The End of My Trip To Odessa...
Well, (I say that a lot)I guess I may as well finish my trip to Odessa, Texas. A couple of folks say they are curious about the rest of the trip so here goes!
"...When I got to the T&P yard, it was late evening and the train was about through making up. It was a long one, probably 130 or more cars. It is almost three hundred miles from El Paso to Odessa and I knew it would be an all night trip. And I knew it would be cold.
The train had four engines pulling it, two facing forwards and two facing backwards. That put the last engine with the door right at the first boxcar. There was no light showing in the back cab so, when the train started pulling out, I climbed aboard the last cab.
Inside were a lot of gauges I didn’t recognize so I didn’t touch anything. The seat looked like a captain’s seat so I sat in it. It was big and comfortable and I quickly fell asleep...'oops'
In a couple of hours, I felt myself being roughly shaken. I awoke abruptly and saw a big man glaring down at me. He asked me what the hell I was doing in this cab and I said I was sleeping. I was thoroughly scared and didn’t know what to expect. I assured him that I hadn’t touched anything. He told me that if I were discovered here the entire crew would be fired. I said I was sorry. He said that wasn’t enough and that I would have to get off the train. I asked him when it would be stopping and he said not until it got to Odessa.
Then he told me I would have to jump off the train while it was moving. I said I didn’t think I could and he assured me that I would indeed jump, and right now. I was scared half to death and it was pretty obvious to him that I was. He said that if I would do exactly as he would tell me, I would be all right.
The train was climbing a long uphill grade just west of Sierra Blanca and was going only about twenty miles an hour. He told me to climb down the ladder of the cab and let myself down toward the ground until my feet just touched the ground. Then start running as fast as I could without letting go of the ladder. When I was actually running and was sure I had my balance, I would let go of the ladder and, as soon as I dropped, reach up and grab with both hands and I would catch the ladder on the front of the first boxcar. Then I could pull myself up and ride on top of the train the rest of the way.
I stopped being petrified as soon as my feet touched the ground. Then I let go and grabbed. Everything happened just the way the engineer said it would. When I got to the top of the boxcar, I lay down on my stomach with my arms wrapped around the walkway under me in the warm exhaust of the diesel engine and slept until we were about five miles from Odessa.
It was just breaking daylight when I got off of the train and started walking toward my sister’s house on West Ada Street. When I was within sight of her house, I saw her waiting for me with a big smile on her face. She said it was about time I got here and gave me a healthy hug.
We went inside and Shike (Her name is Eva but we all called her Shike, short for Shi-poke because she dawdled so much while walking when she was little)told me to wash my hands and face and she would cook some breakfast for me. I did and she did. She kept cooking as long as I wanted to eat. I know I must have eaten six or eight eggs, a half-pound of bacon, a half loaf of bread and a quart of milk. Then she had me take off my dirty clothes and she washed them while I took a bath.
Her husband, Joe, had already gone to work when I got there but I saw him that night. He was a roustabout crew-pusher for an oilfield service company. It was the B&B Construction Company and he serviced oil wells and tank batteries for Phillips Petroleum.
Joe knew everything about hooking up tank batteries;i.e., tanks, heater-treaters, separators, pump jacks, christmas trees (a cluster of valves to route oil from the wells to tanks and wherever was needed) and laying pipelines, digging ditches and maintaining the area around tank batteries.
He and his crew of three men drove a rig-up truck (a winch truck with a rolling tailgate and a set of gin poles on it and tool boxes on the sides) They did anything that needed to be done at oilfield sites.
Joe was a good-natured man and we talked that night. He smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes and bought a pack for me. He had a terrible temper but didn’t lose it often.
I went to sleep early that night and was really getting my sleep caught up when I felt someone shake me awake. Bleary-eyed, I looked up into the face of my sister, Shike, who was standing there with a hard hat in her hand. It was still dark and I asked her what was going on. She said it was time for me to go to work and she handed me the hard hat.
She said Joe needed another man and had hired me. Off hand, I didn’t remember applying for a job with him. Eva said I could stay there as long as I wanted to but I had to work. So I got up, got dressed, ate and went to work. The first oil field order from the foreman to his brand new hand was, "Jamsie, grab a shovel!" I would hear it many more times until I would learn enough to handle the other tools of the trade!"
That's the end of my first trip on the freights from Modesto, California to Odessa, Texas. I hope you enjoyed it. One of these days I'll go back to Jim's Journal and write some more.