Going Back Together
Almost immediately after the purchase of the Kansas lines, steps were taken to induce the owners of the Oregon Short Line and the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company to exchange their stock for the stocks of the Union Pacific. In the fall of 1898, to help this exchange along, the first dividend was declared on the Union Pacific preferred stock. For the first time the credit of the Union Pacific was called upon to acquire a railroad.
—C. M. Keys, “Harriman: The Man in the Making”
Harriman's rage for order extended into every corner of his life, including his family. No one was a more devoted or attentive father even at the busiest times. Every evening after supper, before Harriman plunged into work, he played with the boys in the study of the brownstone at One East 55th Street in New York, where the family lived for a time. One of their games required scattering pieces of paper around the room. Afterward Roland had to pick them all up and put them in a special drawer of his father's desk. 1
The children knew their father's demand for order only too well. He loved to bring them presents but never let them cut the string to open them. It had to be untied and wound up, the paper removed and folded, and then both put away before the gift could be enjoyed. “In everything he did,” said Averell, “he took command, no matter what was going on. Even if we went for a walk, he'd tell us where he wanted to go. He knew what he wanted to do.” 2
This overpowering sense of direction filled the vacuum of those who lacked it, including friends who fell into his orbit. During the summer of 1907 Harriman took the family up to their Pelican Bay lodge nestled on Klamath Lake in southern Oregon. He invited a friend, the celebrated naturalist John Muir, to spend the summer with them. Muir hesitated, saying that he had a book to write.
“Well, you come up to the Lodge and I will show you how to write a book,” countered Harriman. “The trouble with you is that you are too slow in your beginnings. You plan and brood too much. Begin, begin, begin! Put forth what you have to say in the first words that come to mind, just as you talk, until all that's to go into the book is got down. Then correct, transpose, add, strike out