Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Meandering Train of Thought

We are adjusting once again to new surroundings. This time we're parking our home in Indianapolis, well technically at the KOA in Greenfield, which is only about 15 minutes from The Sprawling Metropolis that is the home of the Colts and the Hoosiers, which apparently refers to both IU's mascot and natives of the state. I've tried to discover where the term was derived from, but the details are pretty sketchy.

As seems to be typical with KOAs, we're once again being lulled to sleep by the constant whine of traffic on the interstate. I would much prefer living near a train track!! I can make that statement with a level of confidence, since I grew up with a train track in my back yard. Our house was probably a couple of hundred yards from the train track and I never found the sound annoying. I actually enjoyed the clackety-clack rhythm of the train on the tracks. Sometimes our windows shuddered a bit, but even the whistle blowing had a somewhat romantic, lonely sound to it.

Our dog, Ginger, LOVED to chase the train, and whenever one went by while she was in the back yard she would race back and forth barking at it frantically! Luckily our yard was fenced so she wasn't in any danger.

Living near the train even provided some opportunities for adventure when we were young. I think we talked about putting a penny on the track but we were afraid it might cause the train to derail! We also discovered a "short-cut" for walking to school thanks to some neighbors who lived "on the other side of the tracks" (literally.) At first my mom didn't want us going that way, but she eventually realized it was pretty safe. It's not like you can't hear a train
coming and we had to cross the tracks at some point to get to school!

In the early 70s, my neighbor, who was MUCH older, probably in high school or college (and who I might have had a little crush on) decided to experience the hobo lifestyle for a couple days. So he and a buddy hopped a freight train and rode it to some point up north. I don't remember how far, probably only a couple hundred miles. I also don't remember how he got home, possibly another less adventurous buddy picked them up. He must've been in colleg
e and maybe home for the summer. I seem to remember that his folks weren't too happy about the situation, but they apparently felt he was old enough that they couldn't stop him. (I can't believe they didn't use that tried and true parental stand-by, "As long as you're under my roof, you'll abide by my rules.") I guess they figured there were worse things he could be doing. I remember my mom talking about it, but nobody seemed extremely upset. He was a good kid and I think his parents viewed it as a sort of "rite of passage" into adulthood or something. Of course, I didn't have all this figured out back then, I was probably only 8 or 9 years old. But looking back on it now from my own parental viewpoint, I think that might have been what was going on.

I remember that the neighbor boy's adventure caused my mom to do a little research about hobos. (I'm sure that I inherited my inquisitive nature from her, she would've LOVED the Internet if only she'd been born a little later.) There's nothing more fun to me than googling some obscure topic, but since that wasn't an option back then, she opened our well-worn set of "World Book Encyclopedias" (which I think had been purchased from a door-to-door salesman. Either that, or she had bought them with S&H Green Stamps. We got a lot of products that way!)

She found it interesting that hobos developed a method of communication between themselves. They would draw symbols on a tree or fence or rock in front of the house or establishment that they had just visited that would let other hobos know whether or not the residents would be sympathetic toward transient types. I think that I even wrote up a paper about it for school at some point.

By that time, the era of hobos had pretty much played itself out, but we would occasionally see people hitching a ride in a boxcar. According to wikepedia, hobos also had a lingo of their own. Here are a few of the more colorful phrases:
  • Barnacle - a person who sticks to one job a year or more
  • Bone polisher - A mean dog
  • California Blankets - Newspapers, intended to be used for bedding
  • Catch the Westbound - to die
  • Chuck a dummy - Pretend to faint
  • Reefer - A compression of "refrigerator car".
  • Sky pilot - a preacher or minister
  • Stemming - panhandling or mooching along the streets
  • Tokay Blanket - drinking alcohol to stay warm
  • Yegg - A traveling professional thief
Up until I was probably 8 or 9, there was a passenger train that ran from our town to Wapokenta, OH (if memory serves.) One time my cousin's cub scout troop took a ride on it and my mom made signs for my sister and me to hold so we stood out in the back yard and holding those signs and waving to him when the train went by. I don't remember if he said he saw us. I would doubt it, the train was obviously going pretty fast.

So why did I even start this "train of thought"?? Oh yeah, I was saying that I wouldn't want to buy a house that's close to a busy highway but I wouldn't mind living near a train track. I also wouldn't want to live near an airport. Having jets constantly flying low overhead is pretty annoying. And I always worry that one of them will crash!

I wouldn't mind living next to a cemetery or funeral home though. Again, probably because the house I lived in when I was a child was located near a funeral home and a cemetery. We actually lived "2 doors down" from the funeral home and one of my schoolmates lived in a house behind it because her dad owned the funeral parlor. (She later went to school to be a mortician and took over the family business.)

The funeral home wasn't there when I was first born. Up until the time I was about 3 or 4 years old, there was a field with horses there. That seems so strange to me, because we lived almost downtown!! I have a feeling that having horses next door when I was growing up probably contributed to my love of horses.

But living next to a funeral parlor also provided some benefits for kids. They put in a HUGE paved parking lot, and as long as there wasn't a funeral or visitation going on, we were allowed to ride our bikes and rollerskate all over the place! We spent many, many hours over there taking advantage of that vast amount of blacktop!

On the other side of the funeral home were 2 or 3 houses, then a little church and then a cemetery. We actually never spent any time playing in the cemetery, I admit I was a little weird, but not completely morbid!! I do remember that every 4th of July, the city would shoot fireworks from the stadium which was just around the corner from our house and we would walk down to the cemetery and sit on the rock wall to watch the fireworks. One time piece of firework shrapnel landed on the roof of a house across the street (a huge old mansion where a local rich widow lived, now the Troy Board of Education.) It began to smolder and our neighbor went up and knocked it off and made sure the roof didn't catch fire. 4th of July excitement!!

After Steve and I got married and the kids came along, we would drive into Troy for the fireworks and park in the funeral home lot and put our chairs or a blanket in the grass and watch the fireworks from there. The people who owned the funeral home were very supportive of the community and never seemed to mind ('cos we weren't the only ones who took advantage of it!) I'm sure they never scheduled any funerals that would coincide with the 4th of July! And anyways, the fireworks never started 'til 10 pm.

So, I guess I must be feeling a little nostalgic right now. I'm sure it has a lot to do with this upcoming grand-baby! Yesterday we took Megan out for breakfast at a little cafe near their house. While we were eating, that old Loggins and Messina song, Danny's Song, was playing in the background . That song was one of my favorites when I was pregnant with our son, Danny (and yes, even had some influence on the choice of his name.) I almost got a little teary eyed while we were sitting there (luckily no one noticed!) It just doesn't seem like it could have been all that long ago that Steve and I were in the same situation that Dustin and Megan are in right now, awaiting the birth of our firstborn. I started remembering the feelings of wonder and excitement and even fear, that they're probably experiencing right now!!

And I also started thinking that it's pretty amazing in this day and age that her dad and I are still married and still pretty happy!!

Like the song says:
Even though we ain't got money,
I'm so in love with ya honey,
Everything will bring a chain of luh--uh-uh-uh-uhv....
And in the mornin' when I rise,
Ya bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.

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