Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/594

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
586
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

follow behind the iron-layers on each side of the track, each one taking every fourth spike; meanwhile men are screwing up the bolts and nuts, and boys are dropping and gathering up the spikes; and before one has ceased to wonder at the rapidity at which the work goes on, the load is laid, and another is brought up; the procession constantly moves, leaving behind it an iron trail which progresses at the rate of over a mile a day.

At ten o'clock the telegraph men came along with a hand-car, on which was a revolving creel of wire, which was run out as they went along. A man took a loop of wire, climbed a pole,—not one was in sight at daybreak,—and attached it, while two companions tightened it on the stretch ahead. Connection was made with our car by a copper wire, and we were in correspondence with all the world, in a country which had been surveyed less than ninety days, in a valley in which not a tie spanned the road-bed ten days previously, and at a point at which the rails supporting our car were only dropped the day before!

Even so progresses the "North American invasion," from four several points at once, and constantly moving its advance guard a mile a day nearer the Mexican capital. Well may it cause the reflecting Mexican to tremble, and the unthinking to wonder! Here, as at Monterey, the "Greaser" makes his feeble protest against the inevitable advance; he cannot block the wheels of the engine, but he can annoy the engineer; so he rides his horse over the track, heedless of warning whistle, and drives his cattle in front of the locomotive. Down in the interior of the republic one of these conceited rancheros tried to stop an engine by lassoing the smoke-stack; as the lariat was a tough one, and firmly attached to the saddle, it may not be necessary to add that he did not repeat that experiment,—at least not in Mexico.

From the coming of the steam-horse, indeed, a new industry has sprung. Formerly, the scurvy and hide-bound cattle of this region were considered dear at ten dollars a head; now, they are scarce at fifty. And why? Because the Mexican has passed a law that every animal killed on the road shall be paid for to the tune of sixty dollars! And now these guileless "Greasers" are flocking to the railroad with their flocks and herds. Goats and