"A Long Ago Train Ride"


   
By Joseph A. Harris Sr.

One of my oldest and fondest memories, are of my sister Millie
and I, visiting our aunt Liddy who lived in Stokes N.C.  it was
only about twenty miles away, It took a half day getting ready and
getting there. This was our first ride on a train, And our first visit
to the country, It was in the winter of nineteen thirty eight. Mama
really had us bundled up for the trip.It was during the depression,
And the year we lost our Father. At the time I was to young to
 know what was really happening to out family.
 I had been dreaming of this visit, And now it was coming true, It was
geting
late in the evening, the Sun was low in the western sky casting long deep
shadows of the train against the train depot. That once stood so proud over
looking the Pamilico river, And the tressle that carried the train in and
out
of Washington, Just across the street on a knoll stood a victorian ginger
bread house, where the conductors wife stood waving goodby to him, As she
did
each time his train pulled out of the station, And she was allways there to
greet him upon his return. This I was to learn through the years, where as a
boy I loved to meet the trains, and watch them leave out across the tressle
leaving a trail of black smoke as it faded out of sight and sound into a
world of wonder. And this, being our first trip on a train, and visiting
aunt
Liddy in her beautiful home for the first and to be the only time, It became
my most cherished memory as a young boy. while waiting to get on board I
kept
thinking how much this steam engine resembled a large cast iron horse, it
was
breathing and snorting like a large race horse, biting at the bit ready to
make a charge and do whatever in its power to get you at your destination on
time.
When that conductor called out all aboard, and everyone was on the train, It
backed out of that station bellowing black smoke and blowing of steam, In
preperation for tha long haul north, Carrying those passengers filled with
hope's of finding new jobs, And sending for their Familys to start a new
life
in a strange new world. In the far distance the Sun's  beautiful orange glow
on the Pamlico was fading beneath a dark blue cloudless sky. At last we were
heading across that long tressle, where on the other side there was nothing
but darkness to greet us, As we faded into the vast woods and low lands of
Beaufort County, Everyone was begining to settle down in their seats trying
to get comfortable and warm. Then to our surprise that train whistle blew
the
longest and saddess sound I had ever heard. As the sound faded off into the
night, That train began a rhythm of rocking and swaying, And that constant
clicky the click from those wheels began puting my sister Millie and I to
sleep. I was in dreamland when that conductor bellowed out in a deep voice,
next stop Stokes. there we were at last, At aunt Liddy's, She met us at the
train as we were geting off, She was as glad to see us as we were to see
her.She was dressed like our Grandmother Roberson, With her long black
skirt,
Pointed button up shoes, A heavy knit sweater, with the end of  her long
apron showing a little below her sweater, And with her lace bonnett she
looked very much like Granma, There was no one but my sister and I getting
off at Stokes. We went to aunt Liddys house, And it was like a shirley
Temple
house in the movies. It was the most colorful and beautiful home I had ever
seen, There were glass bead curtains hanging in the door ways. to the
dinning
room,
There were tassled shades and lace curtains at the windows and glass
entrance
door. She had beautiful quilts, and the brightest lamps to show off all
those
pretty colors. There was a big pot belly heater taller than I was, on top
was
a steaming kettle with a steady stream of steam rising and fading before it
reached the ceiling, I could hear the train once again as it was leaving the
station, I looked out the window in time to see the conductor  waving his
lantern as they were pulling out of the Station, After the train blew its
last lonesome good bye, Aunt Liddy gave us a nice slice of pie and a cup of
hot cocoa, I couldn't help but wish those lonely people were there to share
the warmth and food, of
my aunt Liddy's. She talked of her good old days as a child growing up in
the
country. learning to cook, sew and mend for her Father and brothers, And how
all all her family and friends exchanged recipes for those wonderful cakes
and pies they baked for their Church bake sale. She told us of the fun her
and our mother had togather growing up, And how they both planned on leaving
the country when they got maried. As she tucked us into bed and turned those
lamps out, We knew we were in the country, Tucked into a warm feather bed
with lots of those warm pretty quilts to keep us warm all through the night.
She warned us of a freight train that would be coming through without
stopping, And would blow its whistle at the crossing, She didn't say how
close the crossing was, I was awakened by the sound of that whistle, And as
it got closer it got louder, My sister Millie sprang up in bed, what is that
she said, Before I could answer that whistle and train sounded like it was
coming through the house, sister Millie and I dove under those covers
puting out fingers to our ears, but then there was nothing but the clickedy
click and a little shaking of the house, as the train faded out of hearing
distance. Those few days with Aunt Liddy is all I have of  her. But it was
enought to last me untill the present,  I never saw her again, my mother
never spoke of her again that I can recall of. Sister Millie never forgot
that visit,  That frighting train whistle, And she never wanted to return to
the country again. However I like to think there are still things as
beautiful as old trains, ginger bread houses, Train Depots, Grandma's and
aunt Liddys house.and a Christmas morning around a pot belly heater
with a long stocking full of fruit and candy, and the Aroma of fresh brewed
coffee mixed with the sweet smell of cedar or pine from a real Christmas
tree, And the aroma of Grandpa's pipe, And I wonder if there is anything as
sad as standing waving goodby to a loved one at the Depot, Or as lonesome as
that old train whistle cutting through the stillness of a cold winter night.
Then I wonder is ther anything as soothing as a mother rocking and singing
her child to sleep, or the rocking and swaying and clickdy click of a train
at night, as it gently sends you of to that place called dream land.
These were some of the days of my youth, And the now are the days of our
children, and our Grand children. so we must tell them of every thing good
in
life, and how to make the best of all that comes their way. And to fill
their
store house of memories as full as possible, so they can share with their
children and their grand children,  Also with older people like me.Because
we
all love to hear, live and experance
The good old days of our youth, And days gone by in our home town of
Washington.



    By Joe Harris of Washington, NC of Beaufort County

 

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