Home Coming

A freight train's steam whistle hissed a piercing sound, as it passed slowly through the rail yard, alerting the company of it's arrival.  The engines shook the ground beneath it, as the engineer awaited the yard masters instructions.  It took nearly four days  to navigate safely through the Applachian Mountains passes with cars filled to the brim, with coal from the Virginian mines. Patiently, the seasoned engineer waited for the commuter train to clear the track, he reminded his men to check the rail box cars for squatters before they left the yard with their next load, for the deep south.

The green light signaled the freight train to move ahead towards the coal chutes along tracks ten and eleven.  It's conductors scaled the narrow steel walkways along it's engines, then jumped down onto the rock gravel, just beneath the tracks.  Its  engineer watched carefully for his crew's lanterns, guiding him towards his destination.  When he rolled over-top of the chutes, an air horn sounded, alerting the engineer to;  stop all engines.  The men quickly hammered at the locks on the outer steel framework of the metal containers,  in an effort to release the inner chamber doorlocks, that secured the coal inside.  Sparks from their heavy blows could be seen from as far as the first engine. In an instant, the chamber doors could no longer withstand the force from the tremendous weight of raw rock.  And, with the swiftness of an avalanche, released it's payload downward,  sending thick plumbs of noxious coal dust bursting upward, and then enveloping the steel container.  The railworkers quickly scattered  to a safe distance, away from the deadly soot clouds, and deafening reverberations of cascading rock, that was now rushing into the ground beneath them. The smiles on each of their blackened faces revealed a sense of relief,  and closure. The long journey down the mountain-side to the railyard was never an easy way to make a living, no matter how many times you came back alive.  The mountain range beneath them is forever shifting. Never can tell if the rails are still safe enough to travel on them. That's why they send up those youngin's on mules..to keep the line cleared. They camp up their all month. You can tell their still breathing from the smoke rising from the cabin. And, when you can't see the smoke no more. Their's plenty of men, just waitin to take their paychecks.

A small group of men, that had been travelling the railroads together, watched from the darkness of the shadows, as each one of the railcars emptied.  Leon Walters, the ring leader; was raised on the swamps of the Mississippi. His family made their living by pouching gator hydes.

"Lots of money to be made trapping gator. City folks pay good money for gator skin." he'd explain. "Folks want them lizard hydes on their feet" It's a sign of wealth down here in the South....No matter how much the cost!"  And, that was our plan.   Ride the railcars South until the train ran out of track, or we ran out of luck!  Make us some money wrestling 20 feet gators, from inside of a motorboat and get rich, quick!   So, that's what Leon and I set out to do. Two tough sons of bitches looking to take back a life not lived. 

Leon and I came up with scheme on how to ditch the other two drifters, that had band together with us back in Tennesee. Seemed alright at first, knew all the railcars schedules... showed us the best way to hitch a ride onto a coal bucket, without getting cut into two halves. A bit dim-witted, the young one. But, then again so was I for joining the military. 



I liked the way you captured the trapper's voice. The closing life is very powerful. I wonder how they do take back life not lived! A good read!