By the time Li Chao arrived in the land of plenty, many of his fellow countrymen had displaced themselves into more domestic vocations. The most ingenious had become launderers, euphemistically mining the dusty gold out white men’s pockets. An enclave of native Chinese thrived in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Import merchants did a fine job of profiteering by sustaining their unique culture with familiar wares from home. Many became cooks and all-purpose house servants. A few became buggy drivers. There were the timber people too, some felling trees, some cutting cordwood, others delivering it to the surrounding cities.
Another class emerged. They joined a man named Charley Crocker, who, in conjunction with another man, Theodore Judah (the one they called Crazy Judah – the engineer, said to have a few shingles loose in his upper story), came up with an outlandish scheme. Their idea was to construct a railroad, mapped to run smack dab through the ageless, vaulting towers of the Sierra Mountains in California. Work would commence near the western base.