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Gandy Dancer

In the spring of 1868 six Chinese railroad Gandy dancers were killed in a dynamite explosion in now what is know as Bliss, Idaho. Gandy dancer is a slang term for early railroad workers in the U.S., more formally referred to as section hands. Between 1863 and 1869, as many as 20,000 Chinese worked on the Central Pacific Railroad that stretched from Sacramento to Promontory Summit in Utah. The Chinese Gandy dancers made up 90% of Central Pacific work force. As the Central Pacific worked their way across the High Sierra they blasted their way through 15 granite tunnels, the longest being 1,700 feet. The Chinese started at one end of the tunnel. The Central Pacific brought in Cornish silver miners to start at the other end of the tunnel. These Cornish miners were reported to be the finest miners in the world. Some of the miners dug an 80 foot shaft down to the midpoint of the tunnel, then started digging and blasting both directions to meet up with the two outside shafts. Being spirited men, the Chinese miners and the Cornish miners began a race to see who could dig and blast the most each day. The Chinese miners won. As they approached Promontory Point thousands of Chinese workers laid down 10 miles of track in 24 hours, a record that has never been equaled to this very day. The contract that the Chinese workers signed with the Central Pacific stated that any man that died was to be shipped back to China for burial. When the railroad was finished 12,000 Chinese workers were exhumed along the route and shipped back to China for burial. Some of the men were not completely decayed and had to be boiled to get the flesh off. Our six Chinese miners in Bliss were buried in shallow graves with lava rock piled on top to protect them from hungry coyotes and curious Shoshone. These Gandy dancers, whose names have long been forgotten, where not retrieved and are destined to wander this high desert for ever. I suppose we are all just walking each other home. Life is good.