Wanton Hussy - Column for 3/6

Train week

Trains, trains trains… Far be it from me to change the spontaneous theme for this week's Cant columns.

Yes, I know you're all thinking that I'm going to talk about the obvious phallic imagery of trains and make comments about the fascination men have for trains, and possibly make some rude comments about old men and train sets… but I'm not. I don't actually think that everything longer than it is wide is phallic. I do not see penises everywhere around me (except in the occasional very disturbing dream). And I don't care about phallic imagery or other lit-crit bullshit.

I grew up near trains. As a little girl I would occasionally stay overnight at my grandparents' house in Modesto and the sound of the train would put me to sleep. When my parents got divorced and my mom and stepfather bought a house on the outskirts of town, we lived four houses away from the train tracks.

The train was so loud at first that it was deafening; the windows rattled in their frames day and night. I would wake up when both the 11 PM train went by and the 6 AM train in the morning. I have no idea what they were shipping on those trains, but they were always heavy-sounding. The screech of train-brakes still sets my teeth on edge. But after a few months, I never noticed the train sounds, except in their absence. If I was staying at my father's house or at a friend's, it was difficult for me to fall asleep without their steady rhythm. When I went away to college, it took me months to get used to the silence all night.

I crossed the tracks going to and from school every day for four years, and on the way to the local branch library and post office. I walked the dog over the tracks, flattened pennies on the rails, stood close to the train and screamed as it went by. I was stupid enough to dodge across the tracks in front of a medium-slow moving train a few times. I was even more stupid the few times I ducked under the cars of a temporarily stopped train to get to the other side. (Sometimes the trains would spend what seemed like hours slowly rolling back and forth, changing tracks or engines or cars. Since our town was so "rural" it was acceptable for the train to block up to four intersections for up to an hour. Woe be unto anyone having a medical emergency and needed to get to the hospital in Modesto.)

And then I grew up and moved away. No more trains. My mom sold the house a few years ago when they moved to Arizona. We bought a house in Felton. Sometimes I hear the train in the mountains, though, and it always relaxes me. Trains remind me of moments in my childhood, of peace and repose. The slow steady rhythm always takes me back to being buried in the bed-covers, mentally feeling the train slip down my spine, relaxing each vertebrae as it goes down and down and down until I fall asleep…

Columns by Wanton Hussy