The Train Wreck.
I remember when J Robert and I first got to be buddies, he would tell me these fantastic stories, in between spitting in a cup. You wouldn’t believe how much Red Man tobacco spit that joker can hold in his mouth and talk at the same time. Just before you think he may drown right in front of your very eyes, he will pause to spit. Some of his stories were so wild, I thought he may be pulling my leg. I’ll be honest, at first I would verify with my Papa, who grew up with J, and he said “Yep that’s true! I forgot all about that! Boy I wish I had his memory!” It didn’t take me long to realize, J is a walking, talking, spitting historian. Believe what he tells you. He don’t* forget nothin. *All my grammar folks need to calm down. I write like I talk. This may not be the blog for you and that’s ok. You have my permission to move on. So anyway, his memory is fantastic and his tales are fabulous. He doesn’t give me details like specific dates or his age, or what he was wearing. Throughout this series I’ll fill in details like that with my own imagination, so I can paint you a picture of what that moment was like, but I promise you that the story itself has not been altered one single bit. This is my all time favorite J Robert Smith story.
The Train Wreck.
Picture a boy around 11… He is the apple of his Momma’s eye. This boy is wild as a buck and free as a bird and won’t wear shoes for 100 dollars, for the burning of hells fire in his feet might consume him. You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, shoot. That’s a shame. That means you never had a shoeless summer. A shoeless summer is a summer where your feet get so tough from going barefoot, that come September first when you put on your new school shoes, they burn your feet like hot coals. Anyway, this wild boy is J Robert Smith and his feet are like pig iron. His dark hair is wild as he is and he has an old pack of his Daddy’s Red Man hanging out the back pocket of his wore out overalls.
The little city of Dallas is to J Robert what the jungle is to Mowgli. It is his home and it is his playground. He slams the screen door of his beloved home place as he tears out of the tidy dirt yard that his Momma is sweeping. She hollers, “J Robert, you best slow down, them lungs are liables to explode!” But he is just so excited. The possibilities of the hot summer day seems endless and J has taken a notion to head over to the train yard. It ain’t far from the house and them trains are neat, you know. He arrives without so much as a huff or a puff from running a mile straight without ever slowing down. I’ll be dogged if there ain’t a man in sight at the train yard, neither here nor there. He has always wanted to climb up on one of them cars, just to see how high up it is. He ain’t gonna hurt nothin and nobody will ever find out. And with that sensible reasoning he starts to climb, after spitting a little ‘baccer juice in his hands to help him get a good grip. Up, up, up he goes. It must have been just a smidge to much ‘baccer juice or maybe his hands just got sweaty, but either way his heart skips a beat when he slips. In that moment he thought he was a goner for sure. His young life flashed before his eyes and he reckons he shouldn’t set the woods on fire like he does. (That’s another blog for another day.) But praise be to the good Lord above for watching out for wild boys, his foot catches on a lever and he is able to get a grip back on the hot, rusty steel. Whew. That was a close one, my friends. Back up, up, up to the top of the train car where he has always dreamed of being. Never could he have imagined how cool the breeze would be on the top. And swift too. Real swift. Why, it almost feels like he’s moving. Wait a minute… He IS moving! And fast too! What in tarnation!?!? Blessed be the name of the Lord, J Robert Smith is riding a runaway train car full of corn!!!!! He sure didn’t plan this ride but it would be a shame to waste it. Down 61 he rode, taking in the sights and breathing in the air. He was going faster than them birds and the wind cooled his sweat as cool as a cucumber. WOW! What a terrific day. A whole self guided tour of Paulding County with air conditioning. It just don’t get no better…..until of course you see catastrophe ahead. Looks like them railroad tracks are about to run out…… I think it’s time to…..JUMP!! The biggest jump in the history of jumps sends J Robert crashing safely to the ground. The train car however, crashes somewhat unsuccessfully, spilling corn and twisted steel all over the ground.
Now friends, did you know that back then the Railroad had their own police? Well I didn’t either but that’s the day J found out that they did. J Robert Smith spent the next 6 weeks hiding under his bed every time the Railroad police came to visit, which was dang near every day. His sweet Momma, just swept away at that tidy dirt yard and politely smiled…. “J Robert? Naw. I ain’t seen no J Robert. Ain’t no tellin where that boy is.”
And that my friends, is how you tell a short story long.