Thursday, August 7, 2008


I find it's impossible not to stare at trains. Driving I-80 on my way to a doctor's office, I'll see a train run near the freeway and I find my eyes gravitating thataway.

A bunch of graffitied box cars hauled by a less-than attractive locomotor: not so exciting. Yet I stare. I wait in a doc's office and see a train out the window, I stare. I stare as if I've never seen a train before.

Do I find it romantic? Hardly. Mechanically fascinating? Not a bit. Interesting? Not really. Yet as I drive, if I see a train, my brain says, Hey, Meg, a train! And I heed and look.

A Beginning:
As kids, we did the Provo-to Sacramento drive fairly often, and as we'd drive, Mom put admirable effort into to pointing out the interesting attractions along the way to occupy and distract her singing, slapping, coloring, and fighting car full of kids.

(If ever you've made that drive along the 80, you know that her efforts had to be pretty valiant to find anything at all interesting to spot.)

So she'd direct our fleeting attention to the trains and encourage us to count the cars. (And the cows, which Mallory called chickens; that girl sure does see things in a different light.) Perhaps that youthful practice contributes to my inability to look away. I still try to count the cars. An superiorly intelligent way to drive safely, wouldn't you say?
A Middle:
In college, I dated a rebellious and insanely good looking rogue of a youth who confessed to me his love of tagging. (For all you law-abiding prudes out there: "tagging" is a colloquialism for trying your hand at being a graffiti artist.)

He was an skilled artist and foolishly chose other people's boxcars as his medium. Being the sweet, righteous, and bound-for-heaven girl I am, I encouraged him to quit it. Dude. Against the law, I told him. You could get caught, I told him. Other people's stuff, I told him.

He returned from Christmas break with some photos of his vacation: a bunch of boxcars he'd surreptitiously painted by the light of the moon. In one photo, he pointed out a little decoration beneath one of his flagrant tags. "Megan" it read. In stolen spray paint on a box car that belonged to someone else. A bad thing to do, I scolded. But I was secretly tickled. My very own boxcar.
A Blend:
My paternal grandmother, hoot-and-a-half Betty, lived in a boxcar as a kid. Her dad was a watchman for the railroad, and had to be near the tracks; so his little family made their home in a railway-furnished box car.

Her stories, fascinating to the last, are far less romantic than those of the Alden children of the Boxcar Children series. Rather, G-Ma's home on wheels was an ice box in the winter and a broiler in the summer. Their water was railed in. Her mom had to make a home out of a boxcar. A true manifestation of what The Great Depression did to people, but a piece of my history I'm awfully pleased with.
Bits of me on wheels.

A train rolls by: I watch, and I watch it until it's gone.

1 comment:

Just Sue said...

I LOVED reading this blog! Loved it, Loved it, Loved it1