Friday, January 01, 2010

The Paths of Glory

The picture is a railroad company logo on the side of train cars that used to pass through my home town in the Rocky Mountains.

The mountain goats in the area were mighty rare to see and a joy to behold when one got so lucky. They have a majesty few other animals in the mountains have, hooves clinging to the sides of precarious ledges, the bulk of the beast poised with supremely measured confidence gazing across across his domain like a Titan. Rocky Mountain Goat.

I'd see the rail-cars sometimes, the trains swaying on the rails, pasted the rolling grasslands, telephone poles flying by, the train passing outside of our town limits, and me being out fishing or so, the train logo flashing past, raising in my young mind the fantasy of the freedom and the glory of the mountain goat. I loved the romance of the jagged grey mountains and the huge blue sky and the daring but confident leaping mountain goat. And the train whistles in the dusk, low, lonely strands of sound floating across the valley, it made me long to explore every hidden place beyond my little town in the forest, me moving like the train whistles so far away, fleeting like a mountain goat.

I think of trains and motion and the world as I knew it as a boy in the mountains. I think of cresting the road, a boy from those rocky mountains, and looking down, suddenly, I see Jerusalem shrouded in a brown sand-storm. I've gone so far....

You'll have to imagine the sense of standing in a field of chest-high hay swaying in the breeze, a field that from child-size perspective goes on for miles till it reaches the hard black mountains peaked with snow in the summer time. If you can see the Monarch grasshoppers as dusk comes, then you'll know that along the far horizon at the base of the mountains will come the train, blowing eight long toots as thin as ghosts as the reaches the crossing too far to walk to in a day, so says my dad. And if the sun goes behind the mountains and casts the world into night time as you walk with your dog back to the house, a few minutes after the train has let out its first blasts, you'll hear a long wail as he leaves and trundles into the pass and beyond your experience of the world.

Some times I'd see the train up close, the decal of the mountain goat in bright yellow, as I recall it, painted on the sliding door of freight cars. Always loved the sound of train whistles in the far distance, the ones that echo in the dusk and fade into the night. "And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,/Awaits alike th’inevitable hour."

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