Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The 2:15 To Yuma
Or was it the 4:10 from Yuma? Logically it would have to have been the 4:10 and not the 2:15, because it came from the west and headed to the east, and I was definitely sitting east of Yuma, Arizona when it passed me.
It wasn’t 4:10 either. It was much closer to 4:30. But none of that mattered, because regardless of time or direction, it leapt out of nowhere in utter silence and then thundered past me like some hell-bent behemoth mad with stampede rage.
If it hadn’t been for the crossing-guard rail, flashing red light, and warning bell (now in digital tone,) it might well have flicked me up off that road to splat me like a bug onto its grill, a fact I appreciated as it jack-hammered its way down the track.
The engine was a dull yellow and so bulky I swear you could actually see its weight. It pummeled the rails until they bellowed so loud that their bellowing shook the earth. It made the ground shake so hard that for a minute I thought it was going to liquefy. Instead of facing imminent death by being a bug on the train’s grill, I was going to be vibrated straight down into the ground.
It was almost too much. How could it not just up and jump the track? Should I hold my breath, close my eyes, or cover my ears? I could see those massive cars, the wheel of one slipping off the rail; it toppling over; sliding inexorably toward me; and pulling all the other cars with it … then BLAM, slamming right into my face.
But nothing happened. Neither I, nor any of the others who waited for that train to pass came to any harm whatsoever. So placid were we in our conviction of our safety that not one single eyebrow was lifted in concern. Yet here we were; mere feet away from this speeding machine that was so big, so heavy, and so powerful that no one would dare be stupid enough to challenge its right of way. One slip of one wheel, that’s all it would take, and BLAM!
It had been a long time since I’d had to wait for a train, and this one was a granddad of them all. Box cars, cattle cars (that looked like they carried cars instead of cows,) rickety cars, noisy cars, more cars and more cars, and one funny looking white one that wobbled from side to side as it passed. I wondered if it was going to be the one to jump the track.
It had been even longer since I’d been the first car in line and I must say that it will be a sad day indeed when this masterpiece of the old west steps into the past and no longer pounds its bewitchment into the eyes and ears of little boys and girls.
Car after car after car passed in front of me, until I felt like I was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” And then, in the distance, approaching just as swiftly and silently as the engine had, came the “tail,” the end, the last car.
“It’s not a caboose! It’s just … another box car!” What a let-down to all that drama! “Where’s the caboose?” I cried out. “Who stole the caboose off the train?” It was such a rape of magnificent beauty, a train with no caboose.
It’s dying already I thought, slipping off into the past one car at a time, starting with the last, the caboose.
How terribly, terribly sad to see it go. T-Rex could roar and make impact tremor ripples in puddles with each and every footstep. The train, however, was much more impressive. It didn’t roar, it ROARED. It didn’t make impact tremors; it shook me to my very bones for fifteen minutes straight.
Will I ever see another one?
September 17, 2008