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Steel Away.

Updated on October 31, 2009


My grandpap used
to ride the rails
he'd steel away
on their backs
to escape the
depression of the 30's.

His fleet feet running
over the gravel inclines
just missing the gaps
between the ties,
skipping two or three at a time
in acrobatic flight
not seen much today.

One misstep, and an arm
or leg could be gone,
but his strong and calloused
hand reached out
to snag a handle
or a lip as a grip,
that when grabbed
caused him to be be
yanked forward as
his legs swung deftly,
up into the open maw
of a boxcar mobile home.

Sometimes another
scraggly arm would emerge
to grab his hand and
pull him in to safety,
at other times a
rougher fist would extend
and disembark him
with a solid blow
and a tumble
to the grass that lay
below the trestles banks.

Bruised and battered
he'd wait for the next ride
to come by and set him free
from a small town
with no work to fill his pockets ]
or his empty gut.

He traveled all over
the country that way
for several years seeking
hope and only finding
hobo camps where each man
would bring something
to add to the poor man's stew.
Some tidbit stolen
or purloined from a
farmers field or hen house.

He loved those years
even though they were leaner
then a dessicated rat
in a mouse traps slap
ten years after it had snapped....

He made tracks that stayed
in his soul till the day he died.
I could often see
distant horizons in his eyes
as he blew smoke rings
from his non-filtered Raleigh's,
and whispered of the
glory days gone by,
frozen forever between the
locomotives and the caboose.

Sipping cold water
from a tin cup he filled my head
with the chilly dawn's spent
sleeping in a ventilated boxcar.

Or the splash of a river's
flow to clean sleep dirt
from eyes that had seen
little to dream about except
the endless breathtaking
beauty all across the land.

Sometimes even now
when I hear the lonesome wail
of a train blowing it's solo song
as it passes through,
I can see him running
alongside and catching the
last express to eternity
for an endless ride of joy.

I realize now that
when he whistled
it was so similar to that
haunting sound that
a train sends out
over the sleepy villas
and small towns
where all the stationary
folks reside.....

"Godspeed Grandpap Ebey ..
I'll catch a later train
and bring some carrots
for that hobo soup

......... See you on the other side of the tracks....."


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