The United States Grows

Chiang--Rails East

Chiang--Rails East
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   2.31

     challenging words:    annoying, BOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM, pointed, hacked, midday, immoveable, meanness, spite, better, bullied, rocks, stubborn, explosion, portion, Ooof, hearing
     content words:    Lee Chow, Sierra Nevadas, But Lee, Big Boss, But Lu Wong, Lu Wong, But Chiang

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Chiang--Rails East
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     Chiang climbed into the basket with the others. Lee Chow tugged on his rope handle. The basket was lowered down the rock face. Twenty-three days they had worked at this spot. Inches at a time they had chiseled away at the rock with picks and spikes. Chiang sighed. The rock was stubborn, he thought. Hard, immoveable, stubborn.
2     Chiang sipped tea as he rode down. Soon they'd be down to last night's stopping point. They had to finish the tunnel today so that the track could be laid. Boss had warned them. They were falling behind. Boss was angry at the workers and the mountains. The Sierra Nevadas were holding up his train.
3     Chiang smiled. Boss and the rock were alike. Hard and ugly. Boss wanted a hole in the rock for the train to go through. He would do anything to get it. He'd raged and bullied, even struck workers. But rock is harder than men, Chiang thought. The rock could make holes in men. Chiang had seen it happen. Two men had been killed on this tunnel alone.
4     An annoying tug, tug, tug on his shirt shook Chiang from his daydream. Lee Chow, the elder of their crew, pointed to a loop of rope hanging from the top of the rock. Chiang hated wearing the safety rope. He was always getting himself and his tools tangled in it. But Lee insisted. Safety ropes for everyone.
5     "Yes, Grandfather," Chiang muttered. Grudgingly, he pulled the rope over his head and tightened it around his waist. He glanced up to see Lee smiling.
6     The older man had heard Chiang's muttering. Lee patted Chiang's back. "An extra grandfather is better than a long fall to the rocks, eh?" he said. He handed Chiang a pick.
7     They were making holes for the powder today. Boss wanted to blast this rock out of the way once and for all. Chiang hacked steadily away at the rock. At midday Lee passed around food from the small basket in the corner. Each man got a portion of rice and vegetables from last night's meal. A few minutes to eat, and then back to work.
8     "We find that when we are in a hurry for a job of work," Big Boss had said, "it is better to put Chinese on at once." Chiang was proud that the Chinese were known for their steadiness and hard work. But Chiang's people got less money for their work than the whites. On top of that, the Chinese paid for their own room and board. The whites did not.

Paragraphs 9 to 22:
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