Saturday, January 22, 2011

Me and my shadow ready to roll!



My itchy foot steps on the rail at the Batesville City Center. Where does it go? Where does it come from? Now and then I hear the whistle. Does it take passengers?

When we were kids, we took our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the depot in Wahoo and boarded the train for our May school outing. The "Cookie-Pusher" earned its name poking along slow enough for us to explore the countryside. The engine puffed thick black smoke past our window and in it. Stinky. Imaginations ran high. We were Tom and Huck exploring Nebraska by rail. Forget the raft, our water is underground. We had a secret view of the world gravel road travelers didn't. And we had all day to make the trip.

I jumped. "Did you see that?" A lone rabbit zipped along side momentarily.
Sister stretched her neck. "Where?" It was gone.
Mother pointed out, "That's a plum bush." The air smelled flowery. "Jam in the fall," she reminded with a glint in her eye.
Jani leaned over excited, "What bird is that? The one with the yellow?"
Mom stretched to see, "A Meadowlark. Nebraska's state bird."
I pointed out, "There are wild wild violets same as those we picked for our May baskets."
"Girls," Mom called. "There's an elderberry plant. Remember the jelly?"
We nooded remembering how much we loved it. The plant's spread head was green with the beginnings of tiny bursts of flowers. It had all summer to produce berries. We'd wait. Mom's warm-from-the-oven bread, fresh butter and jelly would make our day.

Mom said, "There will always be something new to see and somebody new to visit with."
Really? Jani and I were pretty sure the world ended at the Kansas line. We didn't know anyone beyond it. But the travel bug was tickling us looking for a place to burrow in.
"Where can we go next?" Jani asked.
Mom sighed and smiled wistfully. Living on the farm, our lives were owned by the livestock, crops and weather with a very small window of opportunity in August. Only twice in our childhood did everything workout so we could leave home for a few days. We'd all make up for it in the years to come.

Wahoo is slightly hilly. The approach to the Czech community of Prague is hilly with deep ravines. The train screeched to a stop scrunching cars together. We scrambled to get out and look around.

One wide main street with businesses on either side was it. The restaurant/bar advertised kolaches, roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings on Sunday. Wow! People eat out on Sunday. "It's Grandpa and Grandma's for us," Jani piped up, "Is that eating out?"

We were running off energy when the round, black-hatted conductor called, "All aboard."
Mom whispered, "Take seats on the other side." We dashed on ahead.
Something didn't feel right. I stated, "There's no place to turn around."
Mom smiled, "You're right. The train has to backup."
"We're going backwards to Wahoo?" Jani puzzled with a frown.
A couple of hours later we were back in Wahoo happy and sleepy from the rock and rhythm of seeing where we'd been. It was a very good day.

At one time three major railroads crossed in Wahoo. No more. Tracks both directions from our local Museum were taken up stranding a lone, yellow caboose. Makes me sad. It would rather be riding the rails, me too. The first weekend in December, Wahoo celebrates Christmas on the Prairie. The Museum, machine shed, an old log house, church, school, mini-post office, the caboose and station are open for touring. Cookies, punch and coffee are served in the Museum. The caboose is cold. When I hosted it, I looked the part in my borrowed full-length fur coat and hat. Traipsing home in the snow was enough to remind me I was glad to live in today.

When my girls were little, they were not allowed to ride the Cookie Pusher, some new rule. We did the next best thing: climb on the ends of the caboose and pretend we were traveling across the praire to the ocean. Mike and Jenna and I walked the track bed, picked up trash, and worked our imaginations on the caboose. Ryker and Aja and I walked the rail-less track bed so they could climb up the loose dirt sides and slide down. Caboose imaginings followed.

I long for a train ride. Have toothbrush will travel.

2011 Red Convertible Travel Series

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