John Henry was born into slavery in the deep South in the 1840’s, but would become a true American hero, loved by not only the underprivileged black men and women who worked hard to build the United States into what it is today, but by anybody smart enough to respect ultimate insane badassitude in its highest form.
Henry worked his balls off on a bullshit cotton plantation as a young man, busting his ass all day for no pay in miserable conditions, but he never even complained, he just made the best of a shitty situation. For starters, long days of hard work got him really jacked up, and before long he had biceps large enough to choke cattle and abs so firm they could stop small-arms fire from five feet away. He was tall, cut, and OH YEAH he was also the STRONGEST MAN EVER - like he rolled a natural 18/00 for Strength legitimately which is about as common as a hot babe attending DragonCon without receiving any sort of monetary compensation for doing so. He was tough, tireless, and more handsome than a genetic hybrid of Taye Diggs and Tyson Beckford (he probably scored with incredibly hot babes all the fucking time – some people suggest that references to him being a “steel-driving man” refer to more than just his profession), and if that’s not enough for you he also played the banjo like a motherfucker and had a beautiful singing voice. Basically, this guy was like a 19th Century Jay-Z – he was the dude that everybody wanted to come to their hot parties.
However, instead of kicking back, Big Pimping and sipping Cristal after the War Between the States paved the way for the emancipation of the slaves, J-Hizzle pursued a more backbreaking and potentially badass profession – he became a Steel Driver, and I’m not talking about the big brother of the Sand Wedge. I’m talking about pounding motherfucking giant steel railroad spikes into the ground with a giant hammer thirteen hours a day, six days a week, and building the transportation lifeline that would allow the United States to expand from the East Coast all the way out to the Pacific. Now back in the 1870’s, this was a vital, yet brutal and inglorious profession. Conditions for the railway workers across the American frontier were abysmal – deaths from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion were an everyday occurrence, the pay was low, and the living conditions weren’t much better than those of the old Southern plantations. Yet for some freed slaves living in a harsh period of Reconstruction, this sort of hard manual labor was the only work available to them.
Once again, John Henry never complained – he loved his job, showed up early every single day and kicked more asses than a kung fu master in a commercial butt-transplant facility. He pounded out more spikes than a fully-automatic nail gun, busting his nuts for the C&O Railroad in West Virginia. Things were going smoothly for the first several years of employment, when all of a sudden the path of the railroad ran straight into the gigantic Big Bend Mountain. Since it was impractical to divert the train tracks around the massive rock formation, the railroad owners decided to tunnel straight through two miles of solid rock. This was an incredibly tough job, but “Iron Man” Henry was more than up to the task. The man was an unstoppable, one-man wrecking crew, beating the shit out of the mountain like Joe Frazier wailing on Samuel “Screech” Powers in an Ultimate Fighting cage match. With his trusty fourteen-pound hammer “Lucy” (a Warhammer of Strength +3, double damage to all Golems and Rock or Stone-Related Constructs), he demonstrated unmatched power, tunneling ten to twelve feet per day in the Pre-Steroid Mining Era - a time when most men were lucky to carve out twelve inches in twelve hours. When his friends and co-workers became sick, tired, or exhausted, Henry only picked up their slack, carrying the entire operation on his back, working all hours of the day and night, and stopping only to eat, slam out a fiery banjo solo, and bone his hot wife. At night, the guy fucking pounded his hammer into the rock so hard that his managers used to worry that the entire Big Bend Mountain was going to fucking cave in.
While I didn’t intend for that last sentence to come out as a double-entendre, I am happy that it did.
"Bring me a nine-pound hammer, and I'll knock this mountain down."
So one day this slick-ass used car salesman type showed up at the mine camp with a shiny new steam-powered drilling engine that looked like a mix between a ten-ton cordless power drill, a propane grill, the Terminator, and one of those sewer-cleaning machines from Labyrinth, talking about how his stupid machine can drill faster than ten men combined and costs about half of what it takes to pay an honest working man’s daily wages. Of course, the jackass cheapskate railroad fat cat robber baron executives thought this was the hottest shit since “Baby Got Back” and were all ready to sign off on this new machinery, fire all their employees, and buy a giant Scrooge McDuck money chamber to practice their backstroke in when all of a sudden the construction foreman came up to the salesman, jammed a giant twelve-inch knife in the drafting table for no reason at all and said in a completely deadpan voice – “that don’t mean shit to me. I got a guy who can drill faster than twenty men. On amphetamines.” The salesman didn’t believe that anybody in the world could match the unimaginable power his wacky contraption, and challenged John Henry to a race to see who could drill faster – a mechanical monstrosity hell-bent on putting good men out of work permanently, or the strongest, hardest-working motherfucker in American history.
Everyone in town came out to see the big race between man and machine. Knowing that the hopes and livelihoods of hundreds of his friends lie in the balance, John Henry gripped his trusty hammer, as the salesman revved the engine of his power tool like it was a crazy suped-up ricer from The Fast and the Furious, pushing his sunglasses up on his nose and adjusting his leather racing gloves. The July heat scorched the West Virginia countryside like a malfunctioning flamethrower operated by a sociopathic pyromaniac as the blonde bikini babe with giant fake breasts held up the checkered flag indicating when the racers could begin. She dropped the flag, and the battle for the American working man was on like a honky-tonk jukebox. Fueled entirely by a limitless supply of burning coal and the imprisoned souls of tiny underprivileged orphan children, the vile cyborg DrillMaster 9000 churned to life like a hideous metallic Frankenstein Monster, blowing John Henry off the line and ripping face-first into the solid rock wall like Wile E. Coyote. At first, the machine appeared to be winning as it clanked into the rock, burrowing a hole quicker than an army of gophers. The crowd gasped. Hundreds of men saw their jobs and their lives flash before their eyes like a bad sitcom montage. John Henry took one look at what was going on and got super King Kong Omega pissed off like the Incredible Hulk, flexing his massive guns so hard that his shirt exploded and caused a sonic boom loud enough to deafen small children. No fucking robot was going to show up a hard-working American badass, goddamnit. He not only continued smashing the rock wall with his warhammer, but he grabbed a SECOND fourteen-pound sledgehammer in his off-hand and started going to town with it. He dual-wielded the shit out of his massive spiked tools, pounding the fucking stone so hard that his entire body quickly became obscured in a giant cloud of dust. After over an hour with both man and monster kicking the fucking ass of this stupid mountain, the DrillMaster all of a sudden burst into flames like Britney Spears’ career, exploding into a giant cloud of smoke, ash, and vile black ichor.
Victory didn’t even slow Henry down, however, as he was in what athletes like to call “The Zone”. He kept drilling like a crazy bastard until all of a sudden he became so fucking incredibly XTREME that his heart exploded and he died on the spot, his hammer still clenched in his fist. When the smoke finally cleared, the spectators saw that the Fusion-Powered Nuclear Drill had cleared out nine feet of tunnel in just under two hours; John Henry had cleared fourteen.
John Henry is a true American working-class hero, and his epic badass exploits served as the focus of folk songs across the nation. He was a role-model for underappreciated, overworked, underpaid manual laborers as they built railroads, roads, and buildings in our country’s youth, who admired his strength and work ethic and respected the fact that he was able to give the middle finger to our giant robot overlords. His triumph proved that no stupid bullshit technology was a match for good old jacked-up human beings. As an added bonus, after his death, his wife and son learned that Henry had saved up ten thousand dollars in a bank account, which they used to buy a house and live happily ever after. Even in death, John Henry was fucking badass.
"Show me the machine. I can beat it."
John Henry - Steel Driving Man