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 upand 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.
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 insteadwhich 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
Lamys 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 wouldnt be able
to walk back? Anyway, we drove.
parking the SUV, we had to cross the railroad tracks to get
to the market. Walking over those trackswhich I now think
of as obstacles almost as big as hurdlessuddenly 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.
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.
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
somebodys house, drinking ice tea or Kool-Aid or whatever
mother had to offer.
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 harms way. (I still have that old guilty feeling,
placed on me many years ago, about it being illegal to destroy
American money.) But thats 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 didnt 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.
a great day.