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Edition #184  October 15, 2012

Thank You, Captain…

Photographer: Tishia R. Adams

                                                                      Photo by Tishia R. Adams

Thank You, Captain…

 One shot...

-The banging of loaded coal hoppers, dropping into place at dawn;

-Cheering "homerun!!!" as my baseball lands in a gon during a neighborhood baseball game, then climbing out black and sooty after getting the ball;

-Crossing trestles to get to my favorite fishing holes;

-Countless days spent watching trains from the front porch of a now abandoned house, forgotten, lifeless and sleeping trackside;

-My first encounter with the business end of a King Apple "switch" for wiggling over a coupling between hoppers to dart home quicker from the bus stop;

-Sitting at night on the tailgate of a 1968 Chevy pickup ("Blackie" was her name), high above a tunnel...feeling that rumble and grinning with an upturned face to my dad, a smile in return along with a finger pointing east just as a train's glow spreads through the ravine...growing, growing as the train emerges from the tunnel...

These are just a few of the best, countless memories I cherish from my childhood by the rails in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia. These are memories I have shared with very few, but strive to recreate with my two young sons (minus the "Great Coupling Mishap of 1983" that taught me my first lesson in railroad safety, of course.) These are memories I relive with this photograph, this yellow-poplar leaf.

I found my leaf resting on a tie in a spot I visit daily, resting in that same ravine I used to watch come alive with the beast exiting the tunnel. I almost always catch a train here, and on this day a familiar "black & white" was less than a mile away. I knew she was on her way. I had just watched her from a bridge, waved and laughed at the quick "toot" of the whistle before driving to the ravine.

"Here she shot and enjoy her."... or so I thought. I planned to enjoy the music her power made as it bounced off the rock few minutes of solitude. She was slowing down (as required for the high trestle just ahead) so I have a minute to listen to the water rushing down the rock wall. I am thinking as I step closer..."We sure have had our fair share of rain and boy oh boy a shot of that water behind the ole gal would be nice. All I have at home is ice on the rocks from last winter."

Suddenly, a flash of yellow catches my eye - - - A YELLOW-POPLAR LEAF, just resting, biding its time before being shuffled off. I smile...I take the shot...I dip my head down as I curtsy to the leaf, laugh and simply get in my Jeep and go home. Yes, I need to wait for my girl, I will see her again I am certain; no need to wait for a train at all today.

I was just reminded of what (and the "who" of it all) revived my love for trains, my love for writing and showed me how to appreciate the unexpected treasures found when waiting on something totally different:

One shot, a yellow-poplar leaf, resting on a rail in Southwest Virginia...biding its time before being shuffled off...the simplicity and subject of that one photograph reignited a fire, the thrill of any and everything found in a day of railfanning (I never thought of myself as a railfan until I curtsied to thoughts with my leaf today.) One shot, then and now, to remind me why I smile at the "heavy" sound of a whistle from a loaded coal train at 2:00am on a cold night, or why I get goosebumps when I see those lights slicing through fog.

So...with one shot, one leaf, a smile and a curtsy: "Thank you, Captain!"

Tishia R. Adams

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