Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online


June 19 , 2001

Arising this morning and getting ready for my walk, I started to smile even before I looked at my Gary Larson calendar to see what goofy cartoon he was serving up today. Hey, some of us never grow up—and I'm one. What got me smiling was a nice memory of last Saturday, when my wife and I went to the Santa Fe Farmers Market, located on a large tract of property near my home. This tract was purchased by the city a few years ago and is known as the railyard, because for many decades it was owned by the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. Now it is waiting to be developed, if the powers that be can ever figure out what to do with it and how to pay for it. But for me, the place has much more to do with the past than the future.

The tracks at the railyard are the dead-end of a spur from the small town of Lamy, where the actual coast-to-coast trains stop. When the railroad first came to New Mexico in the1800s, the hills-and-mountain terrain around Santa Fe proved so difficult that the main line followed the flat plains to Albuquerque instead—which is why that city is the largest in the state today. But thanks to the efforts of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the railroad agreed to build a spur to bring freight and passengers into Santa Fe from a point 18 miles out of town. That spot now bears Lamy’s name, and the spur still exists, even though it is now mainly used for tourists and locals to take a pleasant joyride and think of days gone by.


Anyway, Linda and I got up at 6:30 last Saturday morning and drove our SUV over to the Farmers Market at the railroad property. This in itself is rather amusing, since the market is so close to our house that you would think that going there would be an opportunity for some good exercise. I still haven't figured out what made us drive instead. Was it because we expected to buy so much food that we would need a vehicle to carry it all home, or because we expected to consume so much pastry and coffee, readily available at the market, that we wouldn’t be able to walk back? Anyway, we drove.

After parking the SUV, we had to cross the railroad tracks to get to the market. Walking over those tracks—which I now think of as obstacles almost as big as hurdles—suddenly I was also thinking of days gone by. I recalled that when I was young the railyard provided me with many hours of joy. I remembered that my friends and I would compete with each other to see how far we could walk on top of the tracks without falling off. I remember putting pennies on the track to see how flat the train could smash them. Most of all I remember putting our ears to the tracks to see if we could hear the train coming. We were always a little afraid that it would suddenly zoom up out of nowhere and flatten our heads, just like the pennies.

From listening for the train, we came up with an idea for communicating with each other. I had gotten ahold of a sheet of paper that had the dots and dashes that represented the letters of the alphabet in Morse Code, and I got my mother to type up some copies. Armed with them, my friends and I would break into two groups, which would set up along the track some distance apart. The idea was to bang on the track with a railroad spike that we always managed to find discarded along the way.

One group would pound out a message for the other group to decipher, with their ears to the track. But not being very well versed in Morse Code, the receiving group could seldom make out what the message said, so finally they would send someone over to ask for a translation. That usually led to a yelling match, in which the word “stupid” was used several times. After a while the person sent would return with the intended message, to which the second group would respond. That in turn would not be understood by the first group, which led to them sending a human messenger, who also would hear the word “stupid.” And so it went, until everybody got tired and we ended up at somebody’s house, drinking ice tea or Kool-Aid or whatever

that mother had to offer.

Crossing the train track hurdles last Saturday, I looked up and down to see if anyone was watching, just in case I decided to place a penny in harm’s way. (I still have that old guilty feeling, placed on me many years ago, about it being illegal to destroy American money.) But that’s not the half of it. Another thing working on me was a powerful urge to put my ear to the track. I also wanted to see how far I could walk along the rail without losing my balance. I even thought about asking my wife if she would mind going up a little way the tracks so she could hear me tapping a message. But the most powerful thought of all was the fear of anybody seeing me act so childish. So, fortunately I guess, I didn’t do any of those things.


Instead I managed to get across the tracks and head for coffee and pastries. As Linda and I sat on a bench with our coffees and just me with a pastry, I wondered just how far I could tap my Morse Code message and still have someone hear it. And Linda asked me what I was smiling about.

Have a great day.

Stan

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