John Henry

  • Legends From Around The World
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

 A ''steel driving Man'' – ''John Henry'' was another American Folk ''Hero'' which was pure fiction (despite many saying John was a ''real'' person). His legend served several purposes. The first to establish that despite what ''modern advances'' are made in The World – it will always take the ''heart and soul'' of a Human Being to make what is needed or deter what is not. The second, was relating to John Henry being an African American. With His mythos staring in the mid-19th Century AD (not long after the end of The American Civil War and the establishment of Emancipation of former Slaves), John represented a ''strong and independent Man of Color'', and an early example to ''striving for what One whats and can do, despite being told they can't). An ''average Man'', John Henry was said to be 6-foot tall and ''made of more muscles than any Man''. He took a job as a ''Steel Driver''. This was a manual and very hard labor position, which involved placing a Rail Tie Spike into a support and hammering it into both tie hook and wood. John was so good at the task, He used ''two 100-pound Rail Hammers. It was said that once John got His ''wind up'', He could lay 50-miles of track a day (an impossible feat). John was said to be a literal ''machine'' and loved by His fellow Crew and Line Boss, alike. When sometimes a Tunnel thru Granite was needed, if John was near, He would plough thru the rock more safely than any ''stick of Dynamite could''. But then came the challenge and eventual ''death'' of the Mighty John Henry.

One day a new Boss came. He did not like John Henry and wanted to ''show Him up''. The Boss brought in a new piece of equipment. This was a ''Steam Driver''. The device was said to Hammer mechanically, more rails than any Man. John scoffed. The Boss said He wanted to see who was in fact faster. The Race was set between John Henry and The Machine. Neck and neck John stayed with The Steam Driver, hammering so fast, the very sound mimicked a Steam Engine speeding by. Soon John had the lead, moving so fast, that it was said that all rail lines that day in West Virginia, were laid in a single moment. But this overwork turned out to be too much for The Machine, which ''blew up''. And while John won the Race, He complained about something He had never been before – tired. John begged to go to rest (sleep). He did so, and died in His sleep. It was said that John was really more saddened by the fact that (although He beat The Machine), soon a ''job such as His'' would be replaced. Without hope for this, Men would become lazy and too reliant on Machines. Maybe John Henry was right.