Sometimes, in very rare instances, it becomes very quiet where I live.
Not often, mind you. Usually the din of cats, chickens, raccoons, dogs, and sirens make it impossible to imagine that anyone who writes and records music for a ‘living’ could ever get anything done.
Yet on occasion, it all dies down at the same time, as if some exceptional form of solitude falls upon all of the beings in the area, and a wonderful silence is all that remains.
This Sunday morning occurred one such case, just before sunrise.
The hush was an especially enlightening one. From the East there came the only remaining sound that I could detect, that being one of a freight train running along an old Southern Railway track which lies about four miles away.
I like trains. They make me think of people like Jimmie Rogers, Brook Benton, Red Skelton, and Roger Miller. The distant, residual rumble of the cars, coupled with the echo of the whistle reminds me of days gone by when I, stripped down to the bare essentials of surf shorts and Adidas, would take prolonged excursions down those very tracks. The exposed portions of my body would bake beneath the glaring Sun, and I would wear the resulting tan with detached pride. (This was before all of the bad press that the Sun received from those in the medical field, the government, and Doonesbury.) I would sometimes walk for miles, deftly balanced on the left rail, dismounting only long enough for any approaching engine that I might encounter.
Diesel trains require particular grades in order to haul their heavy loads with expedience and resourcefulness, so most railways generally span the path of least resistance. Here in the South, that means that they meander along through valleys, gorges, and at the ‘backsides’ of where two properties, usually pastures, conjoin. I used to walk for hours, never seeing another human being, except for where the rail would intersect a road. Motorists would always stare at me from the ‘air-conditioned comfort’ of their cars, as if I were some sort of idiot. Perhaps to them I was, but the feeling was mutual.
Sometimes these railway jaunts would last an entire day, so I always had a contingency plan: Before heading out, I would call a trustworthy, albeit less adventuresome, friend named Eddy Woods, who preferred driving to walking. I’d inform him of my plan and ask if I might call on him to come extract me from wherever I might end up. With this bit of ‘one-way insurance’, I would, at times, walk all day long. Later in the evening, I’d give him a ring from a payphone, sometimes from as far as twenty miles away, admitting to him that I was beaten for the day, and he’d come and retrieve me.
Eddy mostly thought that I was crazy as hell, but I was having the time of my life, and quite naturally enjoying life, on the road to Nowhere.
On this quiet morning, however, as I stood in all of my CFSing glory, listening to the distant sounds of the engine rolling along the rails that I have walked so many times, I closed my eyes, and once again answered the call of life.