The Briar Spike

We journey to America in May of 1869 and the Transcontinental Railroad is nearing completion. Being 1,776 miles long, quite a coincidence given American history, the joining together of the Atlantic and Pacific seacoasts by mean of the iron horse was at hand. But, it would have been delayed if not for man and his pipe.

Already held back two days due to bad weather and a labor dispute, the ceremonial driving of “The Last Spike” was being held in Promontory Point Utah on May 10th. Every school boy learns about the Golden Spike and perhaps a few history buffs even know about the three other ceremonial spikes: a second lessor gold spike, a silver spike from the State of Nevada and an alloyed spike of iron, gold and silver from the Territory of Arizona. The last ten miles of trackway were laid in only twelve hours using handpicked Chinese and Irish crews. Here is where we find our hero and his trusty pipe, one Robert Patrick Peterson, an Irish immigrant making the United States his new home for last five years.

You see Robert was the man driving the last of the ordinary iron spikes that held the rails fast to the ties, on which the great steam locomotives with their thick smoke ride. An unknown multitude of iron spikes had been driven into wood by men swinging heavy hammers out in the elements of open plain and rugged mountain chasms and peaks. But at the railroads meeting Robert looked into the barrel that held the spikes to find there were no more. Powerful business tycoons and politicians were coming from the coasts to partake in the joining of America and to see the beginning of the fruits of their investments. Being a spike short simply wasn't possible and even worse would it be for Robert to ask the other track gang, working from the west to east, to borrow a spike from them to complete his side of the line.

Robert was known for his thinking and often was found, when not driving in spikes, tamping his pipe deep in thought about all manner of things. Taking out his pipe to consider this quandary, Robert noticed the nail he was using to tamp his pipe and his sharp mind and keen wit again, as always, provided the solution. Roberts cousin, Charles who had recently begun making pipes, had posted Robert one from his works in Dublin just a few months before this fateful day. The briar was ancient and it's grain was tight and as strong as iron. Robert took his prized possession, after finishing his bowl of course, and substituted it for the missing spike. Later when the festivities were over Robert quietly retrieved his “Pete” as he affectionately called it, and packed and lit it without any troubles what so ever. He wrote his cousin telling him the story and thanking him for his fine and timely gift. Charles later used the slogan “The Thinking Man Smokes a Petersons Pipe” to market his goods.

Well there it is. An Irish pipe at hand to build America's past and future.

Thank you, thank you very much – King Bill I Ard