One of my favorite of all time poems is Carl Sandburg’s LIMITED…
I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
I really don’t know why trains and train things and train words mean so much to me.
I’ve been on many trains, but not to the extent that trains should have crawled into my soul.
Something bigger is there. I’m just not sure what, exactly.
My ancestors came to the United States from faraway places like Ireland, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia with dreams of a new life… and became farmers, miners, firemen and servicemen for their new land.
These people settled in places like Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Arizona.
I wonder… did any of them work on the railroads? On trains? On building the hundreds of miles of tracks that criss-cross our nation?
Where did this intrigue, this sense of adventure, this love of the rails come from?
Did some of these people who have passed to ashes ride the rails with passions for new adventures and journeys bigger that anything I’ve ever known?
Is my blood its own network of the rails?
Is it any wonder that when my grandchildren pull out the dozens and dozens (maybe hundreds?) of little wooden train tracks that I’ve bought and stored over the years… I am mesmerized by the tracks and the trains that criss-cross room after room, winding and reaching over rivers and valleys and reaching depots and carnivals…
I will ALWAYS be riding on a limited express…
And where am I going?