Simpler Time
January 23, 2018

Train

As i sit here preparing a sermon, I hear the blowing of the train whistle which immediately took me back to my childhood.

I remember on warm summer evenings, not having air conditioning, we’d have all doors and windows open. And whether talking to each other or watching TV, the whistle of the train would drown out, for brief moments, the auditory activity we were engaged in.  At some point, it would become irritating.

I remember trying to get to the east side of my hometown, Sharon, PA, from my parents and my home on the west hill.  There were two ways for us to get there, and both ways involved crossing train tracks.

If I went the way of going through town, there was a chance of being held up by the train. If I went the route of going past the steel mills, the chances of being held up were less, however, and it’s a big however, the wait could be excruciatingly long.

They would stop their railroad cars on the street, blocking them while they attempted to drop the cars off on different tracks. They would back up, just leaving the engine on the road to block us, then pull forward. Repeatedly. Always. So either way, we had to choose our poison on which way to go.

I find it ironic that a year of my life was spent in a steel mill that manufactured, yep, you guessed it, railroad tank cars. Then I moved south, then to rural Pennsylvania where I didn’t have to be bothered with them.

As I’ve moved back to Sharon after 40 plus years of elsewhere, I find the trains  being stopped less irritating. Maybe because I’ve gone away and came home. The saying goes, “You can never go home”, but I did, and it’s good.

It’s January and it’s actually warm today, having my window open, I hear the train whistle and it makes me happy and melancholy at the same time. It’s a throwback to simpler times and places, relatives long gone being still alive and healthy, cares and problems minuscule compared to today, my ’64 Lincoln, walking to school, first dances, sitting by the fires and listening to the whistle blow.

And I always liked train songs. “City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie. “Long Time Blues” by the Smothers Brothers (look it up on YouTube, it’s a cool song). “King of the Road” by Roger Miller. And “Early Morning Rain” by Gordon Lightfoot, about a drunk guy at an airport where he realizes “You can’t jump an airplane, like you can a freight train”.

My friends and I would stand on the bridge where the train drove on and run across it on the railroad ties before the train got to us. Or even wait until the train was close then jump in the Shenango River as the train passes over it. That bridge would really shake. Sometimes when the road was blocked with the train being stopped and I was walking, I’d crawl under the train to get across the road.

And I don’t have regrets in life, if I do, not many. But I’ve always wanted to jump a freight train, ever since I was a kid. Just hop on an empty car and see where it takes me. That would be fun. Reality tells me, that at 62, that would be  foolish. And dangerous. So I live with the fact that it would have been very cool.

And the sweet reminder of a simpler time, thanks to the engineer who blew his horn as he passed through Sharon, Pennsylvania tonight.

 

 

 

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