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Old-time steam engine.



The railroads were the big thing in Grand-father’s day. The only car my grandfather ever saw was a horse carriage outfitted with a cumbersome steam engine. These were succeeded by a not too reliable, at that time, piston engine which had to be hand cranked to start.

The railroads were so important that the Union government paid a premium to finish the Union Pacific intercontinental line; the railroad supplied the Union Army and brought gold and silver from the West so the National Treasury could pay for the Civil War.

Many a popular song of that time was composed to the rhythm of the rails, clickety-clack, clickety-clack as the wheels passed over the expansion joints in the rails. Modern rails are welded together section by section and don’t make the clickety-clack sound.

Humor as well as music was influenced by the railroads. Daddy was fond of telling a story having to do with the train stop at a little town called Air. A female passenger had been dozing and woke up suddenly; she worriedly asked the conductor, “Conductor, did I pass Air?” The conductor gently replied, “Madam, if you did, you were certainly very lady-like about it.”

While working at the ice house one day, Shorty recalls that his boss, Mr. Elmer, came running in and exclaimed, “Shorty, come quick! There has been the damnedest train wreck you ever saw.” The railroad tracks were just a short distance away and when he ran to the derailed cars, Daddy began at once pulling out the victims. One man was moaning as they pulled him free—but a few minutes later as Daddy looked back, he was dead. They worked several hours helping to free people and giving first aid.

Another year there was another train wreck farther down the line, and a number of cows, which were being shipped to the slaughter house, were killed. The cows, lying freshly dead by the tracks, attracted a group of Indians from nearby. As they sat on their haunches next to the dead cows, they began pushing out between their fingers the contents of the intestines and sucking in the delicacy of the intestines, a ritual they must have practiced when there were buffalos on the prairie.

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