Final Installment: From the Opening Chapter of Ronald Lee Geigle's, The Woods

Dec 28, 2013, 08:00 ET from WordVirgin

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The opening chapter of Ronald Lee Geigle's new novel, The Woods—a  saga of love, grand dreams, and transformation set in the world of railroad logging and labor unrest in the Pacific Northwest during 1937—is being presented in serial form December 25 – 28. The novel is being published in association with WordVirgin, an indie publishing platform in Washington, DC, Seattle, and Edinburgh.  


The Woods is available at

Final Installment, The Woods:

Spring, 1937

It hung there.  The ten-ton Shay locomotive, tethered to the taut, steel cables and the screaming winch—all perfectly balanced.  Enveloped by sound and smell, and smoke that stung the eye, the iron beast didn't move.

Then a wave of men flowed toward it, to save it, to settle it safely back to earth.  Several—Conrad Bruel and Charles Walker in the middle—wound more cables around the body of the locomotive, then winched them to another massive fir standing not far from the track.  Others poured gravel into the muck—of mud, oil, and charred wood—that lay below the locomotive, then threw down wooden ties, all laid shoulder to shoulder, to build a wooden platform.  Lightning Stevens and Nariff Olben stood in the middle, directing the placement, as the makeshift crisscross foundation began to form just underneath the iron wheels.  

Bud Cole called out for everyone to stand back, then lowered his arm slowly as St. Bride loosened the winch.  Again, the sound of screeching metal as the Shay settled onto the wooden base, which groaned under the growing load.  Only a few ties slipped.

Bud signaled for St. Bride to let out more slack, which brought more groans from the wood—then a metallic pingked, pingked shot through the air as one of the cables snapped and bullwhipped within killing-reach of several men.  The Shay jolted downward, but then stopped, as the others cables held tight.  Men from both ends of the locomotive rushed in again to set more ties, others raced to add more cables.

Albert set out for the gravel pile, but before he reached it, the sickening staccato sound—pingked, pingked—again echoed through the clearing, followed by metal tearing against metal.  He turned just as the Shay lurched forward, then pitched violently sideways, sending men lunging in all directions.  For a moment, it seemed to teeter, as if uncertain to stay up or fall over, then finally it slumped hard onto its side.  As it did, it up-ended the flatbed cars it had been pulling, unleashing the massive fir logs that now shot down the steep incline toward Albert.

He lunged for the ground, landing behind an upturned stump, just as one of the massive firs slammed against it—spraying bullets of bark and broken wood into his back and legs.  The taste of the dank, bitter dirt filled his mouth and the hard roots and rocks moved beneath him as the log shot over him and sailed downward with a rumbling roar. 

In an instant, all was silent.  The ground was still.  Albert could hear himself breathe.  He lifted his head slowly and peered down the slope to find a broad expanse of smashed stumps and torn branches, and the flat outcropping of rock at the edge of the ravine ripped clean of bushes and scrub pine.  The logs had swept down this slope, crushed everything in their path, and then shot outward into a free-fall to the bottom of the ravine.

He heard cries and moans.  Men lay scattered between the stumps below him, a few not moving.  Up the slope, several more lay on the ground, and just beyond—through the smoke and steam—he could make out ten or maybe twenty men, digging furiously with shovels at the edges of the fallen Shay, its smokestack still belching fire across fifty feet of ground, singeing stumps and loose twigs with cinder fire.  The engine itself was on its side, engulfed in a foot of mud.

As he stood up, and stared intently at the front of the engine, blinking hard to focus his eyes, he saw Bud Cole pawing away dirt and muck from underneath the smokestack, shouting the name of Nariff Olben.

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