The Year Was 1918 – The Topeka Barn Social

You see, the year is 1918 and there’s this boy walking to a five and dime in Topeka with a dollar and some change that he’s made from trimming lawns and carrying groceries for the war wives and widows in his neighborhood. He has a couple of outfits that his mom bought him for church and school, but the girl he likes has most likely seen them all on him, and he’s been growing so fast that all his pants and sleeves are too short, so he hopes he has enough money to buy one of each. Continue reading “The Year Was 1918 – The Topeka Barn Social”

The Umbrella Man Watches

Every mornin’, I get up, I shave, get dressed, and make my way down to the train. I try to time it as closely as I can so that I’m not wastin’ no time on the platform, but the train gets there late sometime. You see, the platform is where all the trouble is gonna happen if there’s gonna be some. That don’t mean there has to be. Most folks mind their own business. They don’t got not time for a man holdin’ an old umbrella. Sure, they got themselves busy lives. But I watch them. Not in a bad way, but just maybe payin’ attention a little more closely than other folks do.

So, you know, you ride in a railroad train long enough you get to know faces. Some people, they commute every day, but others just take the train when they got a problem with their car or somethin’. Still others, well, they go down to the train station just because they’s drawn to the folks standin’ around on the platform, and those is the ones you got to watch. Continue reading “The Umbrella Man Watches”

A Tuesday Tragedy

This will make you sad, but that’s alright. If you never feel sad, it will be damn near impossible to ever know when you’re happy.

Earlier today my train was cancelled because an earlier train struck a car that was just sitting on the tracks. The women who was driving that car got out, so that’s not the part that you’ll find sad. She didn’t panic, so she got out and she lived. But it reminded me of this one time when someone didn’t. This is your last chance to bail from this post with your heart in tact. Continue reading “A Tuesday Tragedy”

El Pistolero

Consider the timeless and romantic figure of the pistolero. Striking in no manner, other than his poverty, he appears at the edge of town leading the haggard old mule that bears his few meager possessions. Ragged pantaloons, a bloodstained, dirty shirt that hangs on his bony frame, and boots that leave nail marks in the hardpan. He has no rig for his gun, so he tucks it into the rope that serves as his belt.

His weapon is simple in design, but it’s accurate, oiled, and balanced. Some of the men in town speculate that the chambers of the large-bore revolver might be empty, based on the stranger’s disheveled, worn appearance—after all, how does a man live past his thirtieth year and have so little to show—but they aren’t making any serious bets on the number of rounds in his gun. Besides, there’s no law against living a life of destitution—or even being beaten down by life, love, and the elements. The pistolero swiftly fades from the consciousness of anyone who has even bothered to notice him in the first place. Continue reading “El Pistolero”

The Year Was 1918: Journey Into the West

The year is 1918, and we find ourselves riding mostly westward via rail, but on a path that drifts in directions that make sense to neither Man nor God. The long icy train carrying a cargo of cattle, swine, and leathery human beings wends its way upon tracks bent round mountains, over gorges, and through rocky walls. The almanac had predicted a bitter, harsh winter, but the passengers, being the men and women they were, denied nature’s potency—not to mention the acumen of the lily-white college boys out in Pennsylvania who rejected both war and hardship so that they could publish their preachy little weather books. Continue reading “The Year Was 1918: Journey Into the West”

Choices

I take a commuter train to work. It has a capacity of about 250, but rarely books more than a 100 riders per trip.
 
Now, I want you to consider something. What if each of those riders’ lives represented something that you hate: a politician, an activist, a “fake-news” reporter (for the one or two of you MAGA people who might be reading this), a bad musician— whatever. It really has to be someone that you truly believe does harm to the world.
Mind you, the passengers are relatively innocent—the guilt of their lives is representative of a cross-section of society—but if one’s life should end, the corresponding person that you loathe also goes into the history books. It’s not a cruel death. Their soul just flies from their body.

Continue reading “Choices”

The Umbrella Man

“When people see a man walking with an umbrella in the sun, they look up at the sky. What for? They’ve got an app on their phone ten times more powerful than their dang eyes. What they should be askin’ is, ‘Why that guy have an umbrella on a sunny day? We ain’t had no rain in a spell. What he up to?’ But nah, they never ask that.

You look at this thing, boy. No, don’t touch. Just look. A hook, a stalk, and a bunch of flaring cloth folds. I didn’t make no modifications. I tried. Had a corkscrew in one of my earlier models down at the business end. Kept breaking off. It’s just an umbrella, son. Made to keep the dang rain off your ol’ head. And it do that, too. Continue reading “The Umbrella Man”

Talk to Your Kids About Glue

When eleven-year-old Melvin started to build model airplanes for kicks, he was just looking for a way to pass the time and beat the summer heat during break. A straight-A student, Melvin diligently read the instructions on not only the hobby shop model kits, but also on the airplane cement that his mom bought him at the five and dime. Melvin knew to use conservative amounts of glue for his projects and only in a well-ventilated area—near a fan or an open window.

But then one day, Melvin stayed up past his bedtime, finishing the construction of the fuselage for a 1:50 P-51 Mustang that he’d bought with the money he’d earned picking up lawn-clippings for Mr. Watson—the owner of the neighborhood lawn service. Melvin, in his enthusiasm to complete his prize model, misjudged his own level of exhaustion, and fell asleep on his desk NEXT TO AN OPEN TUBE OF AIRPLANE GLUE! Continue reading “Talk to Your Kids About Glue”