Night Train

Posted: April 11, 2019 in Uncategorized
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The rumble always precedes the whistle. That low gravely sound is the one that first rouses me from sleep. It comes from across the river, somewhere behind the tree line. The engine sound is accompanied by the mechanical grinding of steel upon steel, wheel upon track, and a deep vibration that reverberates through the earth.

The whistle always comes next, alerting every creature to clear the tracks, that something big is drawing near. Perhaps it whistles for a deer. Or an owl. And on most nights for nobody. It may be blown for no other reason than the engineer is bored or wanting to break up the monotony.

Years ago, before I was born, the train ran on our side of the river. But now it moves through the night in the distance, something I can only hear. I realize now that I provide my own visuals for this unseen thing. Long ago in another town my family lived not too far from the tracks. As children we watched the locomotives and boxcars move slowly through town. Friends always asked how we could stand the noise. “What noise?” we asked with perfect honesty. We hardly noticed anymore.

My family also told stories about my grandfather, one of those boys who ran away from home and straight to the trains. There was the hobo who saved his life when he was riding in a dangerous place and ordered him to get out at the last moment. And gramps actually served as a telegrapher who was located back in the caboose.  They ate bar food in the towns where they stopped to fill their water tank. What a life, I thought to my young self. Imagine, living and working on a train.  And of course there were the movies and great scenes of  trains, high drama, crime and epic gun battles. Trains.

When it comes to providing the video for this reoccurring, middle of the night movie, I have no lack of raw material that can be retrieved from the archives. What I cannot see with my own eyes in my dimly-lit bedroom, I borrow from the boxcar of the past. The night train keeps doing its part, providing the audio track, every sound that is necessary, and I waltz with the steamy ghost for mile after dreamy mile, rocking to a lullaby that still wheezes through the night spaces.

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