Tales of Open Road

Moonlight on the prairie

... a chilly interruption in my journey

by Bill Jodrey

The Reefer train on which we had ridden had just pulled away from the water tower and was headed eastward. It left behind the eleven people who had ridden on the roofs of the cars with hands clutching the catwalk for the time it takes to reach the next tower, which is about one hundred miles.

As a group we numbered only three girls and eight men.

The night air was chilly, and riding on the tops of the cars had already left us chilled to the bone.

The reason that we were forced to leave the train roofs, according to the trainman, was because two 'bos' had fallen off of a train the night before, and they didn't want us to get hurt.

Our first concern was to get a fire started, so we set out to find anything that would burn. Six of us went back up the track, and seven went down the track.

We were thankful for the full moon which gave us enough light to see and pick up a surprising quantity of sticks and brush and even some few slats of boxes from who knows where. We soon had a fire going and with the work of finding the fuel and the heat it gave off, we were soon halfway happy. As a group, we were quite compatible and, with the warmth of the fire and a few songs to accompany my harmonica, we were about as happy as one can get under the circumstances.

About an hour and a half had passed, and we were getting drowsy and the fire fuel was almost used up when we heard the sound of a train whistle, and we were immediately wide awake.

We knew that the train would stop at the water tower, so we busied ourselves with scattering the coals of the fire. We took turns to answer nature calls so when the freight train stopped to take on water, we were ready, willing, and able to board our home away from home.

October 6, 2000

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