meaning. The Lord sending me a message. Yet I know not what it means.

With the first light of day breaking over the tree line, the wagon pulls into Madison. Before the wagon comes to a stop, the men start jumping out. Some of the run down the street towards the saloon. Most of them walk directly to the 7:00 A.M. train to Augusta. James and John are the last two to climb on board taking seats next to the windows.

After what seemed like forever, the train sounds its departure whistle. With a sudden jerk, the brake is released, and the train again sounds the whistle heading out of the station. As the train gains speed, the morning air blowing in the windows brings a chill to James face. With each passing mile, a love for the train begins to grip James soul.

Looking at John, James says, Within the year, we will be taking this train to Marthasville. That where I plan to open a general store, to set my roots, to build my family. John smiles and says, Sounds good brother. The relentless shaking and bumping of the rail car is interrupted by a distant voice calling out, “Scruggsville, next stop Scruggsville.”

With a sudden jolt, the train begins to slow, then flowed by the locomotive blasting out two long blows of the whistle. Another jolt rocks the rail cars, and the trains brakes begin to screech. Two more short blast of the whistle is followed by a sharp jolt. The blur of the trees passing through the windows has been reduced to a slow crawl. The rail cars slap together one last time as the train come to a stop with three long blasts of the whistle.

Stepping off the train with the mid-day sun directly overhead, James looks at the sign post reading Union Point. James begins to stroll towards the front of the train. Captivated by the engineer swiftly climbing from his station to position the water spout waiting ready to refill the locomotives water tank. The engineer raises his hand, and then he waves his hand at a young boy that quickly spins open a valve letting water flow.

James is mesmerized by the engineer readying the locomotive for the final leg into Augusta. While the water flows into the tank, the engineer jumps back into the locomotive and shovels coal into the fit pit. Like clockwork, the engineer jumps back out to check the water level, and then with a wave of his hand the boy shuts off the valve. The engineer pushes the water trough out of the way, and jumps back in the locomotive pulling on the whistle giving three long bursts.

James turns to join the crowd of people filtering back onto the rail cars. In the short time at the station, the heat of the day has filled the train. James brushes sweat from his brow while watching the trees beside the train slowly move away.

James looks to John and says, We must be getting close. The sun looks to be past mid-day.

With a loud blast of the whistle, the train begins to slow. James pokes his head outside the open window looking ahead for the Augusta terminal. As the train begins to stop, a sudden jerk forces James to pull his head back in the window. James says, “That was close. I need not show up to church with blood running from my nose.”

James and John patiently wait for the train to empty of people before exiting the rail car. Heading north out of the station, James is captivated by the deep blue sky that is contrasted by the bright green trees that line the edges of Broad Street. Looking between the buildings to the East, James gets small glimpses of the Savannah River. Then the moment is shattered by a man blurting out, There. Over there. The Most Holy Trinity Church.

James looks right then left. Suddenly James sees the steeple glimmering from the golden sunlight surrounded with a pure deep blue. As James picks up his pace, five tall evenly spaced white columns stand strong from one side of the church to the other. James smiles as he stands before the large granite steps that span the width of the church. James turns to John and says, “Now this is a rightful house for our lord.”

Slowly walking up the steps towards the open double doors, James looks up to watch the cross on top of the steeple disappear from sight. Lowering his head as he crosses the threshold into the sanctuary mumbling up his breath, Forgive me Father.

At that instant a voice calls out, Come in. Everyone please come in. My name is Father John Barry, and I welcome you to the Most Holy Trinity. The service for today is long over, but I will hear those that wish to give their confession.

A quiet descends upon the church, then a shuffle is heard as most everyone takes a seat in the pews. Several men kneel down entering into prayer as a shuffle of bible pages echo the walls. As John takes a seat, James softly says, I am confessing. With a nod from John, James walks to overtake a place in the line at the confessional.

With each person that enters the confessional, time seems to get slower and slower as James ponders the sins that he is to confess. The alter flowers captivate James vision as a multitude of sins collect in his brain. Knowing that many months may pass before the next confession.

James watches the door open and come to a stop with a slight squeak of the hinges. The man exiting has a somber look upon his face. James knows that this is going to be serious. With a shuffle step, James tugs the door closed behind him, and he takes his place in the confessional.

The silence is broken with the lone voice, “Are you here of your own free will to give of your confession?” James responds, “Yes.” Then a soft reply, “Begin.” James takes a deep breath and says, “Forgive me father for it has been three years since my last confession in my home town of Slane in Ireland.”

A silence is all that is heard, so James continues, “Father, please forgive me for my mind is filled with thoughts of money. Father please forgive me for my mind is filled with work. Father please forgive me for my mind is filled with lust for a woman. Father please forgive me for not reading the word from the good book every day. Father please forgive me.”

James heart beat races as he waits for a response. A soft voice replies, “Fear not my child, our father in heaven is merciful. Your confession here this day is a first step towards the salvation of your sinful soul. Do not let your thoughts of money lead you to take advantage of others. Keep your focus on the charity to fellow men so that you do not commit the sin of greed.”

The Father continues, “As for your lust of a woman. If she is to be your bride, then you have committed no sin. There is nothing wrong with a good Catholic man seeking out a suitable woman to bear him many wonderful children. Choose a path that will provide the money needed to bring forth a family forged in the deed roots of the Catholic faith. Let not the temptations of a scarlet lead you away from the righteous path of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.”

After a brief pause the Father says, “Finally, the answers to your questions can be found in the good books scriptures. Read your verses every day. Go with the Lord. Give of yourself to God in your every action. God will show you the way to salvation. Praise be to God, and hale Mary. James stands up and says, Thank you Father. Praise be to God. Hale Mary.”

Slowly opening the confessional door, James looks out to see John kneeling in prayer second row back from the alter. Deciding not to interrupt Johns moment with the Lord, James takes a seat in the last row of pews. James looks up at the alter asking of the Lord to bring forth a good Catholic woman to bear his children. Kneeling down, James prays for the money needed to support a good Catholic family.

As the Sun begins to fade, James walks over to John and says, The supply train leaves soon. John abruptly stands up and says, “I am ready.” With a bow of the head, James and John leave the Church for the short walk back to the station. James tells John, The supply train will take us right back to the camp. We will not have the fancy seats like we did on our way here, but we will have a pile of grain sacks to rest upon.

With the setting Sun glowing on the horizon, James stands ready to board the train. James looks towards the church and says, Lord I am yours. At that moment the train bell starts to rings. James climbs the steel ladder into the cargo car. In a quick shuffle, James pulls a few eighty pound bags of grain down off a large pile. James places a bag for the seat, and places a bag for a back rest facing the open door. As the train pulls out of the station, John quickly does the same.

As night falls, James and John drift off into a deep sleep. Hours pass, and James wakes up to the sound of a bottom blow down. The engineer is cleaning out the locomotives boiler. As James is about to climb down from the train, the loud hiss finally wakes up John. Startled by the sound, John asks, Is that a waterfall? James giggles and says, Get up. We are home.