The Story of John Henry is a three-part book in Wasteland 2.
A codex of pages bound between two wooden planks. Burned into the cover is the title "The Story of John Henry."
- Rail Nomads camp: Buried in a mound next to the entrance (right hand niche, before the bridge.)
- Part 1 may be found in the Meeting Hall main room, at the bottom edge, in a bookcase with its top barely visible. It's halfway between the train-side entrance and the Golden Spike.
- Parts 1-3 may be found by digging. Originally, Part 1 was omitted for some reason, but this has since been fixed in a patch.
John Henry? He was a mighty man, yes sir. Born a slave, freed in war. He was a True Rail Nomad, but more 'n that, he was the strongest, tmost powerful man to ever work the rails.
John Henry was a steel-driver, swinging his mighty hammer, to clear the way for rails, levelling the ground, striking holes for explosions, and hammering in the spikes to lay the rails surely. Without John Henry, there would be no rails, no sir, no trains, no Rail Nomads, no Topekans, no Atchinsons, nor even Santa Fes.
So listen and listen well, for you will one day tell the tale to your children too.
John Henry would strike his mighty hammer while his faithful shakers crouched close by, ready to dart in and clear the dirt, move the ground and turn the drill. Each shaker was a Topekan, clear as day, as they were the only ones John Henry trusted.
In these days the tribes were united under Chief See-an-Oo, and travelling ever west, forging through wild and hostile lands without pause. They were moving along right quick with John Henry leading the way, but looming before them was their newest foe, their mightiest enemy – the Big Bend Mountain.
See-an-Oo knew they couldn't go around it, which left only one way through – drilling, blowing and fighting straight through the heart of the mountain. Yes! I see your disbelief. I hear your gasps of shock. But this is what men were capable of back then, when John Henry still walked this earth.
The Atchinsons complained, as you'd expect they would. They wanted to take the easy way out and go around. But the steel strikers wouldn't take this, nor would the Topekans. To cut the discussion short John Henry took the Luddite family, the strongest family of Topekan shakers, and without asking permission simply laid into the mountain, working tirelessly, a great cloud of dust struck up by his mighty blows, and before the day was done they were ten feet into the mountainside.
But as work progressed, weeks on, a salesman appeared, hat in hand and smile on his face. An Atchinson agent, most like, though the truth of it is not quite known to us. But he came peddling his mechanical wares, singing the praises of synth workers, Vulcan Cannons to blast into the mountainside and, titanium clawers to clear the way and mighty snake-like drilling robots called Oligotrons.
If you think John Henry would stand for something like this, you haven't been paying attention. He saw the robot threat long before the rest of us did, and would not let mankind be outdone so easily. He stepped up to the salesman and laid a big hand on his shoulder. ""Well, sir, do you reckon your robots could outwork me?""
The salesman laughed, sure of himself, and sent a pair of Vulcans and titanium clawers to match against John Henry. Meanwhile, the great man picked up two twenty-pound hammers, and, followed by the Luddite family, dove into his work with abandon. Tirelessly the ringing of his hammers resounded through the newly built tunnel.
The salesman sweated and fretted as he saw John Henry pacing his robotic creatures. He drove them faster and faster, ranting and raving, until one of the Vulcans blew out and exploded. Yet John Henry would not relent, and he worked and he worked. As dawn came, all men cheered upon seeing John Henry's work was a good ten paces ahead of that of the robots, and the salesman was made to flee into the desert.
They cheered and hoisted John Henry to their shoulders and carried him out, he still clinging to his hammers, but they did not take notice of the great man's exhaustion, as he'd put in all he had and then some. The sun hit John Henry's face as he was carried out, and he smiled knowing he'd won, before letting out his final breath and slumping over, dead. The people wailed in great consternation, but despite it all, they knew that man had won, and would always win.
For John Henry was a hard-working man
He died with his hammer in his hand, lord lord
He died with his hammer in his hand