Thursday, March 15, 2007

To You...My Love

I love trains. I’ve always loved them since my first train ride through the Rockies when I was five years old. It isn’t possible to have mental or physical distress when held, sung to, and gently rocked by the music and sway of a train.

Even as a child, I found such intimacy in the comforts a train provides. Its rhythmic song, low bass rumble, rocking motion, and steady clickety-clack beat. Trucks and automobiles have annoying horns that make your heart skip, that made you anxious, jumpy. But not a train. A train doesn’t do that. It announces it’s coming with a lovely crescendo like the throaty notes of a big and beautiful bird.

Even as a child, when I heard that wail, like sweet music, it made my heart tingle. It seemed then and still seems now, like trains have that special ability to defeat concerns with smoky, powerful, and steely aggression. I was fascinated by the knowledge that cow-catchers were originally a part of trains to scoop cows off the track. But with or without a cow-catcher, in a less tangible way, without add-ons, trains collect bewilderment and defeat like great steel magnets and toss that stuff into the wind with a loud hoot and the applause of clanging bells.

Indeed, others can have their Philharmonic orchestras, their conductors of the same, their musical movements, artful blending of dissimilar sounds, and crescendos, but I’ll still take my train. My train with my train conductor, the swaying movement, the rhythm of clacking rails, and the baroque beat of strained notes dramatized by a linear balance of dissimilar sounds. Sounds that even the Masters of Classical music could never hope to mimic or even imagine. My preference is to let my orchestra pit be a valley with music cushioned by grain elevators or inland seas. Let my music be accompanied by the back-up echoes bounced between mountain peaks. Give me a conductor that tosses in his ‘tails’, his baton, and his formal garb for striped pin overalls and a jaunty cap and a hand at the brake.

I think I told you previously how pleasantly surprised I was when two of my three daughters bought lovely homes that quite unexpected ended up within sight and sound of railroad tracks where trains still run. Not silent trains on mono-rails, but real honest-to-goodness trains with everything trains have always had except the asthmatic chuffing of steam. Trains that rumble the earth, ring their bells, blow their whistles, and sing their clickety-clack sound.

When I visit my daughters and when the trains go by at night, I am roused from my sleep, but that rousing only makes me smile. And when daytime trains go, I grab grandson, run to the deck rail, lift him up where he can see, and we look and laugh. Awed, pleased, and pleasured. There goes the train.

I am at my own home today, but this morning I awoke near the tracks. I heard the clickety-clack of rails, the mournful piercing wail of a train whistle, and the interspersed clanging of bells. And blended into that special symphony I heard the softer straining sounds of a train’s deliberation that flattens trouble and elevates joy.

When I searched out these pleasant sounds I found Hub at his computer, checking his watch, grinning, thrilled – playing his new train simulator game. It might be just after six in the morning, but Hub is a train conductor now and he has a train to run and a schedule to keep.

I move to the kitchen and as I sip coffee I let the symphonic sounds polish my soul as those sounds have always done. Sunshine, cloudless skies, rainbows, classical music, and a lucky lottery number could not make this a lovelier day.


Matty said...

How lovely, Roberta. It's been my dream that one day I will take a long trip on a train. I used to live near a train track. People would ask me how I could sleep, and I slept very well. A train, and a rainy night can make me sleep like a baby.

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a beautiful piece Roberta. You brought your love of trains to life....and us right along for the ride. I loved it!

I can count on one hand how many times I've been on a train....a real train. My first time, that I can remember, as an eighth-grader going on our class trip to Springfield, IL...our state capitol. It was fun, it was cool, and yes, I definitely remember swaying with the movement of the cars and feeling a kind of peace with it all. Thanks for bringing back this warm memory Roberta....

Roberta S said...

matty, I certainly hope your dream of a train ride can someday be fulfilled. I know that you would find the trip something really special. Unfortunately trains like the ones I referred to in this post are not that common anymore. The few that are around that transport people, rather than goods, are unique tourist attractions that give a very short ride for a very big dollar.

Roberta S said...

Hi joy. Thanks for sharing my train ride with me. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I appreciated your comment that let me (and others) know how special a train ride made you feel. For many, I expect it is hard to understand the 'magic carpet' feeling of a ride in a diesel-stinking, smoking, rattling, and rumbling, steel beast...but we know...

Cowtown Pattie said...

My grandfather worked most his adult life for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was a Roadmaster for while, then due to my grandmother's terminal brain cancer, he took a job that meant less travel. His later years were worked in a motor car - a special truck outfitted to run on the rails and check track conditions.

I have always loved trains because of PawPaw. He was an avid fan of the music of Jimmie Rodgers.

This post certainly hit home for me!

Roberta S said...

Hi cowtown pattie. Take a multitude of people, thousands if you like, and if they love trains, all have a common understanding of simple 'joy'. It was interesting to hear that your grandfather worked on the Santa Fe Line. I love the way you tell stories and maybe you have a few up your sleeve about those days that you will tell sometime soon.

And Jimmy Rodgers? Him and trains just belong together.