When Cora Greenfline turned away under that heavy sun, she turned away forever. What she turned away from was what she had not found, and what it told her of what she thought she was looking for.
As it turned out all there had been were two gaudily painted toy-like engines facing each other, as if suddenly stopped just before a toy-train wreck. The spike between them was not golden, and the paint on the spike was chipped, and the water in the visitor’s center tasted flat and dull. There was the wind that groaned past her and whined in guy wires and the one ragged cottonwood, and there was the emptiness to the horizon, where a few low hills browned under the unrelenting blue of the sky. Even the rails stopped a few feet behind the toy engines.
And so she turned and fled.
“I saw the ‘Golden Spike’,” she would say. “It was a mill stone. So I turned it into a milestone, and that was the beginning of now. From there, there was nothing left to lose, so I didn’t.