Gut Rumbles

May 23, 2008


Originally PUBLISHED February 7, 2005

I've always loved trains. The power, the noise and the sheer FORCE of those things fascinated me for as far back as I can remember. I still love the music of a lonesome train whistle in the night. And yes, I PLAYED ON A TRESTLE many a time, too.

I know that memory magnifies everything, but I SWEAR that trestle below the tipple at Louellen must have been 500 feet high and a mile long where it stretched over that rocky fork of the Cumberland River below the coal mining camp. I walked across it many times, and I recall looking down through the gaps in the ties to the river below. I often wondered what I would do if I got caught out there when the train came. I knew damn well that I couldn't out-run it.

I heard a story once about a couple of boys who did exactly that. They got caught out there and opted to drop over the side and hang on to the ends of the ties while the train passed. One of them made it, covered with coal dust and diesel fuel after having six engines and more than 100 gondola cars roar past, but the other boy lost his grip and fell to his death on the rocks below.

I think people told me that story to keep my silly ass from playing on the trestle, but I did it anyway. My cousin Ernie and I used to walk up to the switch yard frequently and place coins, nails and small pieces of chain on the tracks and watch while the switch-engines ran over them, creating works of flat metallic art. We both liked trains.

Later, in my semi-adult life, I was camping with a girlfriend near the trestle over Little Ebineezer Creek, close to where I live now. We heard the train coming at sunset and I dared her to climb the trestle from the bottom with me and make love amid the creosote timbers while the train crossed over our heads. We did exactly that, standing up, while the whole bridge rocked as if we were in the middle of an earthquake.

I don't know which was louder--- the train whistle or her screams of delight. THAT kind of experience will make you feel studly.

Yeah. My trestle-climbing days may be over, but I still like trains.

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