Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day

Institute History


John Atkinson, an energetic yet somber 23-year-old, loves trains. And when, at the close of the Second World War, he learns that the historic Yosemite Valley Railroad is slated for abandonment, he undertakes to buy the romantic 78-mile short line of the Sierras with the help of an eccentric oilman. He soon realizes, however, that moving to a national park and overseeing a dedicated but flexible staff (including a poetic young traffic manager whose admiration for John goes beyond timetables and rolling stock) cannot keep at bay the jagged inner landscape he tried to forsake in his hometown of Pasadena.

The sublimation of his heart to steel has punctuated emotional turmoil in Rebecca, the girl John has known best since his youth, who is unable to yield her arduous devotion. Similarly, John's kid sister is locked in a losing battle to somehow catch hold of her alluring brother. His parents, a prosperous half-Chinese father and a beautiful French mother, can only look on disconcerted as their son's struggle to rehabilitate the crippled anachronism of a railroad approached megalomania.

Then, on the eve of departure for Washington D.C. to undertake the unfortunate "political business" that once gave the railroads a bad name, John meets a young woman who truly appreciates the conflagration that rages within him. A stunning Native American whose parentage, like his, is mixed, Nancy leads John perilously close to confronting head-on a passion which stands ready to detonate his heart. Alas, John is not one to confront emotions head-on, a realization doubly sad as he turns a cold shoulder to both Nancy and the noble little railroad he loves. Still, time's inexorable march paves the way for a more oblique opening, a dawning awareness of his humanity and a gentle acquiescence to the inner storm that might have formerly destroyed him. Along the way, John's path is dotted with such colorful luminaries of the epoch as Charles Ives and Ayn Rand. COLOR OF A BRISK AND LEAPING DAY is a pastoral saga as American as the railroad and national park it immortalizes.


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