i A Time and a Place...: Headed For Texas...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Headed For Texas...

I don’t remember if I ever told about the first time I rode a freight train from Modesto, California to Odessa, Texas, where my Dad and Sister lived. I met up with a man named Blackie, a man about 50 or so years old, who took me under his wing and showed me a lot about how to make it on the rails. Here is part of the trip, starting from the Colton Hobo Jungle.

…Blackie told me that when I got to El Paso, I would have to leave the Southern Pacific rail yard and walk across town to the Texas and Pacific rail yard to go on to Odessa. He described to me just which way to go. He said I would have to wait at the eastern edge of the yard until the train was made up and rolling to hop aboard and that the railroad dicks on the T P weren't as sociable as on the SP.

That evening Blackie showed me where to catch the train to Yuma. I asked him if he were going and he said no, he would be going back to the Bakersfield area. He said I should take the morning train so I would get to Yuma in the daytime. Then I should catch a night train east and would cross the Arizona desert at night while it was cool. Then he left me there and went on his way. I learned a lot from Blackie. I really hated to see him go.

I caught a train and headed for Yuma. On the way, the train stopped at a switchyard in some town and dropped off a car. While the engine was switching cars, I went to an orange grove and picked as many ripe oranges as I could to eat on the way.

The freight finally rolled into Yuma and I got off and headed for the east of the switchyard to wait for the eastbound train to start. I caught it just at dusk. I climbed into an open boxcar and went to the back of the car, out of sight of anyone who might be looking that way. After the train cleared town, I sat in the door of the boxcar and watched the scenery roll by.

I soon went to sleep and was really sawing logs when I felt the train hump and begin to stop. I got up and went to the door to look out. I could see the highway a ways off. I could see what looked like police cars on the highway with their lights flashing.

The train came to a stop and I really got worried. I had no idea why a train would be stopped by the police way out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I first considered jumping off the train and hiding in the brush until the police left but it was too dark outside to see where to hide. I went back to the end of the boxcar and hoped I wouldn’t be seen.

In a minute or two I heard footsteps approaching and saw the beam of light from a flashlight coming toward the car. I was really scared. Then someone flashed a light on me. It was an Arizona State Patrolman. He told me to come there and asked my name. I told him and he asked me how old I was. (It seemed everyone would ask me that) I told him and he asked what I was doing out here. I told him I was from Modesto and was going to Odessa, Texas, to see my Dad.

I asked him what was wrong and he said there had been a breakout at the Arizona State Prison at Yuma and they were looking for two escaped prisoners. Then he was quiet for a few seconds. I thought he might take me in custody. He asked if my mother knew where I was and I said she probably did but she hadn’t told me I could go. I didn’t want her to get into trouble.

I told him I wasn’t running away from home, just going to see my dad. What he did then really surprised me. He told me to be careful and to stay on the train until daylight and be careful of anyone I might see on the way. I said I would and he left. A few minutes later the train started up again. I went back to sleep. I stayed on the train until it got to Tucson the next morning.

And the next part is another story.



Blogger tweetey30 said...

Wow great story. I love hearing about your stories and what you did as a child. You know I wish I would have gotten more from my grandma before she passed away four years ago.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

You didn't say how old you were at the time of this trip....I would have been very worried, if I had been your mother. I'm glad that you made it alive and didn't met up with those two prisoners. Can't wait to hear the "rest of the story."

5:57 AM  
Blogger cregil said...

I would love to hear more; and would you be so kind as to give an approximate year of this adventure?

Thanks for sharing. Expecting the worst, you kept running into persons with compassion. That is a story I needed to be reading right now.

4:36 PM  

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