RAILS, TIES, SPIKES, AND TRACKS

By Ruth Yates

Ruth Carroll Yates

"My stomach is rumbling and howling because it wants food," I say as I lie down the long way of the back seat, stretching my seat belt so I can get my big marble out of my pocket. "When will we get to Grandma and Grandpa's house?"

"Sit up and look," says Daddy, "Then you tell me".

I try, but the turn of the car lays me over again. I pull myself up with the seat belt just in time to see the big white X's with fire blazing from their eyes.

"What's that", I said as one big arm starts down toward the road on one side and another big arm starts down toward the road on the other side.

RR Crossing

Daddy slides the car to a stop. "Those are the gates that close the road to keep us safe from the train", says Mother.

I see the big flashlight moving in our direction! I hear a quiet voice that has no words. It gets louder and louder. It is rumbling and howling and shaking the ground as it passes in front of us.

I grab up Bubbles my bear and press my face into his soft fur. The rumbling and the shaking stop. The voice gets smaller and smaller. I look over Bubbles head in time to see the big arms lifting. The fire inside the eyes of the X's goes out and Daddy moves the car forward.

"We're on the road that stops at Grandma and Grandpa's back steps', says Mother. "Look, there's their house"!

At the very moment the car stops, the back door of the house swings open and there stands Grandpa, smiling from ear to ear. The wind tries to take the door away from him, but he holds it as Grandma pokes her head around him and waves wildly.

Above them, a big sign that reads "Merry Christmas" in bold red letters is flopping noisily. The house-smells of chicken, noodles and hot bread follow them out to the car. "I thought you would never get here", says Grandma as she hugs me tight. "Look at you, you are getting so tall".

We talk and hug and laugh and listen, all at the same time.

Grandpa reaches into the car trunk and brings out two heavy suitcases and carries them to the house"!

"Let me help with the gift packages", says Grandma. Daddy stacks them on her arms.

"I'll get the door", says mother carrying my suitcase.

I reach in the car for my book bag and put my arms through the straps, stuffing Bubbles behind the straps.

I decide to wait on the porch while Daddy moves the car toward the barn.

With light from the big moon I see him coming up the drive.

I run to meet him. "Will the train come again when we are asleep?" I say, taking his hand.

"Yes, trains go by even at night", says Daddy.

RR Tracks

"What if the train comes into the house"? I say.

"Trains run on a track made of rails and ties held by big spikes".

Daddy says, opening the door. "It looks like Grandma's ready for us".

I look in the direction where the voice without words went quiet.

The rails on my bed keep me from falling out.

Daddy wears ties with his dress-up suit.

Cousin Joe's hair stands tall in spikes.

Tracks follow me when my boots are muddy.

How can rails and ties and spikes and tracks keep the train from coming into the house, I wonder?

"Hurry, Josh, everyone is at the table but you and me", says Daddy.

I slide into my chair without a word. Grandpa returns thanks.

I double-dip my mashed potatoes high like they do ice cream at the park.

'Have a chicken leg", says Grandma, "and pass the green beans, please".

I catch Mother's "take some green beans" look, so I do.

"It's one of our best years", says Grandpa. "The corn and beans were the best we ever had.

Is Lisa ready for her wedding", says Mother?

"Yes. And Lisa's wedding colors are blue, white and yellow. Her train flows halfway down the church isle", said Grandma.

I knew it! The train does come inside! My stomach feels funny.

"Slow down and chew your food. Don't eat too much. I see a chocolate cake on the counter".

"I will not get too full for chocolate cake"! I say, not knowing how eating slower would help.

The train is back. I hear the voice without words. It doesn't sound the same with the house doors closed. The rumble shakes the table and the kitchen window chatters. No one seems to notice. The rails and ties and spikes and tracks are holding! We are safe.

"Get your suitcase, Josh, and follow me", Says Grandma. Climbing the long stairs, she turns into the first room.

"This is where your daddy slept when he was your age". She says laying my pajamas on the rocking chair.

"Some of his toys are still in the closet. You can get them out if you want", she said as she pulls back the covers and kisses me on the head.

"Sleep well Tomorrow will be fun", and she closed the door.

Sleep! How can I sleep? What if the rails and ties and spikes and tracks do not keep the train out of the house?

I must keep myself awake until light comes in the windows.

I stack Daddy's Log-Cabin Logs to make a house. I look out the window. It is still dark. I build a garage for the little green truck.

There are only three logs left, so I quit building.

I take the books out of my bag and lie at the foot of the bed, because it is softer than the floor. I look at the books while the dark passes. "It's back"! I say, jumping up and looking straight into the morning sun.

"Have I been awake all night". I say out loud. My books are on the bed. The covers are turned back like grandma left them. My pajamas are on the rocking chair. The light is on.

I open the bedroom door enough for one eye to look into the halfway.

I hear voices downstairs and smell Grandma's biscuits.

"We are safe! The rails and ties and spikes and tracks kept the train out of the house", I yell, but nobody notices my words, so I hop down the stairs like a rabbit.

"Good morning, Josh", says Daddy. "Grandpa and I have a surprise for you". How would you like to go to the railroad station and see the trains"?

"We'll ride the tram to Lambert. Grandma and your Mother will pick us up at the station How does that sound"?

"I have to have breakfast", I say, not wanting them to know I am afraid.

Grandma puts a plate of biscuits and Jelly and a glass of milk in front of me. I eat slowly. Grandpa honks the horn. Everyone hurries to the car. I go upstairs to get Bubbles.

The train pulls up to the station platform just as Grandpa turns into the parking lot. Daddy hurries to buy tickets. The train is so big and noisy!

Daddy comes rushing out the station door waving the tickets.

"Hurry, he says, they are ready to..." The voice of the train put out Daddy's words. Grandpa takes my arm and pulls me onto the steps and into the train. The train gives a jerk and moves away from the station. I hold on to Bubbles with one hand and the chair arm with the other. The train sways this way and that with a click, clicking sound. The big man with a special hat comes for our tickets.

"That's the conductor", says Grandpa.

I look out the window over Bubbles head. The town is gone. I see cows. I see horses chasing each other. Tall trees stand close together.

I let go of the chair arm and show Bubbles the boats on the water.

RR Engine

The voice without words, the rumbling and howling of the train sound quieter inside the train car.

"I can see the engine", I say. "It's turning".

Daddy and Grandpa quit talking and stretch over me to look as the train screeches to a stop. "There's Grandma waving. Mother is taking pictures", I say, feeling not afraid at all.

I jump onto the platform and run for Mother.

"You should hear the train voice from inside the train", I say.

"You mean the whistle", says Mother?

"Is that loud voice a whistle"? I say. "Like one you blow"?

"Yes, it whistles hello when it's coming and good-by as it's leaving", says Mother.

"It says 'stay off the tracks I'm coming through'", says Daddy in his low story-telling voice.

The train pulls away from the station platform.

RR Tracks Close

It is quiet again, Grandpa motions me to come.

"See this shiny rail and the other one over there"?

"The wheels on this side of the train are made to fit around this rail. The wheels on the other side of the train are made to fit around that rail". "Feel the smooth steel rail? Careful, it's still hot from the train".

I touch it quickly with my first finger.

"See the big nails called spikes"? They hold the rails to these logs of wood that are buried in the dirt. They call the wood, ties". I stomp my feet on the wooden tie. It doesn't move.

"Now you know how they make the railroad track for the train to ride on", said Grandpa.

I try to walk on the long shiny track the train leaves behind but it is too slick for me.

"It's time to go home", says Grandma.

I climb into the back seat between Mother and Grandma.

"My stomach is rumbling and howling because it wants food", I say.

"When will we get to your house, Grandma"?

"Soon", says Grandma, "very soon".

I lean my head over against her shoulder. I'm going to sleep tonight.

By Ruth Yates

This page was last modified: Monday, 03-Dec-2018 16:35:15 MST