Digging Lowell

Comments Off on Digging Lowell Poetry, Writing, Issue 8

By Stephan Anstey

Hugh Cummiskey strode confidently down the road,
not far from the Middlesex Canal leading
a group of thirty strong Irishmen from Charlestown.

They were ready to make their mark on this new land.
He had spoken to a man named Boot about a job
in East Chelmsford, where some dirty monied shoneens
were scheming to make mills in America,
and he was determined to get a piece of that filthy lucre
for himself and his men.

When they arrived at Frye's Tavern on Central Street,
he felt a sense of pride as he approached the door.
He knew of Boott's reputation as a rich and powerful man,
but he was confident in his men. 
County Tyrone was thick in them, and they were hardworking and strong.

As they entered, he saw Boott sitting at a table,
surrounded by ruffled papers, books, ledgers and maps.
He looked up and greeted them with a nod.

"Welcome to the town of Chelmsford," he said.
"I'm glad you're interested in the work we talked about."
Hugh stood tall and looked Boott directly in the eye.

"Yes, sir," he said. "We are strong and skilled workers,
and we are eager to make our mark on this town."
Boott nodded, impressed by Hugh's confidence,
"I can appreciate that. We have plenty of work
to be done here, and I need able-bodied men.
Can you start tomorrow? I'll get you some tools
and a bit of food, and we'll see how you do."
Hugh smiled, "Well, there's the small detail of money."
"Oh, I'm sure that won't be a problem," Boott replied,
"Seventy-five cents a day seems a fair wage."
"One dollar," the Irishman's smile turned cold.

Unaccustomed to being contradicted, Boott paused,
"I can't pay a penny more than eighty-four cents. Take it or leave it."
Cummiskey's hand went out, Boott took it, and it was agreed.
The next morning, they arrived at the Pawtucket Canal,
little more than a ditch. "Boys, Boott wants this three times as deep and
twice as wide."

As one of Boott's men handed out the tools and supplies,
Cummiskey fixed his hat, slapped his hands together.
"Work hard, boys," he yelled, "work hard, and we're gonna own
this town."

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