A sunny drive Northwest from Lebanon seven miles to Cleveland then three miles west, I noticed an unassuming road that dead ended by the railroad yard in Carbo. Curiosity often pays dividends and did that morning. This solitary red caboose tickled my interest and aroused my prospects. On the spot I instructed my agent to negotiate a deal with the railroad authorities to allow me to use this caboose, here, as the place to write my book. Photo impressions of rural backroads. Several years later I found time to revisit my iron wheeled garret to reenergize intentions to elevate my work to the next level. Sadly the yard was empty, the caboose was missing. Somebody must’ve moved it.
Once upon a time, railroads were the icon of modernity, the ultimate gadget. Gawkers, curiosity seekers, boys chasing the caboose, cheering crowds. Now made obsolete by the virtual subatomic dematerializer for mass transportation, a vintage railroad can still quiet and calm and infuse my reflections with wonder.
Heavy rail collides with the chords of modern mass communication. Coded messages ripple at the speed of light. Where's the disco ball. Already my position on the earth has been targeted to within a third of a foot, or less. Is there a threshold of safety. I edge closer. My follicles tingle. Recalling the rapture experienced before the gilded statue of Goddess Athena in the Parthenon nearly twenty five hundred years ago.
. Hear the steam. The whistle blows. Anxious mothers pass fresh donuts and coffee to husbands and sons boarding the train, called to war. Feel the history, a grand hotel and depot from the 1870's now on the National Register. This, by gosh, is a railroad town. After a long day in the saddle managing maps and focusing three-sixty, high and low, Stevenson is a backroads desert, my cherry cheesecake.
. Stevenson, Alabama Jackson County Friday 7 December 2007
I loved to walk the tracks as a kid each time striving to reach further than before, looking for new stuff. Always wondering how things worked and fit together: the sweet scented honeysuckle draped over a bob wire fence; an old house crumbling under its own weight; tadpoles wiggling in a stagnant pool. On the return I'd stop by a muddy creek, recover my hidden hook and line, and stalk catfish, or sometimes sun perch, but mostly skillpots fatally attracted by anything disgusting I could find for bait. As a kid railroads meant adventure, excitement, grit, noise, and chaos. Fortunately, some things never change.
Near Carrollton, West Virginia, a splendid barn-red covered bridge spans the Buckhannon River flowing to the right to confluence with the Tygart Valley River about a mile downstream, thence due north to the Cheat, to the Monongahela, to the Ohio and beyond. That lofty horizon, however, does not lessen the resolve needed here to simply reach the other side. It deserves post card status.
Wikipedia: The Little Red Caboose is a children's book by Marian Potter illustrated by Tibor Gergely first published in 1953. It tells the story of a caboose who longs to be as popular as the steam engine leading the train and who ultimately gains respect and admiration by saving the train from rolling backward down a mountain.
Flowers: This is the same self-effacing Caboose I admired and emulated as a yearling in the 1950s. Clearly, however, the story and its lessons need a major revision and upgrade to reflect our contemporary culture. Maybe a video game, too. It troubles my imagination to comprehend the transformation of this steadfast, tame but heroic, unheralded Little Caboose into one of XBox's raging steroid-pumped anti-heroes.