November 16, 2014 Off

Hostile environment faced by workers

By in jobs

“I could make more money.” Cody’s re¬frain echoes today, among young railroad workers in Kansas, for example. A brake¬man leaned on the counter at the Oakley, Kansas, depot, the only crew-change station between Denver and Salina, and explained, “There’s good money in railroading [brake-men’s wages start at $25,000] for someone with no college, no ties.”
The last passenger train whistled through Oakley in 1971. So I climbed up into the cab of an eastbound freight, at the invitation of Union Pacific, to see the route Cody came to know as hunter and scout.

hostile-work-environment

Where buffalo grass once waved, endless fields of winter wheat ripened in the May sunshine. Like oases in the vastness, farm¬steads stand within palisades of trees, plant¬ed by pioneers. Ducks flew up from a marshy ditch, and a deer bounded across the tracks. The engineer pointed to an oil well pumping in the middle of a cornfield. “Now that’s what I call farming.”hostile enviroment_for_employees

The freight passed through Hays. From the fort here Cody learned to scout with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok. Nearby he once sold illegal whiskey from a tent city called Rome. He and a partner sold lots, dreaming that Rome would become the depot town. But Rome fell. Railroad men built Hays.

 

The train rattled on. Three miles to the east at Big Creek a granite obelisk on a knoll above a cottonwood grove reflected the set¬ting sun. “That’s a cemetery for six track-layers killed by Cheyennes in 1867,” the engineer said. He blew his whistle for a crossing. It seemed more like a salute.

The Cheyennes in 1867 were enraged. The track was cutting through their hunting ground like a spear through the jugular. Game was disappearing; trees were felled. Three years earlier the Colorado militia had massacred a Cheyenne village at Sand Creek, ignoring both U. S. and white flags flown by peace leader Black Kettle. Now young braves were fighting back. Their sud¬den raids and fast retreats, their horse steal¬ing and hostage taking had all the markings of guerrilla warfare. The Army called them hostiles.