Near the outer acreage of my parents' farm ran a rail line operated by the legendary midwest rail interest, Illinois Central. As a boy, I knew the line's schedule by heart. My siblings and I would often race across the corn rows, not an easy task at all given the resisting sharp leaves, hard stalks and ears, to give a wave to the engineers. Every time they would respond to our Midwestern friendliness with a pull on the horn that reverberated throughout the woodlands and hollows of our pastoral homestead.
In my mind I would hop the train, a farm boy dreaming of exotic destinations like Moline, Keokuk, Joilet and the queen mother of my preadolescent mental escape, Chicago.
Illinois Central was gobbled up by corporate monolith, Canadian National. It's long gone, like my boyhood dreams. I live in town now, but only a half block from CN' s line carrying lumber and ethanol to a ravenous America. Sometimes, I'll take my young relatives down to the line to place pennies on the rail. I have a full jar of flattened pennies that sits on my dresser.
The engineers still wave to my nieces and nephews. They don't blow the horn, though, as the city prohibits it. I wonder if the mesmerizing rhythm of the rail takes those kids to exotic locales....like Fond du Lac and Milwaukee?