Hear The Train Whistle Blow And Where Did The Caboose Go
Each day during my work week, I make a trip up town to the US Post Office to retrieve our office mail. It is a short trip in this little one horse town in Missouri, but at least once a week, my trip is delayed by a long train speeding through. Hearing the horn blow, then seeing the white and orange striped arms come down across the road, I stop to wait and watch the big engines pull all the swaying cars. Each time this occurs I can’t help but remember the trains of my childhood and my fascinations with them.
When I was small, we first lived right next to the tracks in our southern Indiana town. The train passing was always a part of my life then. Never knew anything different. Before I was seven, we moved, but this time only four houses away from the same familiar tracks. As soon as the lone whistle sounded, I would get on my little red tricycle and peddled as fast as my tiny legs could to the tracks, waiting with anticipation.
Almost every time I would put a penny or a nickel on the track, with my heart pounding, knowing the train would be coming around the bend any moment. Soon I would see the black engine coming, screaming it’s horn. I would move a little further away and cover my ears. As the engine passes, I could see the rails of the track move from the heavy iron weight.
As the box cars began to pass, I became thrilled with the swaying and rocking. The thought of them tipping over scared me enough that I would peddle my tricycle back just a little further. I was always awe struck at the immense size. Sometimes I would be treated to the graffiti painted on those creaky cars, wondering who was the artist.
The constant passing of the cars and the clacking sound would set a rhythm in my head, sometimes sending me into a trance like state. Hearing the whistle moving further away eventually brought me sadness, for the end of the train would be near, but yet the best was to come.
Watching down the bend, I would finally spot the red car that excited me the most. The caboose! It was always painted bright red and I knew I would always be greeted by a train engineer waving and smiling at me as he passed. I always waved and smiled back, sitting there on my little red tricycle, which would become my little red caboose in imaginary play.
After the caboose passed, I would race closer to the tracks and dismount my tricycle and stand on the tracks watching that last red car disappear. Sometimes I would put my hands on the rail and get goose bumps from the heat and vibrations that could still be felt from the mighty iron snake.
Last, I would pick up the smashed coin and race back home to add to my collections of other lucky souvenirs. I would continue in my imaginary world of play with my little red caboose on three wheels and wait for the next lone whistle to blow again. Another penny, another nickel.
As I sit in my car and wait for this train to pass, I am disappointed that the caboose no longer comes. Instead there is nothing but a flashing red light or reflective tape. Where did the wonderful cabooses go anyway? The white and orange arms raised and I moved on to the Post Office. As I passed over the tracks I realized a lot of the good things in life simple do not last or change to something less exciting or less poetic.
Hearing the train’s whistle in the distance, I am reminded to cherish all the things in the here and now and from the past. The babies, my sons, the puppies, the way of life as a child, it all will change it’s form and move to something else. Life is perpetual like time, never standing still and moving on.
Hearing that whistle blow one more time, I wondered whatever happened to all those smashed coins I once saved as great treasures?