January 23, 2009

The god of choo choo

When I was a kid, I lived near a railroad track. You'd think two steel rails supported by oiled wood and held down with thick spikes would quickly bore a young ming in lust with adventure. Not so. The gleaming steel against the red gray quartz bed and the oiled railroad ties was centermost in my childhood forays. Trains go places, you know? I'd watch the train thunder (lumber?) by on a sunny Saturday afternoon and I'd be transported in my like a hobo on an adventure. A modern day Hobbit perhaps? My goods wrapped in a bandanna and tied to a stick (never did figure that one out correctly) and slung over my shoulder like I was in the know.

When I wanted a little excitement, I'd lay pennies or nickels on the tracks for the train to flatten into shining new disks that were smooth as glass. Never a trace of the famous face remained. I don't recall what I did with these tiny treasures, but it was fun to play. I'm sure once or twice I was flush with cash and laid a quarter on the tracks to see what would happen with the copper and silver, but honestly, I don't recall the results of said experiment. Perhaps I was disappointed as we so often are in these times.

The ditches on either side of the tracks became my trenches for warfare with imaginary foes. The culverts under the road were cool caverns on sunny days to hide in. They also became war tunnels for various campaigns I waged with a ragtag army of my imagination. Often wounded with red food coloring blood staining my 'play, play' clothes. White stripes dyed red for bloody bandages replaced the real thing. I ideal of being a 'walking wounded' hero deep set in my mind from civil war books from the library.

At the end of the day, I always triumphed. Returned home from the wars, the victor, to eat dinner under my mothers watchful eye. Those were the days when anything was possible and if I could think it, it came true. Even if it was just in my mind for a short while. Revolutionary fighting the redcoats, Union blue fighting the wild Indians (feather, not dot), Civil war blue fighting the confederate grays, WWI soldier fighting in the trenches on the cold battlefields of France. The war never took more than a day and we never lost. Come to think of it, the enemy though slaughtered never lost either. It was just a day of the same. Cold rations eaten by numb fingers in the twilight. 'cept I never played war in the cold. War is summer game after all.


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Well written piece. You did the same things, dreamed the same thing as I. Wonder if today's youth does likewise.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Schuyler said...

Billy Gibbons (guitarist for ZZ-Top) supposedly used a coin he laid on a train track for a guitar pick in the early days. Said it helped him get really good harmonics from the strings with a strong pick that thin. (Wikipedia's entry just says he sometimes uses a quarter or mexican peso, so maybe my story is just urban legend...)


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