"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I wanna 'boose


“Boose. Where’s the boose?”
“Here it comes, honey. See the big red caboose? Wave at the man in the window.”
The man wore a striped long-billed cap and overalls and rode in the top of the red caboose as the last of the long freight clickety-clacked through the Fort Worth intersection. Flashing lights on the big X-shaped railroad crossing  sign would soon stop. But the man smiled and waved at the little boy in the front seat of the car, hanging out the window to watch the train.
I’ve wanted a caboose ever since--even though trains no longer have them. Cabooses are victims of technology and change. I guess I am too.
Every  time I see a caboose--usually at a chamber of commerce office these days, it catches  my attention. A caboose draws me like a magnet. 
I’ve prowled over vacant ones parked on sidings in weedy railroad yards, captivated and saddened by the peeling paint, cracked leather on seats, the sullen smell of coal and diesel and grime. Smells of memories and miles.
 Climbing up steel steps, I yearn to ride in the cupola looking down the track over the swaying tops of box cars, toward the distant locomotive, spewing steam and smoke as it goes around a curve.
Cabooses are bright sunshine and memories.
You can buy a caboose these days--although the wooden ones are almost long gone. I hear they cost about $10,000 and I don’t have that, and I haven’t stopped to ask, because I don’t have a place to put one, yet.
My family thinks I’m crazy, and I guess they’re right...but I wanna boose!
It would make a great addition to the back yard--I could make it a sort of study, or den, a boar’s den of a sort, and a partial storage building.
You’d have to wire it and plumb it of course, but that wouldn’t be too hard. I’d like to set it up as a place to write and read and to escape the present. 
I’d have a wood-burning stove in it and kerosene lanterns. I’d want a cot with a warm olive drab army blanket on it, and a cat. I’d put shelves in there for books and a music system--which would have to include The Wabash Cannon Ball and The Rock Island Line. 
Mainly though there would be quiet. The computer and notepads  would be up in the cupola. I’d  climb up the ladder to the seat, listen to the sleet tap on the window, and then I could really write, looking out the window into the past.
“I wanna ‘boose.”

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