One Way Around the World (3)

The train came to a screeching stop.  I was too comfortable in my warm bag to take a look outside, so I just settled in to wait it out.  Soon the crunching of gravel grew louder and I just knew my next nightmare was becoming a reality. A Bull was approaching, moving from car to car.  A flashlight beam sliced through the darkness.  I just tucked myself into my nylon and down cocoon, pulled the drawstring in around my nose and hoped to look like a heap of detritus.  The beam moved across the car.  I held my breath.  But the beam never settled on me.  The crunching gravel of his footsteps faded down the line.  

I exhaled slowly.  I was not going to be arrested on my first night riding the rails.  Being yanked off the railroad in St Paul/Minneapolis would have been ironic.  My great grandfather, Oliver Crosby, was fired by James J Hill (Great Northern Railway Railroad Baron) when he left his desk after hearing his wife had given birth.  When he returned, a note from Hill said, “No one leaves work without my permission. You are fired.”  Oliver Crosby went on to start a construction company. His cranes helped build railroads and helped with the Panama Canal construction.   

With daylight, I was able to watch life flashing before my eyes through the open car door.  Riding in passenger cars was always intriguing since I could peer out the windows into people’s lives in their backyards and even sometimes through their back door.  It is a vulnerable perspective where less is hidden. It is the casual view rather than the formal entry way with trim hedges and mowed lawn.   On a freight car, the drop-by visit is more intimate.  I could hear the dogs barking, and smell the leaves burning.   I startled a few kids, waving to them as they ran to their fences to see the train go by.

My Hot Shot came to a dead stop in Minot, North Dakota.  We were not moving so I checked in with a section worker at his shack in the yard.  While bringing me up to speed, he let me heat up my pork and beans can on his electric burner.  The Hot Shot was not going anywhere soon, so he advised me to jump on the nearby freight train with three cabooses.  There would be no harm in taking the last caboose since the engineers would not use it.

Too Cool!   I could ride in a Caboose!  I did not hesitate and climbed the steps to the rear door.  The space was palatial, complete with leather couch.  Once rolling I moved up into the viewing area.  Though previous tenants had scratched up the windows a bit, it was still a grand 360-degree vista.  Wheat fields undulated in waves with the passing wind. I could imagine the vast bison herds that used to roam this territory until the railroad brought hundreds of hunters to slaughter the beasts, starve out the Indians and permit settlement by the white intruders.   I munched on peanut butter and jam sandwiches and stared out onto the vast horizons.

Compared to the previous nights bed of hard wood planks, the leather couch was sublime.  I was sound asleep in no time. 

 The train stopped somewhere in the plains. All was quiet. Then the door opened.

About Whittoons

Cartoonist, and community organizer who has covered the globe as a doodlebugger, gandydancer, supernumerary steward, Able Bodied Seaman, Wireman, monkey man, Night Baker and dishwasher, Hobo, hitchhiker and husband.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s