Trains’ Wail

The bitter cold out in the unproteced pasture found no break in the bleak, gray on dead grass and gray rock features.  

Eyes gave way to hearing for some relief as I worked all day on a well.  And the diesels’ singing caught my attention and began to haunt me.  A major line lay to the east six miles away with a siding, and to the west nine miles, after driving across Oologah lake.  

So the behemoths trumpeted warnings as they approached crossings, gave differing toots and greetings as they passed other trains on the sidings.  The wind carried some songs as if they were just past the cows on the ridge just this side of sunset on sunny days.  Not this day, though.  

The wails of these mournful, melancholy monsters whose men smell of oil and long days sound like the siren call of wolves.  Their intelligence and remorseless hunger to gobble miles through gray days and frightening nights alike is a given, a constant, a hidden-behind-trees backdrop to life in the country.  

And like people who take wolves for granted unless surprised in the wild to be frightened like a rabbit caught out of its borrough, the siren song of diesels is forgotten, placed in the sensory background with wind and rain.  But also like wolves, these behemoths with unyielding steel mouths rarely lose when people want to race them.  Racing alongside them in parallel tracks is exhilirating like seeing a wolf from the car and listening to the kids ooh and ahh.  Racing a Siren to the crossing is smart like covering yourself in blood and hikng toward a howling pack unarmed.

So the pink granite on the headstone of the beautful softball player is testimony.  

She barely got in front of the wolf that snatched her life and didn’t even grind to a stop for a quarter of a mile to stand there shuddering while the warning claxon continued dinging for the girl who had roared past it as her last act on earth.  

You can hear the mournful wailing of the diesels standing there in the cold gray by her headstone.  You can also hear them not far from her house when the TV and radios have gone quiet for the night.  The bags under her parents’ eyes and gray hair mark a place taken forever, filled by no one, no matter how much they love them.  

Mournful.  Wailing in the night, both for the life snuffed out in the maw of the beast, and the man horrified to see that she has miscalculated and nothing in this world will keep him from being at the brake as his diesel drags her like a rag doll in the mouth of an enraged wolf.

So I sit in this bed and listen to hear the diesels’ song into the night, just there in the background of the songs around us, sad at the passing and amazed at the courage of those who live, listening to the wail and living their lives in spite of wolves that wish it had happened differently.   

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