An Intriguing Tale
As a young kid, I always liked Uncle Jake because of his endless tales of travel and adventure. Uncle Jake was freight train engineer and his stories were priceless. Every time he visited you would always find me and Mike, my younger brother, at his feet listening to one incident after another. One of the most memorable stories that he ever narrated was how a friend of his, who was also a fellow freight engineers had run over a teenage girl.
According to the tale, his friend’s train had rounded a bend only to find the young girl lying on the tracks apparently on a suicide mission. The friend could not manage to stop the train on time and he ended up with a dead girl and a sad tale. I have often wondered why this particular story stayed with me, maybe it’s because I suspected that the alleged ‘friend’ was actually Uncle Jake or maybe I just loved tragedies.
I have never known. Anyway, Uncle Jake offered my first and maybe greatest train adventure in my life.
One August weekend, Uncle Jake came to visit, he usually did whenever his train was in town or when he was en route and he could spare a few moments. My uncle’s family lived halfway across the country, which means that we rarely saw each other considering the long journey. Whenever we went to visit, we drove with our parents and it was always a great road trip.
However, we had never traveled by train on such a long journey. When my uncle came to visit, he seemed distressed, which I noted and immediately shared with my younger brother. We had attended his wife’s burial the previous year and I guessed this had to do with his worried manner. However, after some discussions, we were called in and told the real reason.
My cousin Tim, his only child, was having psychological problems due to loneliness because his father was mostly on the job and his mom was gone. The adults had decided that he should come and live and study with us. Additionally, we would have to travel in my uncle’s train to fetch the boy.
I must admit that this was too much goodies for a boy of ten. I mean, how much better could a young boy’s life get? First, we were taking a train ride in the engineer’s workplace to and from, a journey of two days and two nights each leg. Second, we were going to see our cousin Tim and as if that was not enough, we were coming back with him and he would be living with us. Believe it or not, this is every boy’s dream.
The train journey was exhilarating. We sat in the train engineer’s workplace and watched as my uncle maneuvered the train through dark tunnels, green grasslands, barren wastelands, past shimmering lakes and roaring rivers. I must say that it was not until the second leg of the journey that we fully realized that we were not in some sort of movie. After picking up my cousin, my uncle took another engineer’s shift so that he could take us back. We saw a lot of amazing wild animals, ate a bunch of great & healthy meals and had a lot of fun.
I must however admit that the story of the suicidal teenager kept nagging mind. I somehow wished something like that would happen as a climax to the journey. However, I did not share my thoughts with the others because even I knew they were weird.