Jack Blanchard’s Column
A long time ago
we were on our way to do a national television show
from the PBS main studio in Pittsburgh,
and then to a Nashville recording session.
Tennessee Birdwalk had become a surprise hit.
Sometimes life can be good.
The porter showed us to our compartment and stowed our luggage.
Orlando was sliding away past our windows,
so we settled down, propped our feet on our suitcases,
and waited for snow.
An official voice over the PA system:
“You’re invited to the dining car for the hospitality hour”,
Free coffee and orange juice”.
Misty said, “Let’s live a little”,
and we staggered forward with the sway of the train.
Passing through the club car, the train rounded a curve,
and Misty sat on an elderly man’s lap.
His wife said, “Well, I never” and glared out the window at nothing.
She failed to see the humor in it.
The best part of the dining car
is watching the scenery fly by in sunset colors.
Telephone poles tick away the time,
and up ahead the train whistle adds to the adventure.
At every road and city street, cars are lined up
waiting for us to pass by.
Make way for the train, the biggest thing that moves on land!
We stayed awake most of that night
wiping our breath steam from the train window,
and watching the sparkling towns and moonlit woodlands
fall away behind us.
Washington DC was having a brisk morning
as we left our luxury train
and boarded a coach bound for Pittsburgh,
which wove slowly through the gray land Appalachia.
There were untidy traces of leftover winter,
dingy crusts of snow and slush.
Smoky air had left its film on town and country alike,
dulling the colors.
Trees, houses, factories, cars, dogs, cats, grass, and people
all blend to a drab tannish gray.
Men in work clothes stand in the cold rain
waiting for the train to take them home after another hard day.
A pregnant woman
struggles to get a baby carriage over the curbside slush pile
without dropping her bag of groceries.
Clothes are functional.
No time for style.
A gang of workmen lined up in the aisle waiting to get off,
whisper and snicker at our haircut and clothes.
We must seem outlandish to them.
Misty and I smile at each other, taking no offense.
The train stops and they file off,
lunch boxes under their arms,
heads bowed against the gray rain,
each seeking out the dreary street that leads home.
The train was owned by The Baltimore and Ohio/Chesapeake
and Ohio Railroad,
and the train staff was proud of it:
R.G. Whitling, Conductor; L. Boone, Flagman,
and E.A. Popp, Baggageman.
Their hospitality brought color back to this leg of the journey.
Nature soon followed suit, producing a beautiful rocky river
that wandered for miles through scenic hill country.
Journeys can remain
after destinations fade from memory.