May 6, 2007

Up A Signal Post Without A Clue

So what did YOU do this weekend?

Yes, I was feeling my wild oats and not my almost-40 years. I would have gone further up (that's as far as I went, to be quite honest, you can tell by my rictus of fear and white knuckles) but I realised while up there that:

a) if I fell, Vulgar Wizard, (who was down on the safe flat solid ground taking the pre-fall photos) wouldn't be able to haul my broken and bleeding carcass back the fifty yards along the tracks to the rutted and watterlogged dirt road that the ambulance MIGHT be able to make it down safely, and

b) a 6'2" 235 pound man with a penchant for wearing loose-fitting T-shirts clinging to a very flimsy ladder attached to a very flimsy signal light pole makes an excellent sail when the wind is steady blowing at 15 mph.

Yes, I broke my long-held, hard-and-fast rule of doing nothing but working like a dog all weekend to go out and take some photographs Saturday. You can see most of the gruesome full-colour results at my Flikr account; the roll of artsy-fartsy B&W won't be developed for a week.

You see, out there in the middle of nowhere in our neighboring city is a little lake, and by that little lake is a little local airport where last weekend I broke my long-held, hard-and-fast rule (again) and attended the Fly-In sponsored by the local branch of the EAA. And keep in mind that this is taking place in a rather rural part of the south, so the term "Experimental Aircraft Association" also covers people who fly things like crop dusters.

Anyway, ya'll.

By this little lake and this little boll weevil-free airport is an equally small but nice little park that also plays host to a boat landing that allows ingress to the Red River, and one other thing, the thing that caught my attention after photoing crop dusters: three parallel spur lines just down from a crossroads of two major rail lines. And upon those three spur lines rested about thirty rail cars, all awaiting a trip back to the refurbishment facility.

Since my new-found love of politically-charged graffiti and hobo sign is often best served by visiting stationary boxcars and their ilk, I planned a trip back the next day. Which didn't take place until this past Saturday, but hey, we do what we can, right? And I in my usual pattern snapped some eighty plus digital photos of various graffiti and hobo sign, and by some stroke of crazy luck I also caught a train. Not in the 'hand the conductor my ticket and step to the dining car for a nosh' sorta way, but caught as in I was standing between several tons of rolling stock on the furthest spur line when I heard that unmistakable 130db train horn blast and came scrambling from between those cars and toward it like a teenage boy who has just heard the sound of a bra strap breaking. I managed to jump three lines of track wearing a pair of 12W High Tek Magnum boots and get myself safely installed on a lovely piece of discarded track on the right of way in about seven seconds flat, all without breaking an ankle or otherwise pitching myself face-first into the cracked concrete roadbed. I even had time enough to get the camera pointed in the right direction and steady my hand on some nearby brambles, and I got this really nice photo of

Kansas City Southern 3126

en route to...somewhere. But I got her picture and even got a friendly wave from the conductor who poked his head out to smile as he passed, all the while STANDING ON THAT FREAKING AIR HORN. My head is still ringing. Of course I also managed to bump my noggin on a hopper car traveling at roughly 40mph when my equilibrium gave out since my ears were bleeding a bit, but the doctor said it should heal right up if I kept it clean and used Neosporin.

I also found something kind of creepy out there at that wonderful wasteland of rail crossings: a pauper's cemetery. I didn't know that sort of thing still existed in this modern, clean, tidy world, but I guess there still has to be places to bury people that have been crushed beneath the wheels of progress and the American Dream, people who are destitute and have no family to claim them, like Delta Airlines employees.

I did a little digging and found out that several years ago this tiny clearing in the middle of the pine woods has been there for some time, but that the graves used to be marked by business card-sized stone markers. The facility, if a fifty-foot clearing in the pine woods can be called a facility is owned by the local psychiatric hospital, and since the tiny, unremarkable graves were being desecrated or overlooked or whatever, the city decided to come in and install better markers. And this being the deep south, and our city being run as it is by a score of incompetents and thieves, they took the easy route. The forty-odd graves are marked by four foot tall steel street signs. Yes, you got it. Those ubiquitous green U-channel posts with all the holes through them, and on top of each was a blue road sign with "Unknown" or someone's name and date of death mechanically spelled out in white adhesive letters.

I didn't know whether to weep or laugh. It was tragic, but it was comic at the same time, as though all these forgotten people and stillborn babes had suddenly become mileposts for helping motorists navigate a series of very tricky but strangely uniform intersections in the middle of a forest. And yes I took some photos, just a few in black and white, and I doubt seriously that I will post them here. Graveyards and tombstones make for excellent if very maudlin photography subjects, and this tiny, sad little place really touched something inside me.

I did have to call VW and ask her if she knew about this strange little hidden boneyard, and invite her out to watch me plummet to my death from a signal light's ladder. She arrived shortly thereafter, thankfully. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about a tiny, forgotten cemetery out in the middle of the woods that really makes me want someone else there. Preferably someone well-armed and burly, but beggars and choosers, right? At least VW has a high, girly scream.

And to make up for my flagrant slacking and flaunting of my time off, I punished myself by cutting grass for six hours today. I think I must have cut every single standing blade of grass on my property at least once, and now I'm feeling not only my age but my advanced mileage. And if you'll excuse me, there's a tub full of boiling hot epsom salted water and a tube of Neosporin that's got my name on it.


Scott from Oregon said...

You are lucky I wasn't there. I would have climbed up behind you and shook the whole apparatus until you pooped yourself...

That's just me...

Irrelephant said...

Yes Scott, my sphincter and I are thanking our lucky stars that you weren't there. *lol* Of course, I'd have been pretty flattered if you had made the 2500 mile drive down here from Oregon for the sole purpose of scaring me shitless.

Stucco said...

Wheras I'd've just called you names, ya big Jessie. 8 whole feet up the METAL LADDER- wow, talk about living dangerously. Guess you could never be the guy paid to change those lightbulbs, eh?

i ever tell you about train pissing?

Irrelephant said...

You gotta love the internets, where complete strangers suddenly become your peer group and have full authority to make you feel foolish for being concerned about falling to your death off a rusted steel ladder with even less metal in it than most modern cars.

So tell me about train pissing, oh wise one!

Nancy Dancehall said...

What a sad little graveyard.

I passed by two little graveyards today en route from Seattle to Cannon Beach. Beautiful drive with Schmoop.