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WHEN I was a youngster growing up in Cleveland, my parents would send me to spend some time each summer with my grandparents in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Railroad tracks ran directly behind their property and I learned a lot about the magic of steam locomotives. For instance, all that smoke is actually hot embers that’ll set a kid’s hair afire if he’s not careful.
My grandmother’s real trial, though, came because of Saturday matinees at the Strand movie house, particularly the weekly serials of the Lone Ranger and his Faithful Indian Companion Tonto.
Here’s my side of it all: The Lone Ranger and Tonto were riding Silver and Scout, respectively, alongside a railroad track. Tonto stopped, dismounted and bent down to put his ear on the rail.
“Train come, Kemo Sabe,” he said cogently; this, though there wasn’t a train in sight. But, sure enough, the train soon appeared, its wood-burning locomotive—the kind with a double-conical stack—evidently not setting Tonto’s fringe afire.
I was impressed by this. The train precognition; not the fringe part. I couldn’t wait to try out this ear-on-the-rail trick.
My grandmother missed my first attempt, a complete failure in that I sensed absolutely nothing through the rail.
Of course, simply because there was no train coming.
So, as proof positive, the next time, I waited until there was a train in sight. Like many, this one was a loaded coal train lumbering its way up the mild grade with dual locomotives, one in front, the other at the rear.
Perfect. This should have that rail vibrating.
Except it didn’t. Once more I had my ear on the rail to no effect. Talk about youthful disillusion.
Now, my grandmother’s point of view: Looking out her kitchen window, she sees her grandson, one of many, but no matter, with his head on the railroad track. The coal train’s lead locomotive is blowing its whistle frantically, its engineer yelling like crazy.
I believe that was the last summer I spent in Shenandoah. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012