Jottings: West Texas adventure
I retired from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast September of 1999. Rules prohibited full- or half-time re-employment for one month. That gave me a month with nothing to do. I decided to visit my son in Denver, Colorado. My wife had not retired which meant I would drive to Denver solo over 1,000 miles. After reaching the Dallas area, I took Highway US 285 northwest toward Amarillo, Texas. That stretch of road contains several long stretches of straight flat highway that parallels a railroad track. Soon after passing Goodlett, Texas, I began to catch up with a freight train heading my same direction.
I recently purchased a Sony video camera that I had with me in the car. I kept it handy in case I saw something interesting to record. Recently I made a short movie, interviewing people at a local Salvation Army. I had this dream of capturing small segments of video to build up a library of stock video footage I could use in short movies.
I estimated the train was going about 45 miles an hour, I was going about 75 gaining on the train. It was a long train. I managed to turn on my camera, place it on the dashboard and take a video of the train through the front windshield. I realized I would not take long to pass the train. Crossroads every few miles gave me an idea. I could secure some stock footage of a train approaching if I got ahead of the train, turned onto a side road, set up my camera on a tripod near the track and waited for the train. It worked. I was able to get ahead of the train again and set up my camera at one of the intersections to capture the retreating train as it passed by.
Things did not work out as I planned. I set up the camera to capture the train leaving and returned to my car to wait. The train seemed to be slowing down and came to a stop at the intersection. As it did, a black van raced up the side road behind me and stopped. I thought I was in trouble. Maybe I had broken some law. The engineer climbed down a ladder. The men in the van walked toward him. They seemed to be conferring as everyone looked my way. I might have left but my camera was still recording on its tripod. All I could do is wait?
After the men talked for a few moments, the engineer began walking toward my car. I was sure I was in trouble but resolved to play it cool. After all, I meant no harm. When he approached the car, I rolled down the window. I greeted the engineer as innocently as I could. Then, he surprised me. He said, "I figured you must be a train buff, so I brought you a railroad crossing lapel pin. Enjoy," he said.
I asked him what was going on. He explained that this was crew change. The van brought the replacement crew and would take him to the next town where he had his own car. I thanked him, got out and retrieved my camera without capturing the train leaving. I counted that as an adventure on my way to Denver.
Cecil Denney is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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