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INSIGHT: JOHN HENRY

There was an earth shattering explosion. Large stones from the mountain along with dust and smoke filled the air. After the wind had blown it all away and the dust had settled, there stood John Henry, breathing heavily. He had defeated the steam drill and proved that a man was better than a machine. With his victory over the construct, those that had labored day in and day out as steel driving men, they, along with their families, would get to keep their work and their land.

There was an eruption of excitement and a chorus of cheers. It was foretold that John Henry would die with his hammer in his hand, but, here he was once again victorious. The crowd began chanting his name, as he stood there up on the hill at its opening enjoying the rush of the moment, he leaned against the mountain.

Every man, woman and child owed a debt of gratitude to him, for he had single-handedly saved their town.  John was always their hero, but now he couldn’t keep the sweat from running into his eyes. They had placed everything they had in him, all their hopes and dreams, because they believed in him.  John Henry was a man of his word.  Now his vision was beginning to blur.  He always did the right thing.  If he said he was going to do something then it was as good as done.  He knelt down on one knee.  He could feel his heart beating in his hands and he began to hear a ringing in his ears.

Then suddenly through the crowd he saw “her”, and as their eyes met it was as if it were the first time he was seeing her again.  John thought back to the moment when he first held her hand.  Back to the first time she smiled at him and spoke his name, and as he remembered, the beginning of a smile began to form upon his face. She saw him and began to smile back, when suddenly she noticed his had stopped. John couldn’t finish his smile.  She knew something was wrong.

The crowd kept celebrating as she pushed her way through…they were clueless in their euphoria as to what was happening. Then just as she had gotten near him, his body collapsed.  He had fallen to the ground slowly, with a strange noise and a desperate gasp for air.  His hammer was still tightly grasped in his left hand as he descended to the earth.  She ran over to be by his side, and as the spirit of the townspeople turned from joy to despair, they began to gather around him.  She held his head in her arms rocking him gently back and forth. “I’m…I’m gonna be… okay. I’m just… just tired, is all.”

She told him how great he was and how he had made everyone so proud.  What she didn’t know was that he never did it for them.

“It’s…it’s not getting…not getting easier…to breathe…” John said.  “Save your breath John, we’ll get the doctor.  You’ll be fine.” she replied with concern.  “Why…why can’t…why can’t I breathe?” he stammered.  “Please John,” she said. “Don’t waste your breath…hush now.”  Tears began to fill her eyes as she spoke to him. “The less you speak the more energy you’ll have,” she pleaded.  “No…” he said faintly. “I gotta…gotta tell it…no time…”   She urgently tried to persuade him to keep quiet and told him that the doctor was on his way… and that she could see him coming up the mountain.  John squeezed his eyes shut as he struggled for air, but his lungs weren’t strong enough anymore.  As his body lay on her knees with one hand tightly holding hers and the other grasping his hammer, she began to caress his head.

John had never been a man of many words.  He showed his affection through his actions.  If he did something for you, then you were worth doing it for.  He looked up at her face as she searched the crowd impatiently for the physician.  John’s actions had always spoken volumes for him before, but that wasn’t enough now.  Not for her.  He owed her more than that. She had been through so much heartache, suffering and pain in her life, which would have been unbearable by any standard. Yet she survived.  She had always said that if it meant she would end up with him, she would go through it all over again.  She was his strength through all the years.  Her love had given him power beyond any man’s dreams and now here she was trying to give him her strength one last time. The tool gently fell from the grasp of his left hand.

“There he is John,” she said. “I see him coming through the crowd.”  She turned to look at him and kissed him gently on his head.  As she turned away again to see the doctor she barely heard him say the words…”I love…”

She never turned her head back to look down at John again.  She just kept rocking him back and forth…

…and his right hand…

…never let her go.

JOHN HENRY

“I’m sorry I got here so late.”— Dr. Frank

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