There is a train track that goes right past our neighborhood heading west. We walk east along the tracks for about half a mile, passing the grave of a dog named Cole.
We listen carefully for trains and give them a wide berth. Sometimes we can see the cargo, which is mostly cars and trucks, and we like to guess where they are coming from and where they are going.
Our destination is this stone man. We call him Wheelbarrow Man, but he is known by the locals as Coolie.
I had never heard the word "coolie" until a few years ago when this statue was a clue in a scavenger hunt arranged by a very clever friend of ours (a scavenger hunt at night for adults is serious fun). "Coolie" is a derogatory term used in reference to the Chinese immigrants who came to California in the mid 1800's, during the Gold Rush and amidst the frenzy to build a transcontinental railroad. The Irish built the track from the east heading west while the Chinese built the track from the west heading east, and they eventually met in Utah. Despite the hard labor provided by the Chinese, they were looked down on as unskilled laborers (coolie actually means unskilled Asian laborer). Though apparently paid the same wages as the Irish workers, they were forced to pay for their own room and board, which undoubtedly ate away most of their wages (little has changed in the past 150 years). The kids and I learned a lot about the people this statue represents in the book Coolies, by Yin, which tells the tale of brothers who labored on the railroad that passes through our neighborhood.
You might be thinking this post is supposed to be about fun, right? While I find history fun, my children may beg to differ. They do have fun climbing and jumping on and around the Wheelbarrow Man, or reading books in his shade, and I feel that they are getting a good education about our town's cultural history in the process.