A LESSON IN WOODCHOPPING

The transcontinental railroad came to Utah in 1869 linking at the golden spike. Then, like weeds in the desert, the branches off the main line spread southward through the valleys and canyons of the Utah Territory.
Built by the hands of Chinese and Irish emigrants who laid the track, the “Utah Southern” extension naked its way from Juab Station near Levan in 1881 down through Delta to Milford then westward to the mining town of Frisco, Utah in 1882.
When the “Utah Southern” reached the Horn Silver Mine, the line stopped. Now the Irish went to work in the mines, but the Chinese didn’t like mining, and were afraid of the caverns underground. So, they spent their time doing odds jobs around town.
The typical vocation was a laundry. Four industrious Chinese brothers banded together to form the Frisco Chinese Laundry. It was located on Horn Silver Avenue behind the company store in a shack left vacant by a luckless prospector. The three older members of the firm (as was the custom) ran the business. The fourth member, being smaller, was sent on deliveries and pick-ups and performed menial tasks like keeping the shack clean and chopping stove wood to keep the water hot.
The Frisco Chinese Laundry did quite well until one day when the smallest member decided to find a new way to chop stove wood. You see, most of the wood he had to chop was juniper posts or stumps, and juniper is a very hard wood indeed.
The littlest brother dragged the juniper logs from their neatly stacked pile. He had some trouble standing three of them in a triangle, but after a number of miscues and slivers he finally made it. With three of them standing, leaning together he had the basic foundation of teepee lodge poles. To this he added more cedar poles until he had plenty of wood to last the season. Then he gingerly brought from its hiding place a keg of black giant powder that he had borrowed from the Horn Silver Mine one dark night.
He uncorked the keg and poured a thin line of black powder from the corner of the laundry shack to the stack of poles. Then he softly laid the keg in the middle of the cedar “teepee.” He scurried back to the edge of the laundry.
From the corner of the building, he could see the thin line of black that ran to the poles.
He bent down and struck a match to the powder. The bright fire fizzed and fumed and raced in a sparkling dance down the black line. He covered his eyes. The flame disappeared in the stack.
Silence.
He peaked around the corner of the laundry, The pale blue smoke was drifting away. The fuse had gone out. He crept out and walked slowly toward the stack of logs.
KA-BOOM!!
The stack flew open like a blossoming flower, cart wheeling juniper poles outward. The rear wall of the laundry collapsed inward followed by spinning cedar logs just as the roof fell in. One log whizzed by the littlest brother neatly removing his left ear. He ended up on his back in a daze watching pieces of juniper wood sail over him.
In a moment the chips began to fall, and the ground was covered with small shreds of bark and branch. All the windows in the rear of the Horn Silver Store were knocked out as well as a number around town. The dust and smoke drifted skyward.
Frisco, Utah had a year’s supply of kindling wood and chips, and for the rest of the day it rained sawdust all over town. The Chinese laundry men left on the next train.

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