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Ezra and Gus

Ezra and Gus

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Ezra and Gus

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Lançado em:
Oct 18, 2017


Yesteryear! When airbrakes and knuckle couplers were new and unreliable; when railroaders were larger-than-life heroes who toiled on the razor-edge of calamity; when women loved them with unbridled passion, never knowing if they’d ever return from that next run.

Ride the caboose with brakeman Ezra Miles, and the engine cab with fireman Gus Svensen as they steam forth to challenge Fate and Nature, eventually embracing their entwined destiny. Meet Abby and Annette, feminists before their time who learned how to get ahead in a man’s world; whose strong-willed natures had to be a match for these tough, hard-living railroaders whose precarious lives they dared to share.
Witness the turmoil that ensues when the nation’s first big business – the railroads – locks horns with the nation’s first and foremost embodiment of organized labor – the railway unions – in the great strikes of Spring, 1894. See how the very survival of a far-flung Northwest frontier society is threatened as the wheels of commerce grind to a halt and cars full of foodstuffs, dry goods and farm implements clog rail yards.

Observe unyielding rail barons throw caution to the wind and take daring measures to reopen these fragile lifelines, while equally determined workers do all in their power to keep them closed. Caught in the middle, irate citizens take sides; communal cohesion breaks down into factions, for and against. In desperation, communities lobby governments to intervene. The ruinous deadlock must be broken – with troops if necessary.

Stand in the overpowering shadow of the ‘Empire Builder’ – railroad president and tycoon, James Jerome Hill – whose iron will drove the Great Northern RR across the Great Plains and through the Western Cordillera to tidewater on the Pacific Ocean. Marvel at the sheer luck of this premier captain of industry as he relentlessly cuts a swath through the rolling prairies and blasts through the lofty alpine massifs of the Montana Rockies. Share his dreams and nightmares as he vigorously defends his hard-won empire of steel against all comers.

In this prequel to Rage! I invite you to come down to the depot and let me buy you a first-class ticket to a world gone by. Climb aboard with me and relive the life and times of the stalwart railroaders who manned the GN’s dangerous Kalispell Division in the midst of the Montana Rockies.

Savor a time when young boys hung around the depot to watch the trains pass. Whenever a hissing, panting locomotive squealed to a halt, they ran down the platform to stand next to the behemoth and look up in awe at the engineer, seated majestically at his cab window, his gloved hand resting on the sill – the airline pilot and astronaut of yesteryear.

Come away with a real understanding of an era and an industry you never realized could hold so much fascination. All aboard!

Lançado em:
Oct 18, 2017

Sobre o autor

Darryl Hurly has penned some two dozen articles under his own name on various subjects for biographical compendiums, magazines, historical and technological society publications, and newspapers. After a trip to the South Pacific, he co-authored with his eldest son Operation KE, a historical monograph about the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II, which was well received by the military history community when published by US Naval Institute Press in 2012. After serving in Canada’s armed forces he obtained an MA in history, an EMBA in transportation, and pursued a variegated career that included middle- and senior-management positions in large corporations, and the managing directorship of a major transportation museum. He subsequently operated a successful family business from which he and his wife have now retired. In academia, he taught secondary school, and then lectured part-time in history, transportation, marketing and small-business management at the collegiate and university levels.

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Ezra and Gus - Darryl Hurly

Ezra and Gus

A Prequel To Rage!

By Darryl Hurly

Copyright 2017 Darryl Hurly

Published by Darryl Hurly at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this eBook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Author’s Copyright

All copyrights to this eBook are the sole property of the author. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, for any purpose without the prior written permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents




Who Were They?

Ezra and the ‘Empire Builder’

The Swede’s Luck


Harvey Girls

Walkout and ‘Scabbery’

Boycott and ‘Broken Cranes’

Ezra and Annette


A Scandal Brews

Another Rendezvous with Nature

Damn Tricky Business

Head on That-a-Way

Fate and Luck Don’t Mix

Glossary of Railroad Jargon

About the Author


Information regarding the ‘broken crane’ was sourced from The Crane with a Broken Neck in B. A. Botkin and Alvin F. Harlow, eds. A Treasury of Railroad Folklore. New York: Bonanza Books, 1953.

Information regarding the 1894 Great Northern RR strike was sourced from the following:

American Railway Union in website Wikipedia.

The St. Paul Daily Globe, April-June, 1894.

Truer, Tamara C. Eugene V. Debs, James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway’s Strike of 1894 in Ramsay County History, Vol. 25 #1 (spring 1990).

Information regarding Fred Harvey’s Harvey houses and Harvey girls was sourced from the following:

Fred Harvey (entrepreneur) in website Wikipedia.

Fred Harvey Company in website Wikipedia.

The Harvey Girls in B. A. Botkin and Alvin F. Harlow, eds. A Treasury of Railroad

Folklore. New York: Bonanza Press, 1953.

Information regarding the Hinkley fire was sourced from the following:

The Hinkley Fire in B.A. Botkin and Alvin F. Harlow, eds. A Treasury of Railroad

Folklore. New York: Bonanza Books, 1953.

Information regarding James Jerome Hill was sourced from the following:

James Jerome Hill in website Wikipedia.

Jim Hill in Action in B. A. Botkin And Alvin F. Harlow, eds. A Treasury of Railroad

Folklore. New York: Bonanza Books, 1953.

Information regarding the Northfield, Minn. raid was sourced from the following:

Bailey, James A. Citizens Confront James-Younger Gang: The Northfield Raid of 1876.

Boggs, Johnny D. The Northfield Raid revisited in True West Magazine, August 6, 2012.

James-Younger Gang in website Wikipedia.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid in website Wikipedia.

Information regarding the 1894 Pullman Strike was sourced from the following:

American Railway Union in website Wikipedia.

The Pullman Strike in website Wikipedia.

The Pullman Strike: Chicago, 1894 in website Kansas Heritage.org.

The Pullman Strike of 1894 in website 19th Century History.

White, W. M. "Montana and the Pullman Strike of 1894: A Western Response to Industrial

Warfare" in website Scholarworks.

A vote of gratitude is due my son, Dennis, who not only provided valuable editorial suggestions but enthusiastically accompanied me to Montana for a few days in the summer of 2005, and with whom I spent an especially pleasant half-day exploring the reaches of Marias Pass on the main line of what is now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

And here’s to my talented wife, Bonnie who designed the cover, the maps and the illustrations for Ezra and Gus: A Prequel. Her valuable editorial comments throughout the project greatly strengthened the narrative.


Map of Western Montana created by B Letourneau

Map of Dupuyer District created by B Letourneau


Illustrations follow chapter Walkout and ‘Scabbery’

The Twin Cities circa the 1890s. Burlington Northern RR

Great Northern depot and offices at Kalispell. Lindsay Korst

Great Northern locomotive #413. Burlington Northern RR

Great Northern depot at Essex. Kevin Brown, Lindsay Korst Collection

Great Northern depot at Summit. Burlington Northern RR

Two Medicine Bridge. Eric Sakowski Collection

Diablo, resident mouser at Abby’s restaurant. Bonnie Letourneau

Northern Pacific depot at Livingston. Wikimedia Commons

Great Northern depot at Butte. Lindsay Korst

Northern Pacific locomotive #469. Burlington Northern RR

Montana Central mixed train. Burlington Northern RR

Episcopal Church. Billings Gazette community promotional booklet

Great Northern RR caboose. Burlington Northern RR

Great Northern Boxcar. Burlington Northern RR

Great Northern locomotive #515. Author’s Collection

Prairie Wildfire. Pixabay.

Great Northern circus train at Shelby, Montana. J. Hayne Collection

Great Northern locomotive #185 on local passenger train. Burlington Northern RR

Who Were They?

Sean O’ Doherty’s siblings decided to hike to the headwaters of Birch Creek’s south fork. Their parents had warned them in no uncertain terms to stay out of that inhospitable tangle of wilderness – which is precisely why they decided to go there. In fact, it was Moira, the tomboy, who suggested they explore at least those reaches of the mysterious and rarely-seen watercourse where its rocky channel etched the lower flanks of the Great Divide. Shamus, who was sixteen, and his sister, Moira, who was two years older, were inclined to regard parental cautions – no matter how stern – as overly-protective; so, off they went, cavalierly sallying forth not knowing they were about to discover more than they bargained for!

Late afternoon shadows had started to creep across their path by the time they’d trekked as far as Birch Creek’s confluence with Seedling Creek. Pausing to take stock, they agreed to go as far as they could before light faded; then camp overnight in some open ground along the bank of the burbling flume. After a swig or two from their canteens, they pushed off once more, their progress encumbered by the burden of back packs and bedrolls.

Shamus repeatedly held out his Winchester carbine in one hand to keep his balance as he moved awkwardly over the uneven ground, with his sister in tow, walking stick in hand. The duo hadn’t gone 500 yards into the hostile terrain bordering the steep valley of the south fork when the creek banks began to climb, narrowing and shelving as they rose. So uneven and treacherous had the terrain suddenly become that the pair soon called it quits. They decided they’d have to shed their loads if they wanted to go any farther. Any more probing into the unknown could wait till tomorrow.

Casting about for a patch of level ground on which to build a fire and spread their ground sheets and sleeping bags, they prepared for a night under the stars. Moira recalled a stretch of creek bank about fifty yards back that had widened to form a modest shelf. Backtracking to the spot, she and her brother set their gear down on the ledge overlooking the sparkling stream and set about foraging for firewood.

Shamus spied a dense thicket of dead shrubs. Pointing to it, he called to his sister and walked toward the thicket. Before he reached it, something chalk-like among the shadows caught his eye. Upon approaching the object more closely he discovered, to his surprise, a partially buried skull – a human skull. Clearing away the pebbly gravel and sandy sediment that had built up around it from successive overflows during spring runoffs, he found the skull intact but heavily bleached.

Hey, Moira, look at this, will you! he exclaimed as he gingerly lifted his grisly find in the palm of his hand to show his sister.

But Moira barely acknowledged him; her attention was transfixed by something else – something she’d stumbled across in the fescue-covered gravel a few yards distant. Wordless, seemingly oblivious to her brother’s voice, she stared at numerous bleached bones strewn before her, trying to envision the tragedy that had transpired at her feet.

Turning toward Moira, Shamus tried again to get her attention when he realized she was hopelessly preoccupied. As he sauntered over, she turned to him and, without a word, pointed to the ground. Following her index finger, his eyes opened wide. Casting about, he had the sensation he was standing amidst a boneyard; all around him bones protruded from the pebbly mat; others were partly hidden amidst tufts of grass; none lay in the open. Whatever took place here, he concluded, happened a long time ago.

Upon examining them more closely, the siblings got the impression that the skull and bones were the head and partial limbs of one individual. What do you make of that? wondered Moira. Where’s the rest of the body?

By now, they’d wandered nearer to the thicket. Shamus abruptly paused and leaned forward, straining to make out a rib cage entwined and skewered by multiple stems of plants. When he and his sister started to pull out the dried brush, they discovered, to their surprise, a second skull near the rib cage.

Their curiosity piqued, Sean and Moira looked the area over more diligently. It was then they identified the scattered remains of a campfire. The decayed remnants of clothing, blankets, oilcloth groundsheets, and disintegrating mule packs littered the surrounding area. They also uncovered a pair of rusted Winchester .44-40 carbines. One had its charging lever open, as though its owner had been in the midst of loading a round into its breech when he was interrupted.

I wonder who they were? said Moira, almost in a whisper.

Well, they weren’t Injuns, leastways judging by what they were wearing . . . . concluded Shamus.

Are you sure? Injuns have been dressing like us for years.

Yeah, but look at those old tins of food. . . . Injuns mostly don’t eat canned vittles.

So, if they’re not Injuns, where’s their boots?

Carried off by cougars or coyotes, most likely, Shamus surmised. Dragged the boots off somewhere so they could chew on ’em at their leisure, I reckon.

By the looks of those old rifles, I’d wager these folks have been here a long time, observed Moira. And look how the shrubs sprouted up through the ribs like that.

Yep, I’m guessing at least twenty years, maybe more.

Now, just how do you figure that, brother of mine? posed his skeptical sister, her face screwed into a frown.

Dunno, he shrugged with a half-smile. Just a gut feel.

Sean and Martha O’ Doherty were somewhat surprised late the following morning to see their siblings returning so soon.

Ma! Pa! We found a couple of old dead fellas, Moira blurted out excitedly as soon as she got within hailing distance.

What did she say? asked Sean, turning to his wife.

Something about two dead persons, replied Martha, adding, You two get cleaned up. You can tell us all about it over lunch.

The family was soon sitting around the oak table that graced the center of the kitchen. The parents listened with interest to the grim tale of discovery recounted by their excited siblings. When the latter admitted to straying up the south fork of Birch Creek, Sean delivered the mandatory tongue-lashing – which he felt honor-bound to administer, knowing full well it’d fall on deaf ears.

What should we do, pa? asked Shamus, too distracted by recent events for the scolding to sink in.

Turning to Martha, Sean instructed: Better phone the Pondera County sheriff’s office and let ’em know what these two found out there. If Shamus guessed right, the two hombres died sometime around 1900. . . . Tell ’em that, too. Maybe they can check their records to see if any folks went missing around that time. Might help ’em make some sense out o’ this.

Several days later, Shamus led his father and two sheriff’s deputies back to the site. The men scoured the area and gathered up the bones, pieces of fabric, and all the other detritus they could find, plus the carbines. Everything was put in a couple of large gunny sacks and toted out to the coroner’s office in Conrad, the county seat.

No one dared hazard a guess as to who the two dead men were until the remains were autopsied since no identification was discovered at the site. One thing seemed certain, however: if they were the victims of foul play, whoever killed the two men wasn’t out to rob them. The presence of the carbines, plus the men’s pocket watches, billfolds and some coins found amongst the remains, confirmed this. In truth, there was no evidence to determine how they died.

Nearly a week elapsed before the phone rang for Sean. When Martha handed it to him, she whispered, It’s the county sheriff’s office. Sean grabbed the earpiece and reached for a pad and pencil. Jotting down some notes, he finally said, Thanks for letting me know, sheriff and rang off. After pensively studying the notes for a moment or two, he looked up and summarized the information to Martha.

I asked the sheriff if he’d let me know the results of the autopsy, he began. This here’s the long and the short of what the coroner could make out. He figures these two hombres died about when Shamus guessed they did. No evidence o’ gunshot wounds, but their skulls showed deep bite marks and a few neck bones they found were cracked and broken. Seems these fellas likely perished within minutes of each other – probably violently. He reckons they might o’ been attacked by a large cougar and maybe throttled . . . .

Do you think so? Martha interrupted. All kinds of predators and scavengers must have been busy gnawing on those corpses.

True. Coroner says he did find lots of gouges and scrapes on the bones, like gnawing and chewing. No way of telling for sure how these fellas were actually done in.

Before the coroner made known his observations, Martha had already phoned her best friend, Josie Morgan, to tell her about the find. Now, she rang Josie again to give her friend the news from the coroner. After telling Josie what she’d learned, she asked, What was going on around here back then? Can you recollect?

There was a long pause; then Josie’s voice answered, I can’t recall anyone going missing along the mountain front around 1900. Josie reflected before adding, The only killings I recall were the ones committed by that crazed brute, but that was five years earlier.

You mean that she-devil you came up against on Birch Creek?

Yes, that one, but they recovered the remains of all the men it attacked. . . . Or did they? More silence while Josie searched her memory. Wait a minute. Seems to me our cowhands found some stray horses and mules along Birch Creek, she continued. When the sheriff’s office traced the brands, they found these animals belonged to a livery stable in Cut Bank. If I recollect, a couple of men who worked for the railroad rented them before disappearing without a trace.

You’re right; now I remember, affirmed Martha. And you know what? Old Clyde the hermit said he saw those two men near his cabin. You should phone the Pondera County sheriff and tell him about this.

No, Martha, I don’t think so.

Think it was your berserk beast that got these two?

I don’t know. I’ve tried to put all that behind me. . . . You phone him, suggested Josie.

Alright. . . . I’m sorry if I stirred up some painful memories.

Couldn’t be helped, Martha. . . . Yes, I’m guessing the remains belong to those two railroad men. . . . But what in blazes were they doing wandering up the south fork? Nobody goes there.

Lord only knows.

Well, let me know if anything comes of this. Bye for now.

Josie hung up, slumped back into the padding of her swivel chair, and closed her eyes. Her mind drifted back. Long forgotten images raced through her memory in rapid succession. She thought of Rafe Shortt, Jimmy Ryland, Jan de Boer, Graeme MacTaggart, Alcide Saltel and her brother Bob, Then Josie paused and shuddered when the massive brute took shape in her mind, twisting and staggering as she pumped a magazine of .44-70 Winchester slugs into the back of its neck. Now, men and beast were all gone – gone forever. . . . A lot of water under the bridge!

Martha passed on the details of what she and Josie had discussed to the county sheriff who tentatively concluded that the remains of Ezra Miles and Gus Svensen had at long last been found. But how they came to meet such a lonely and tragic fate in the inhospitable wilderness of Birch Creek’s south fork remained a mystery.

Ezra and the ‘Empire Builder’

Ezra Joshua Miles had spent his formative years in rural Ohio, until the Miles family migrated to the Midwest in 1879 to homestead in the fertile farmland of western Minnesota. Upon his arrival in the lower Red River Valley, Miles senior purchased at a generous price a whole section – some 640 acres – from the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway. The ‘Manitoba,’ as it was known locally, had obtained a 2,800,000-acre allotment of fertile Federal land at a considerable discount, which it offered to prospective settlers, encouraging them to homestead along its line.

James Miles had proposed to subdivide his land into two half-sections – one for each of his sons; however, he reserved one of

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