When shit didn’t go my way, I used to tell my mother I was going to hop a train and run away. I said, ‘run’ but it was better than running. It was ‘rolling’ away. As far as I knew those trains ran to a place far away and never returned.
When you are little everything goes in one direction – rivers, trains, the sun. When they are gone, they are gone for good. It is always a new sun that rises, or different trains that roll north – and the creeks, they just keep on flowing. Everybody knows that. At least that’s how it seemed.
My mother used to say, ‘Go ahead, jump the train, if you are lucky you will be frozen solid inside that coal-car by the time you pass Steele Bridge’. Then she’d add, ‘If you don’t get mashed and tangled under the wheels getting on.’
She was right.
I would head into the bush, find some dry sticks, clear away the snow, start a fire, feel sorry for myself and then head home before dark. Mom always had good suppers waiting.
My old man would have chained me down if he thought I’d hop a train. He would have made me want to do it more.
Even now, when I see a boxcar, standing still, I have an urge to get on. But it looks too fucking cold – I’d probably be frozen solid by Steele Bridge.