WASHINGTON, Dec. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The opening chapter of Ronald Lee Geigle's new novel, The Woods, set in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the Great Depression, is being presented in serial form starting today. The novel is being published in association with WordVirgin, an indie publishing platform based in Washington, DC, Seattle, and Edinburgh. www.wordvirgin.com
The Woods is a saga of love, grand dreams, and transformation that takes place in the world of railroad logging and labor unrest in the Pacific Northwest during 1937. It is now available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H59NIHQ .
Installment One, The Woods:
That was the word, Albert decided. That was the word that described it all. And because he was good with words, Albert knew that he'd found the right one.
Though just ten miles up the valley from Albert's home in Seakomish, the Skybillings Logging Company was a taste of the magic he'd longed for in all of his eighteen years—or at least all of those that he could remember. Repairing the tracks in a logging railway—which carried ancient firs from the high reaches of the Cascade Mountains to the lumber mills along Puget Sound—gave him blisters that bled and arms that hung like cord wood at the end of the day. But the cold air six thousand feet up in the mountains made him feel warm.
Since the day six weeks earlier when he had arrived at Skybillings Logging Company, Albert had worked for Nariff Olben and his crew laying the tracks—they called them "sections"—for the rough-hewn Skybillings railroad line that inched its way up the Cascade Mountains from Seakomish. The Skybillings track climbed the grade along Roosevelt Creek, with its boulders and hard-charging water; wound through the towering Douglas firs that crowded the steep inclines of the Cascade Range; then—miles later and many thousands of feet higher—finally broke into the sunlight along the sharp edge of a deep and wide ravine.
Skybillings Lumber Company wasn't the only one to lay down a logging railroad high in the Cascades, of course. Skybillings was one of hundreds of railroad logging companies—the locals called them logging "shows"—that operated in the Cascades during the late 1930s.
All of them built and maintained their own lines. Some shared the same tracks in the lower part of the valleys around Seakomish. But then, as you rose higher, the tracks quickly splintered into the lines of individual companies, a spider web that disappeared into the dense forest and steep inclines. With no roads, the logging shows couldn't get the timber out any other way, and sometimes even had to log right up to the snowfields. They ran powerful steam locomotives to haul out the old Douglas firs, some 500 or 600 years old—some nearing a thousand years even—and so wide at the base that six men with arms outstretched still couldn't reach around them. The engines that pulled them were Shays and Baldwins and Heislers, all of them with their names emblazoned in silver or embossed white on their flat black noses. Tons of metal to haul tons of wood.
The Skybillings locomotive, a Shay, ten tons of black iron, spouted steam and cinders, and it screamed against the terrible weight of the firs it hauled. But—once loaded—the Shay finally, painfully, crept along the rock ledges, then descended slowly along the mountain shoulders, back down the Roosevelt Creek Valley, through Seakomish, carrying the massive firs to the mills in Everett or Seattle, mills that stripped them clean and sawed them and shaped them into lumber that was rebuilding New Jersey and New York and "the whole East Coast"—it was how they said it—as America began to recover from the ravages of the Great Depression.
Skybillings was part of that. Albert Weissler—proud of his eighteen years, born in Seakomish, of reasonable muscles and a quick mind—liked that he was now part of it, too.
In spring, 1937, of course, families still rode the rails because of the Depression, which everyone said was already in the history books as the worst ever. The jobs still couldn't be found, at least for most people. Everett itself—the smaller, poorer, little brother lying north of Seattle—ached with the unemployed and the hopeless. The labor union tensions in the woods still festered and got bloody at times. But Skybillings—and the railroad logging shows of the Cascade Mountains—felt like they were, inch-by-inch, rebuilding America.
Read the next installment tomorrow….
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