Next Stop: Easy Street


“Well, this is where I get off, Baby Blue.  I got a cozy little spread about a dozen miles out-of-town.”

“This don’t look like no town to me, Buzz.  The flies have taken over the ticket booth in the hole you say is the station.”

“I’m not a man for big words, Blue, but I can manage to ask you to stay for a spell.”

“You don’t look like the kind of guy a kind of girl like me can hold onto for much longer than the next time the whistle from the westbound blows.”

“You once said that I was the sort of guy who could leave his boots under your bed.”

“That was back in Little Rock.  You had a fresh bandanna on that night.  You looked like Mel Gibson without the attitude.”

“That’s sayin’ a lot, girlie.  You kept those cowpokes sweeping the boardwalk so you could keep your Gucci boots clean.  You traded those Gucci’s for a pair of J. C. Penney “cowgirl” shoes that were made in Sri Lanka.”

“We’ve both come a long way since then, Buzz, and almost all of it was rolling down a hill full of tumbleweeds and thistles.”

“You can’t keep looking back, Baby.  It only shows you where you’ve been and not where you’re goin'”

“And you want me to get more dust on my shoes down at your spread?  I’m thinking twice about that.”

“Well, don’t think twice, it’s alright.  Say, I never caught your last name, Sweet Cakes.”

“I didn’t throw it, Bronco Buster.  If you want to know who I really am, check the wall of the nearest Post Office.”

“Why? Are you the Post Master General?”

“Let’s just say I’m the Post Mistress of these here parts.”

“Dang.  And all these years I lived on my cozy little spread, I never ran into you.”

“That’s because nobody wrote you any letters, Larry.  Ya got to have friends to get and send letters.”

“Well, lick my stamps, Baby Blue, you sure are full of surprises.”

“I got one more surprise for you, Saddle Tramp, nobody licks stamps anymore.  They’re self-stick these days.”

“Well, I got one for you too, Blaze, nobody sends letters any more.  It’s all email.  Where have you been?  Out back of the stable braiding horse tails?”

The train lurched to a stop.

“One minute,” the station master yells.

Baby Blue pull her bonnet off and let her wild red tresses cascade over her slender tender shoulders.

Buzz broke out in a sweat.  He hooked his forefinger under his collar and tugged to let out the steam.  It was 106 in the shade.

“So, we’re both getting off.  But you’re goin’ thataway and I’m goin’ thisaway, so I guess it’s good-bye, said Blue.

“Good-bye is too good a word, Babe.  I’ll be seeing you around when my fan mail starts pouring into the Post Office.”

“What fan mail?  Did you go on The Bachelorette again?”

“No, the fan mail from my blog award.  This is just a big blog idea, Sweet Cake.  All this never really happened.”

She stared at him for a full two minutes.

“I think you’d better go saddle up Old Paint and ride off into the sunset, Buzz, you’ve had too much sun.”

“I can’t ride off into the sunset, Blue, I live north of here.  You wouldn’t understand.”

Two hours later, Baby Blue was sorting mail in the air-conditioned Post Office while Buzz was getting a sore bottom on a sour saddle.  He was lost in thought.  But Old Paint knew the way home, after, of course, the bathroom stop at the Organ Grinder Saloon.

“There got to be a better way to end this blog,” he thought.  “In just one of these stories, I should get the girl.”



At the End of the Train

Those who lived within earshot of the railroad would usually be put to sleep by the clacking of the iron wheels passing over the rail joints.  It was an age-old rhythm, a song often without words. It drew the listeners away from their world.  Where was the train bound?  Where did it come from?  Hank, Woody, Eric and Bob…and a hundred others heard the music.  With the advent of seamless rails, the music has stopped.

More than one lonely and desperate man or woman or kid would rise up…get dressed, and vanish with the train when it slowed or stopped.  Sometimes they came home, most often they didn’t. The iron wheels were the call of the wild and the restless answered.

A true listener could easily tell if the train was on a freight or passenger run.  Was the sound light, full of people or was it dark, heavy and full of coal, or steel or logs?

On the freight lines, a breed of men rode the train in a car at the far end, the caboose.  Here, swaying and rocking to the subtle changes in directions, these hardened and unshaven men would sit and wait for the next stop.  In the winter, they would sit near the coal stove to fight off the icy blasts of a Missouri winter.  In the sultry summer, aching to breath moving air, they would sit in the open of the platform that was the last true end of the train.

Long hours.

One might page through a cheap copy of a girlie magazine.  Some sat quietly and read from the Bible.  They played cards.  They napped.  They slept, rocking like a baby they barely recall seeing, holding or being.

Usually, though, in the hours after midnight, one fellow would reach into his sack and pull out a bottle of pitiable rye.  The bottle would be passed…no wiping needed.

Somewhere along the line, a home waited for these souls.  A wife, a lover, a lonely son, a daughter about to run away with a worthless dishwasher, a mangy dog and a kitchen with plastic table cloths.  Some went to nothing more than a small 12′ x 12′ rented room in a boarding house that needed painting, on a side street not far from the station, hard by a saloon.

A man or two might not get off at all.  In some town, any town, there were warrants for his arrest.  He would ride on, change shifts somewhere and disappear into the night.

Many of these men who were short in the cash and honesty department could hold no real job or own a skill.

One skill they all did have was the ability to stare into ones eyes or a camera lens without blinking or grinning.  They could not know someone decades later would stare back at them.