Archives for posts with tag: Utah

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by Rachel Hawk

In August 1965, my friend Barbara and I drove out of Ohio and headed to San Francisco. Unlike our friends, we weren’t ready to get married, buy houses, and have kids. And thought we might never be. We had other dreams and imagined livelier, more varied lives in a beautiful city by the ocean. Because we were nurses, finding work would be easy. Zigzagging across the country, we stopped whenever something caught our fancy. The Golden Spike National Historic Site did just that.

In 1869, two teams of men completed the building of this country’s first transcontinental railroad, laboring toward each other from Iowa and California. For 1,912 miles they  burrowed tunnels, built bridges, and laid down track. It was a massive, arduous, dangerous undertaking. Finally, on May 10th at Promontory Point, Utah Territory, the men hammered a commemorative gold spike into the last, connecting rail, joining east to west. Surrounded by tents, saloons, and boarding houses, the crowd of dignitaries, railroad workers and owners brandished their whiskey bottles, posed for pictures, and cheered. The dangers of crossing multiple raging rivers, deserts, and mountain ranges in horse-drawn wagons had been conquered, making it possible for thousands to travel safely. It had been considered an impossible dream.

When Barbara and I visited, everything — trains, buildings, even the tracks themselves — were gone. As true of many landmarks, there was only a descriptive sign; nothing remained but the story. It was enough. Standing in the wind of that vast beautiful high-desert plain, the excitement of a great endeavor caught us. This was a monument not only to hard work and accomplishment, but also to dreams — and we had our own.

PHOTOGRAPH: National Park Service sign for the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory Summit, Utah, by Sue Smith, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Between 1863 and 1869, as many as 20,000 Chinese workers helped build the treacherous western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad that began in Sacramento, California. When not enough white men signed up, the railroad began hiring Chinese men for the backbreaking labor. Chinese workers blasted tunnels through mountains, cut through dense forests, filled deep ravines, constructed long trestles, and built enormous retaining walls. Chinese workers were paid 30-50% less than their white counterparts and were given the most dangerous work. As they approached the meeting point with the Union Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah, thousands of Chinese workers laid down 10 miles of track in less than 24 hours. Progress came at great cost: Chinese civic organizations retrieved an estimated 1,200 bodies along the route and sent them to China for burial. The transcontinental railroad’s completion allowed travelers to journey across the country in a week — a trip that had previously taken more than a month. Politicians pointed to the country’s great achievement, failing to mention the foreign-born workers who had made it possible.

Source: “Remember the Chinese immigrants who built America’s first transcontinental railroad” by Gordon H. Chang, professor of history, Stanford University, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2019.

PHOTO: Chinese workers toil in a treacherous stretch of the Transcontinental Railroad in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, late 1860s. (Source: National Park Service.)

PHOTO: Ceremony on May 10, 1969 for installing the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, representing the completion of the First U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). They are surrounded by men who built the railway — but Chinese workers are noticeably absent. Many of the laborers who worked their way west on the Union Pacific Railroad were Irish immigrants — about 3,000 in all, many of whom were veterans of the Union Army in the Civil War. They, too, faced dangerous working conditions and hardships. Photo: Andrew J. Russell, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, used by permission.)

PHOTO: In 2014, on the 145th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad’s completion at Promontory Summit, Utah, a group of Asian-Americans, including descendants of Chinese railroad workers, recreate the iconic photo taken without their ancestors in 1869. Photo (c) Corky Lee, All Rights Reserved. 

PHOTO: Plaque at Promontory Summit, Utah, placed in 1969 to commemorate the centennial of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad and to honor “the Chinese workers of the Central Pacific Railroad whose indomitable courage made it possible.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Today, at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, visitors can see full-sized exact replicas of the original (and colorful!) Victorian-era locomotives. According to the National Park Service website, the site now features a visitors’ center as well as driving tours, hiking trails, and re-enactments of driving the Last Spike.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Hawk facilitates a weekly writers’ forum. Her personal essays explore both the interior world of the narrator and the nuances within relationships. Her current work utilizes elements of memoir in narrative form.

by Robin Glassey

My field
Greets me each day.
Changing seasons —
Brown, green, gold, filled with sunflowers.
What will I see today,
Deer, antelope, coyote?

A lone tree standing,
A sentinel.
A place of adventure
Where children play on a summer’s day.
A hawk’s home — he sits watching, waiting.

My mountains
Guard my field.
An ancient warrior scarred by battle
Mined for coal — but beautiful still.
Decorated in copper, browns and golds,
In winter, frosted in white.

Sunset bathes you in reds and oranges
Changing you minute by minute,
Second by second,
A new image, a new beauty —

My field will soon be filled
With homes, sidewalks, streets
Cars choking the roads.
No open space, no sunflowers
No sentinel, no antelope.

My field was never really mine,
Just my view —
My view that will soon be gone.
Gone to progress, gone to development.

But for today the sun shines
On the copper-streaked mountain,
On the brown field,
On the lone tree,
On my grateful heart.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although writing fantasy is my main genre, I tend to write poetry when I am feeling strongly about something. I saw the call for submissions on Where I Live for poetry and felt that I needed to write a poem about the field and mountains just west of my home before they are developed. Just this past year we discovered that the area west of us has been sold and will have hundreds of homes put in. We had thought that this land would not be touched for years to come as the farmer had said he would never sell. He was referred to as “the last holdout.” What I refer to as a field in the poem is actually land that stretches all the way to the Oquirrh Mountains. There is nothing in between but field. When you look to the east you see homes, buildings, lights — development. Soon my view to the west will look the same. I wanted to write this poem before this beautiful view is gone.

PHOTOGRAPH: “My View” (Utah) by Robin Glassey.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robin Glassey was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, and currently resides in Utah with her husband and four boys. Her current passion is writing science fiction fantasy novels set in the world of Fathara and her books The Least of Elves, Secrets of Fathara, and The Veil of Death can be found on and b& A former psych tech at LDS Hospital and graduate of BYU, Robin returned to college to take classes just for the fun of it. Besides writing, she is addicted to taking pictures, eating French fries, and watching Doctor Who.

by Simon J. Ortiz

Two nights ago
in the canyon darkness,
only the half-moon and stars,
only mere men.
Prayer, faith, love,
                       We are measured
by vastness beyond ourselves.
Dark is light.
Stone is rising.
I don’t know
if humankind understands
culture: the act
of being human
is not easy knowledge.
With painted wooden sticks
and feathers, we journey
into the canyon toward stone,
a massive presence
in midwinter.
We stop.
                       Lean into me.
The universe
sings in quiet meditation.
We are wordless:
I am in you.
Without knowing why
culture needs our knowledge,
we are one self in the canyon.
And the stone wall
I lean upon spins me
wordless and silent
to the reach of stars
and to the heavens within.
It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.
“Culture and the Universe” appears in Simon J. Ortiz‘s collection Out There Somewhere (University of Arizona Press, 2002).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simon J. Ortiz, an Acoma Pueblo Indian, was born and raised near Albuquerque, New Mexico, grew up speaking the Acoma tongue. After attending Fort Lewis College and the University of New Mexico, Ortiz earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the University of Iowa in 1969. In the early 1970s he began to write in earnest while teaching at various colleges, and in 1982 won a Pushcart Prize and a wide audience with From Sand Creek. His work also includes 1992’s Woven Stone—a spiritual autobiography that blends poetry and prose. (Read more at

PHOTO: “Stars over Bryce Canyon” (Utah) by Dana Sohm, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.