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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Hear that whistle blow

© Another Day in the Country

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am resting in the hammock on the porch. This hammock is a multi-purpose contraption. I can relax into curve of woven string while the breeze blows through, and strung from one post to another it keeps folks from stumbling on a loose porch board. How convenient. It works! And as I swing, I’m listening to this little town.

Thank goodness it’s quiet this afternoon. No one out with go-carts, noisy motorcycles, or four-wheelers buzzing round and round. I can hear the neighbor mowing, back and forth across his yard. I mowed mine earlier and I planted my tomatoes.

The wind is blowing gently from the south and I am watching for the clouds with lightning flashes predicted for today and all this week on my smart phone app. Should I water? Will it rain or will the storm clouds blow on through, flashing in the distance, Morse code: no moisture for you? The lawn is thirsty. I did give the flowers a drink but reasoned that the grass can wait a bit. It’s early in the season, don’t want to baby it too much. “W-a-t-e-r” the grass calls out, turning an even darker shade of green.

A train calls in the distance and I smile remembering how we used to romanticize these trains that come through Ramona when we’d come from California for our annual two-week visit. From childhood on, we loved the trains. My kids love the train and my grandson follows us in his need to watch the trains go by.

We’d come into town, open up the Ramona House with all its windows wide to the wind, and spit and polish everything, including wax on the floor. We sang along with Patsy Cline on the old record player as we rearranged and refreshed the furniture, put on fresh sheets, hung laundry on the line, lined up food on the refrigerator shelves. And when the work of settling in was done, we’d lay on the bed in the late afternoon and take a nap while the breeze blew through the house and the trains blew by. We were so far away from California and its accumulation of everyday work, and we could relax with no bills to pay or normal responsibilities. All that was left 2,000 miles behind.

After our two weeks was up, we’d head west and remember the quaintness of this small Kansas town with its dusty roads, strange customs, quirky souls, and sweet relatives all aging at the speed of light. I’d write a few stories about spending time in the country and wait for a year to come back.

When Jess got a job in Sacramento someone told her about a little back yard cottage for rent in a quiet older neighborhood. It was small, two rooms, a tiny kitchen, even smaller bathroom, and a teacup sized garden out in front surrounded by a picket fence. “It’s just right, for me,” she said. “There’s even train tracks about a block away and I can hear the train go by at night and whistle — just like in Ramona.”

Guests came through town the other day. As we sat on the porch a train went by, the engineer, either bored or lonely called and tooted, wailed, endlessly upon his horn, over and over. We had to stop talking till he’d passed all the crossings within earshot. “Do these trains ever bother you?” these new folk asked.

We laughed. “You get used to them,” I said, “most times we hardly notice. They are just part of the background of Ramona—of course, until we get an eager beaver like this engineer who’s laying on his horn, making sure we know he’s here.”

Whenever we’d complain about the trains blowing their whistles so long and loud in the night, Aunt Gertie would look righteous and say, “They are just doing their job, girls.”

If you’re dead to the world with the wind blowing in from the south through your open window and you happen to be sleeping in the upstairs north bedroom at Cousin’s Corner, that engineer ‘doing his job’ has been known to scare the wits out of visitors. It truly sounds like you’ve been thrown on the tracks and his engine is coming right through the middle of your bedroom in the dark. Bolt upright it wakes you, heart pounding, it dares you to go back to sleep before another train calls through the night coming in from the other direction. As you get your breath back, you hear the thrum, thrum, thrum of the engine and the clacking of the wheels and then the whistle calls fading into the distance which sounds so much sweeter far away, while tomorrow dawns another day in the country.

Last modified May 20, 2015

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