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In keeping with yesterday's travel the Straits post I felt it only fair to post an excerpt from my short, Bridge of Dreams.

Summary: It took a special kind of man to work the tall iron on the Straits of Mackinac Bridge crew. Construction foreman Daniel Morris expected his new "tall walker" to be a brave man - but Phillip Sands proved just as courageous in matters of the heart. Danger and possible sabotage lead to an incident that could claim Daniel's life - or convince him to believe in his dreams again.

"Damn it all, man, where's my Tall Walker?" Daniel Morris took off his hard hat and ran one hand roughly through his tousled hair. "We're two weeks behind and my ass is bloody well raw from all the chomping by the head office."

Dave Hewelt just shrugged as he looked at the Foreman for his union local. "He was supposed to have checked in this morning but you know what they're like. He's probably out getting drunk like the one he's replacing."

"I won't have that talk, Hewelt." Daniel growled. "I don't care if the man is red, yellow or green. Just as long as he can do the job."

"Maaki says…"

"I don't give a damn what Maaki says. He's an bigoted fool and if he wasn't such a good riveter he'd be off my crew."

Daniel ended the conversation by turning and walking away from the crew supervisor in disgust. As much as he loved the challenge of working on a project of this scale he hated having to deal with this kind of prejudice. But he guessed it was something found everywhere.

As a younger man he'd idealistically hoped to leave prejudice of a different sort behind when he left his home in England and came to the "wilds" of the Americas, only to quickly learn that while places changed, men didn't. He didn't have any more chance of living openly here at the Straits of Mackinac in 1955 than he did back home.

Not that it mattered. He was just as much alone as he'd ever been. There were thirty-five hundred men employed at this bridge site and other seventy-five hundred engaged working the quarries, shops and mills required to supply it and he'd not met a one that he'd risk his job as Foreman for.

Daniel's bitter thoughts were interrupted by a commotion ahead. He strode quickly up the ring of cheering men and pushed his way to the center. Damn it! Another fight.

Austin, Maaki!" He bellowed, his rough voice cutting through the crowd noise and making the men freeze. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Fuckin' faggot, Sir." Austin answered even as he gave the huddled figure on the ground another kick. "He didn't even have the decency to try to hide it."

"And that gives yeh grounds to beat the man into the ground?" Morris growled in anger.

"He turned down an introduction to Austin's daughter." Maaki, a big brawler of a man who'd come from far in the Upper Peninsular to find work spoke up.

"Aye, I understand now. Yer beating the man `cause he showed some rare intelligence."

The Foreman's comment drew howls of laughter from the men crowded around and Austin flushed. He had six daughter at home and was desperate to get the oldest off and settled.

"Kissed the Chief right at the gate, Sir." Austin interrupted. "Bold as you please."

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head at the man's ignorance. "Oh for god's sakes, man. The Chief is ninety iff'n he's a day."

"Just because you're an Indian Lover, Morris doesn't mean that the rest of us have to stand for `em." Maaki looked around the circle of men for support as he tried a different tack to justify the beating. "They come in and take our jobs, take our pay…"

"The day yer man enough to walk the tall iron I'll fire every last one of them." Daniel hooked his fingers into his 60-lb. tool belt, tipped back his hard hat and walked up into the man's personal space, daring him to strike out. "Until then, I need men who can."

He stared steadily into Maaki's eyes until the man shifted his gaze down and stepped back. Authority asserted, Daniel leaned closer and quietly spoke the rest of his piece for Maaki's ear alone.

“'Sides, didn't I catch yeh last weekend sucking Billy's cock behind the iron shed? What would yer friends think if I passed that bit around, eh?" Maaki flushed and looked away from the piercing blue eyes.

Daniel shook his head in disgust. It made no sense that Maaki was so quick to beat a man for doing nothing but the same as he, but Daniel supposed the power of denial was hard to battle.

Daniel raised his voice so the rest of the men gathered could hear. "I've said this before, and I'll say it again. I don't care what a man gets up to on his own time. We all know Maurice there likes to fuck `em the fatter the better, makes no mind to me. Neither does anything the rest of yeh do."

The crowd of men laughed heartily at his rough humor and Daniel continued, his accent thicker than usual with his anger.

"What I do care about is iff'n yeh get the job done. Yeh can all take turns corn-holing the old donkey out back as long yeh kiss it first and yeh do it on yer time, not mine." He looked around the crowd. "Can I make myself any clearer?"

The majority of the men gathered for the fight shook their heads and started drifting away. Daniel gave the rest of them a hard glance before he turned back to the two instigators.

"Austin, Maaki, yeh've both got shack duty for the next week." He held his hand up to still their outraged protests. It was a thankless job he knew, waiting till everyone was off the bridge at night to check their equipment in. "And mind yeh, I'll want an accurate count on every spud wrench and sleever bar out there."

Daniel stood over the man still curled into a ball on the ground, arms akimbo as he yelled. "And somebody find my new Tall Walker."

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