Level crossing control - geograph.org.uk - 920195

By Delbert H. Rhodes


About 5:30 A.M., my ears sing with sounds. At first, the sounds are far away, but then slowly they move closer. Suddenly, the morning trembles from the blasts. “Wooo!” “Wooooooo!” “Wooo!” “Wooooooo!”

The tracks clank as iron wheels bellow thunderous echoes, and a sleepy morning wakes with a grumble. Cautiously and carefully, but quickly, the Iron Maiden creeps down the rails. Always worrying, always aware that something, or someone, might be there in her path, might be there in her way. Therefore, as she rolls, she loudly sounds her whistle.

The Maiden embellishes the morning with a whisper of warning. A warning some fail to hear, some fail to heed. Many times her kiss is a wake of terror, tears and sorrow. Embracing those who would dare, in merciless arms of majesty and might. Many times as she makes her way and just for sport, she is challenged. Moreover, many times, the results are death. Foolish actions of the young, of the brave and adventurous, are met with cold and permanent stillness.

Continuing in her path, and though my bed lies in the distance, her whistle pulls at my pillow. As the walls around me are painted with shrill, something happens. Suddenly, the morning is filled by a captivating calm. The moving cries, the rumble of wheels, the stealth of steel, all seem to remain fixed. All seem to resonate from one distant location.

Waiting, and as if wondering what to do, she sits, hoping, perhaps, that her screams are heard, and that her stillness would shake awake a sleeping help. Also as if angry, because now she is off schedule, because now she is running late. “Woo.” “Wooooooooo!” Repeatedly she cries. “Wooo.” “Wooooooooo!”

Tempestuously: perhaps something blocks her way, but then maybe, I think, someone needs help. “Move, come on move,” her whistle bellows. Huffing and trembling in idle, she wants desperately roll. “Move, come on move!” She screams and snorts down the tracks, clanking her wheels on the rails. Then, in an instant, she falls silent.

For unknown reasons, her cries, which have been demanding, robust, and emphatic, have fallen mute. Nothing rolls; nothing thunders, nothing screams, nothing at all. The morning quietly whispers and waits, and straining to hear in the silence, I too linger. I hear no sirens calling to the Maiden. I hear no emergency vehicles racing to her aid. I hear no whine of a saw, searing, and biting into metal. I hear no roaring heavy equipment working against time trying to free something, to free someone, perhaps pinned beneath her wheels. Yes, what I hear is her torment tiptoeing on the tracks.

The bird songs, which have begun to intone, wipe melodious eyes, and await cue from the morning ‘Maestro.’ Resting its throat, and watching from the wings, the quieted voice has stepped off stage. Preparing for the peak performance, the voice wets its whistle. The conductor taps his wand, and with theatrical grace, arcs it into the air. As silence hushes and morning lights adorn her metal majesty, the locomotive sings into action.

Hers is a rhythmic mechanized melody, as she regains tempo on the tracks. “Whoop… Whoop.” “Whoop.” She whistles a metallic tune, which is musical, almost magical. “Wooo.” “Wooo.” Again, she cries. “Wooooooooo!” Wooooooo!” As the wheels rumbling thunder vibrates the morning, the whistle shakes heavenly shoulders. Snorting smoke as she slithers away, the Iron Maiden hisses.

Whenever the Maiden crosses intersections, special attention is given to safety. Bells warn while long arms reach down blocking the tracks on both sides. These interrupt crossings assuring the train safe passage. Naturally, and as always there are those who would impede the measures of safety. Sometimes the foolish pay a price, a very high price. As she passes, and whenever I am present, the Maiden’s flashing red lights wink at me, while her breezes blow kisses to my car. The car’s ego revs and its grill adorns a gleaming smile.

Always, I am thankful, albeit somewhat jealous. Then I would watch the Iron Maiden, as the powerful stroke of her pistons, and the melodic synchrony of her might, sing a song to the rails, moving her farther and farther down the tracks.

Lying in the quiet, I wonder from where has she come, and to where she is going? A strange visitor: turning and twisting into time. Personally, I have never met her, but somehow, there is a kinship and closeness. Perhaps, even a friendship. Always, she is there and when needed; and whenever nearby she calls. Periodically, and as long as she has the time, she stops. What more could be asked of a friend…any friend?

Rolling into history, and in the eyes of many, the Maiden is a beauty. The glorified goddess swelling and throbbing in our hearts, she is a cuddlesome cradle of mystery. While sweetly tiptoeing into time, she is a tireless weariless watcher, forever keeping vigil.

As her cries of goodbye become distant, and her tears are sluiced by the wind, I begin to miss her. She is a real lady, and I want her to stay. This lady: whose kiss can be borne by peril, but when permitted poised by passion. She is an iron memory fashioned by back, brawn, and brain of dedicated men. Good men, men wanting the best for the best. Facing perfection, they demanded more. In awe of her majesty, less was unacceptable.

Although her closeness is temporary, I am fortunate. Furthermore, whenever hearing her “Wooo” I smile. For, her embrace is loving tender and complete. Moreover, it leaves me serene, satisfied and secure.

Therefore, and as the twilight smiles in her face, and she makes her way down the rails, I await our next encounter. Consequently, she will whisper sweet nothings, as she comes, and warm me with her wiggle as she goes. “Wooooooo!” 

Copyright © 2002 Delbert H. Rhodes

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