"The Indians never saw any Japanese before, so they does not knew what kind of man I am."
We leave Yakima, board the N.P. [Northern Pacific] train and arrived in Missoula, Montana to wait our assignment… Our job was to change old rail to new heavier rail. Other gangs 2 or 3 used to work together. Over 100 or 150 men. Did not require much skill but sometimes was very dangerous. All of my boys worked without trouble. But the time was the middle of winter and the place are coldest place in America, so very uncomfortable, very cold outside, but the inside of the railroad car was very hot because we burned coal in a big potbellied stove continuously. Sometimes too hot and bit by bed bugs. It was very unpleasant work.
The Indians never saw any Japanese before, so they does not knew what kind of man I am. They asked Walter and Walter told them I came from a faraway country and they asked how I got there. Walter told them “ He came on the train.” They were satisfied.
Natches Valley Railroad and Flood
Leave Dann Rack October get work in Natches Valley. The work on railroad. Northern Pacific Building the branch line to valley, and Mr. Donald of Yakima National Bank name say head of railway. I get job from Mr. Donald and went out camping on river bank near north Yakima’s Electric plant. In old house there about 30 Japanese boys working under me, about half of them were recent arrival from Japan. About first November start snowing and in higher mountain the snow was deep. And about 10 November winter getting very warm and very heavy rain continued about 2 days. This warm rain melt all snow at once, the river getting higher and higher, our camp was river bank, but quite distance from main channel. I thought it safe, but about 11pm river raised suddenly reached over the house floor, all around house become full water, so decided to evacuate.
It was hard because the night was pitch black, sound of water very terrible, but I did not afraid about my boys, they have all experience of swimming, but some boys was city grown could not swim. But there was a barbed wire fence stretch cross to railroad bed, high enough to be safe.
I told them go by wire and swim if necessary. I was very glad all of came to railroad, all wet in November night, nobody hurt except some cut hand by wire. We made bonfire and go to neighboring house get necessary help and waited till morning.
Early morning I walked to city, all bridges were down. I have to climb some part of fallen bridge out of water. Get necessary food and other things, I walked again crossing N.P. rail bridge and walking upon top of hill. All of us come to Yakima Crossing N.P. bridge walking top of the hill and we get very kind treat from our Japanese brothers in city in Yakima. It was greatest flood I ever known in valley. nearly all bridge across Yakima river were down. Floodwater flowed to east side of railroad in lower valley, and it give huge damage all over valley. Luckily there no crop lost because nearly winter, the crops all harvested.
This spring living in Wapato, worked here and there, the place. The lease of land not expired yet, every place go it hardship beyond description, some of Japanese cultivated the land near Toppenish, by name of friendly white man, this white person was good while the produce were cheap, but as soon as the onion price going up profitable this same person turned into devil. Sold the onion and pocketed all the money, without give a cent to grower.
words by Zenkichi Kikuchi, 1880 - 1965
read in 日本語