Last week Beverly and I rode the train to New Orleans on an excursion to visit my childhood friend, Gary Rook, and take in a Hornet’s NBA basketball game.
We had “rediscovered” the train a few years earlier when we rode it from Jackson to New Orleans to attend a reunion of my Navy shipmates. Indeed, with the ever-rising price of gasoline, the train is an economic alternative to driving and, in my opinion, is more practical and convenient.
You do not need a car in New Orleans because there is no place to park when you get to where you are going, so you just spend a fortune to leave your car in a hotel’s garage.
As soon as the train pulls out of the Jackson station, the last leg of the southbound odyssey described in the song written by Steve Goodman and widely-performed by both Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson immediately begins.
Nowadays, the train’s schedule has been changed with the train leaving Mississippi’s capitol at 11:20 a.m. instead of at a time to accommodate the song’s line of “through the Mississippi darkness rolling down to the sea.”
Yet, the train is barely rolling before parts of Jackson no longer seen by most are displayed beyond the windows of the “magic carpets made of steel.”
Looking out the windows of the train affords the opportunity to look back in time, for it is as if time has stood still or even moved backwards in some of the areas alongside the long-situated railroad right-of-way.
“Graveyards of the rusted automobiles” are there, along with broken cross ties and an appalling accumulated assortment of trash. Old light poles, some with cross pieces still intact and some still adorned with green glass insulators, can be seen at various spots along the route as the train rolls along “past houses, farms and fields.”
We were even afforded a glimpse of the aftermath of a train wreck where a grain-filled freight train had derailed just days before our trip.
In a wooded, flooded area just south of Jackson, the jumbled wrecked freight cars with jagged holes ripped and torn in their steel flesh were strewn along the eastside of the track. I wonder how long it will be before there will be no signs of the wreckage, or if it will remain like the old light poles bearing the antique glass insulators.
“Passin’ trains that have no name,” we steadily moved south. We saw deer, alligators and all manner of birds.
We passed little towns that had long been bypassed by the interstate highway and left to die on the vine or survive the best they could. There were people in those town who paused to watch the passing train. Some even waved.
Beverly had packed a lunch. I had a bottle of chilled water and some cups. Life was good on the train, “the train they call the City of New Orleans.” We rolled on, “rockin’ to the gentle beat.” With the floor moving beneath my feet, the rhythm of the rails was somewhat reminiscent for this old sailor to the feel of the Navy destroyer I rode throughout the Pacific.
Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, McComb and then Louisiana.
We made good time.
Sleeping if you felt like it.
Wondering how many times that same little boy was going to go back and forth to the club car. Where were his parents?
But he was no problem. The little boy was on his own adventure.