The English tried, the Scots tried, the Negroes tried, but until the brawny Irish put hands to their spades, the Erie Canal was only a tantalizing vision. It was a bold, fighting lot from the old sod that did the impossible to make Clinton's Ditch a triumphant reality.
Sean Kildare's own father died digging through treacherous Montezuma swamp. Only a broth of a boy was Sean when, with stout Irish heart, he carved out a career for himself on the canal, as driver boy of the spruce little freighter Annekje. Stingy Captain Tinklepaugh showed the Irisher how easy it was to leave a driver boy in Albany without a cent. Lefty O'Shaughnessey, the Annekje's mate, saw to a rugged schooling for the young canawler. And the lovable Hogan family showed him affection that melted Sean's young heart.
Cut-throat rivalry between canal-boat crews, the hazards of crumbling dikes, the brawls of rough-and-ready canawlers, give Sean Kildare a rip-roaring setting in which to test his fists; to dream his dream of land in the West. Here was a dream proved more magnificent than his wildest imaginings because of that roaring, rowdy, "impossible" man-made river: the Erie Canal.
—From the dust jacket
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