Railroad Ties
January 1971

“Railroad Ties,” Ensign, Jan. 1971, 79

Railroad Ties

Our stone-walled home is tucked among the scrub oak high on a steep mountainside, overlooking the wide valley and lake below. On the sloped clearing in the rear of the home we have built terraces and filled them with soil and sand we have carried up by bucket.

A stone path winds up to the first terrace, where there is a slab bench. On a winter night it is a wondrous sight to pause by the stone bench and look over our snowy housetop to the glittering city lights below. In the springtime we like to climb the stone steps and gather the yellow blooms of wild dogtooth, violets, or balsams.

On that first terrace is our strawberry patch, and in June I love to pick berries in the early morning to eat with my cereal. As summer comes, there is nothing like taking a saltshaker to the higher terraces and feasting on a plump tomato or two. Even higher on the mountainside are treats of raspberries and grapes.

But, after a rain or watering, it is difficult to avoid muddy ground in the higher area. So this year we have been building a stairway of railroad ties to the upper reaches.

With a rented truck we hauled the ties to our home. Then our two sons and I carried the huge timbers on our backs to the terraces, where we sawed them into two-foot lengths. With these we have been building the stairs.

It was hard work packing those ties, soaked with creosote, up our mountainside. At times I felt that the tie on our shoulders was pushing me like a post into the ground as we brushed along the oak up the hill.

So I had mixed feelings the other day as we trucked in another load of ties. I looked forward to building the stairs but not to lugging the heavy lumber, often of oak, uphill. That was a burden that really bothered me.

Then we got an idea—one we should have thought of long before. Why not saw the ties below, then carry the two-foot lengths up the hill?

With a long-toothed Swedish saw, we cut the big ties below. I found it much easier to carry half a tie in two lengths alone than it was for two of us to lug an entire tie together. Also, there were no sore shoulders to nurse afterward.

Too many jobs in my life have I worried and fretted about as I did that load of ties. As I get older, I am trying to realize that each chore can be simplified by dividing it up into smaller parts. How much easier it is to cut up a big assignment, then do each part one by one.

I recall years ago when a secretary was leaving our office, and we engaged a woman to replace her. The new secretary was well experienced. In her previous work she had supervised a number of stenographers.

When she arrived at her new position, the outgoing secretary tried to show her all her new duties in one day. After some hours the new secretary sighed in frustration: “This job is too much,” and she returned to her previous employment.

Since that time, in our office we have tried to show new secretaries their duties in parts—one at a time.

One of the biggest assignments ever given by a father to his son was when King David said in his old age to Solomon: “… the Lord hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong and do it.” (1 Chr. 28:10.)

King Solomon, showing youthful wisdom, divided the huge task of building a temple into many parts before construction began. This is shown by the number of overseers he appointed: 3,600 of them to supervise the bearers of burdens and hewers in the mountains.

“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 3:1), the account continues.

All of us have been chilled with fright in speaking before a sizable audience, but I take heart in what a speaker once said to me: “Do not look at the mass as you begin to speak. Let your eyes find two or three friendly faces in the hall. They are always there. Then talk to them. Ignore the crowd.”

Time, too, can be made simpler and happier by breaking it into days. Then live each day fully, one at a time.

It is significant that Jesus set the example for prayer when he declared to the multitude on the mount:

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11. Italics added.)

It is so easy carrying railroad ties—in parts.

  • Brother Ashton is a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve and vice-president of Gillham Advertising Company in Salt Lake City. A well-known writer, his articles have been featured on the back cover of the Instructor since 1944.

Art by Dale Kilbourn