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WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 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. www.wordvirgin.com
The Woods is available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H59NIHQ .
Installment Two, The Woods:
Nariff Olben let out a loud grunt, then sucked in another load of damp, mountain air. He let the rough handle of the sledgehammer ease back against his belt buckle and adjusted the black eye patch that had lost its grip-said he'd lost the eye in a fight on a fishing boat off Malta. Then, in a single motion, he once again wrenched the heavy sledge high above his six-foot frame, drove it hard into the head of the metal spike-with a gunshot crack-and let out another loud grunt.
All afternoon, now reaching past four o'clock and quickly approaching the windy ride down the mountain behind the old locomotive, Nariff recited, in alphabetic order, all the forms of currency that he claimed were in use around the world. In his travels as a seaman on a Dutch freighter and earlier as a railway clerk in Marrakesh, he had developed an "appreciation for currency," as he put it, heightened by the ravishes of the Great Depression, which had stranded him and his freighter in Seattle during the early months of 1931.
"Peseta. Pound. Rupee. No, that's outa' order. Ruble-from Russia, sorry-then Rupee." After six or seven, he would raise the sledgehammer again, slam it into the railroad spike, then go on.
By late afternoon, Nariff had almost run out of currencies, despite his worldly travels. The rest of his crew-Charles Walker, Whitey Storm, Barney Harten, Lightning Stevens, Conrad Bruel-had come to ignore him months earlier. But eighteen-year-old Albert Weissler, who had just joined the crew, provided a new audience.
"Let's see now"-whump wheeze-"I think there ain't many down here at the end of the alphabet. There's, ah-course, the Yen and the Zloty, but I think that's it."
They had worked on this section of track since morning, first dumping gravel under the existing ties, then packing it tight. Then, to give the rails additional support, they inserted new ties-six-foot-long twelve-by-twelve's, sturdy foundations for the heavy spikes they drove in to hold the steel rails…
This broad, open expanse was called the "the landing." Though it lay thousands of feet up in the Cascade Range, this was the working base of the land that Skybillings logged. From here, the fir-covered slopes to the west rose steeply upward, another 6,000 feet or more, as did those to the south-these, finally quitting when the rough granite face of Three Sisters Ridge overpowered the massive firs. Three Sisters stretched to the east for perhaps a mile, and at its base, a ravine that itself was a half-mountain long, deep, and wide.
On the distant shore-the far edge of the ravine and butted tight against the granite of Three Sisters Ridge-lay the rest of the Skybillings land.
Whitey Storm squatted next to Nariff, eyeing the ties. "What do you think?" asked Whitey.
Nariff stepped onto the closest rail, bouncing his weight up and down. "Christ man, these little babies is perfect."
Nariff Olben was a man of perfection. Albert saw that from the very first day. Despite his apparent don't-give-a-damn attitude, Nariff insisted on precision in all of his work that few other section chiefs in the Northwest even came close to.
Buckers and fallers trotted alongside the Shay locomotive that was now rumbling slowly down the steep incline. Its two trailing flatcars looked like toys beneath the mass of the Douglas firs they carried, both logs dripping broken twigs and fir boughs and mud goo. The Shay screeched painfully against the dead-weight tons of steel and wood pushing from behind.
Ferguson, the engineer, hung his chubby head out the window to check the rails. He now added a little more throttle, shouting toward Nariff. "You old fart, Nariff Olben. I didn't think you had enough brains to make those things hold a toy wagon."
Nariff smiled and flipped him the finger. Fergie tipped his hat in response.
Now the Shay passed slowly over the section of rails that had gotten the new ties, which obligingly shifted, but as intended, gently eased back and then re-settled firmly in place.
Read the next installment tomorrow….
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