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"The Big Train"

The porter showed us to our compartment and stowed our luggage. 
Orlando was sliding away past our windows, so we settled down, 
propped our feet on our suitcases, 
and waited for snow.
You're invited to the dining car for the hospitality hour, 
called an official voice. 
Free coffee and orange juice. 
What, no volleyball? I remarked, heartlessly. 
Misty said, Let's live a little, 
and we weaved forward with the sway of the train. 
Passing through the club car, the train rounded a curve, 
and Misty sat on a man's lap. 
His wife said, Well, I never, 
and gazed stonily out the window at nothing. 
She failed to see the humor in it.

The best part of the dining car is watching the scenery fly by in sunset colors. 
Telephone poles tick away the time, 
and up ahead a train whistle adds to the adventure. 
At every road and city street cars are lined up waiting for us to pass by. 
Make way for the train! The biggest thing that moves on land! 

We stayed awake most of that night wiping our breath steam from the train window, 
and watching the sparkling towns and moonlit woodlands fall away behind us.

Washington was having a brisk morning as we left our luxury train 
and boarded a coach bound for Pittsburgh, 
which wove slowly through the gray land Appalachia. 
There were untidy traces of leftover winter, 
dingy crusts of snow and slush.

Smoky air left its film on town and country alike, 
dulling the colors. 
Trees, houses, factories, cars, dogs, cats, grass, 
and people all blend to a drab tannish gray.

Men in work clothes stand in the cold rain 
waiting for the train to take them home after another hard day.

A pregnant woman struggles to get a baby carriage over 
the curbside slush pile without dropping her bag of groceries. 
Clothes are functional. 
No time for style.

A gang of workmen lined up in the aisle waiting to get off, 
whisper and snicker at our haircut and clothes. 
We must seem outlandish to them. 
Misty and I smile at each other, taking no offense. 
The train stops and they file off, 
lunch boxes under their arms, 
heads bowed down against the gray rain, 
each seeking out the dreary street that leads home.

The train was owned by the Baltimore and Ohio/Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, 
and the train staff was proud of it: 
R.G. Whitling, Conductor; L. Boone, Flagman; and E.A. Popp, Baggageman. 
Their hospitality brought color back to this leg of the journey.

Nature soon followed suit, producing a beautiful rocky river 
which wandered for miles through scenic hill country.

We were on our way to do a national television show 
for a PBS station in Pittsburgh, 
and then to a Nashville recording session. 
Sometimes life can be good.

And sometimes the journey is the best part.

Copyright  February 26, 2001 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.


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