July 6, 2018

The Old Red Boxcar

So I was wandering around the woods like I like to do when I need a break from the city...or I’m half-drunk or half-lost, and on one particular afternoon I took a right turn at the big oak...it was unfamiliar land...no man’s land...lucky for me, it was all quiet on the western front that day...I crawled out of the trenches and went over the top and made my way through the forest and down a path...I stumbled across a rail line that seemed to be abandoned long ago...being the curious guy I am, I followed it and it led me to an old red boxcar that was sitting by itself amongst the trees...it was a little battered and beat-up and had definitely seen better days, but hey who hasn’t?...I asked him how he was doing...I have a lot of conversations with inanimate objects...usually beats the hell out of talking to people...he said he was doing all right, just enjoying himself in the forest...he said it had been an active rail line back in the 30’s and 40’s...but when the businesses dried up along the line, so did the need for rail service...so him and his friends were ‘retired’...all of them eventually moved somewhere...he said he hadn’t been in touch, he kept meaning to write but you know how that goes...I asked him why he was still there by himself...he shrugged his shoulders, or at least I think he did...he had heard some rich guy was going to buy him and put him in his backyard, but evidently it fell through or something...I said that was too bad, but he didn’t seem upset much…”I’d rather be working. I still had a lot to give when they exiled me...I could still kick any new boxcars ass”and he rambled on and on...he started to sound like an old man yelling at the clouds…”I looked a little better but I’ve been sitting out here for so long and the weather takes its toll on your bones.”...I could identify with that...he continued…”Besides, I’ve gotten used to being by myself out here...nobody comes out this far much...I was surprised when I saw you stumbling along towards me...have you been drinking or something?”...I admitted I’d had a touch, just to keep warm of course...I hadn’t gotten to the best part of the day yet...I asked him what he used to carry...he said he had hauled dry goods, lumber, food...just about anything...from Montreal to El Paso, and from Miami to Seattle...like Johnny Cash, he’d been everywhere man...I asked him if he could haul ass, but he didn’t get the joke...he was pretty generic looking and I asked him who he had worked for...his memory, like mine was starting to fade and he couldn’t remember the last company he did work for...but he said he had been used by many companies in the past...The Milwaukee Road, Canadian Pacific, Soo Line, among others…”I didn’t have no loyalty to anybody...whoever wanted me is where I went...one day they parked me here and never came back...they came and took some of my friends though”...his voice trailed off...I thought he might have been a little hurt that they hadn’t come to get him, but maybe that was just my one semester of psychology doing the thinking...I told him I had to get back before it got dark and I got lost trying to get back to town...he asked me if I saw a lot of his associates these days...I shook my head, and said that no, they were tearing up most of the railroad tracks these days, and you just didn’t find his kind very often...at least in this part of the country...he looked disappointed...we both agreed this country started to go downhill once the trains started disappearing from the ever darkening American landscape as somebody once called it.

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