I live near a small, rural town in Western Oklahoma.  All around are rolling green hills with dirt as red as the blood of Chief Blackkettle’s people and horses when Custer came to call.  On that day, they say that the Washita River ran red with the blood of hundreds of slaughtered horses.  Today the river winds peacefully through lush fields and past towering drilling rigs.  The town is small and I can see it all from my front porch.  In the evenings, as I look down across the tops of the trees when the lights come on, it is beautiful…like the little town of Bethlehem.  Beautiful is not a word that is generally used to describe this desolute town as it is no longer thriving.  You can make a u-turn on Main Street without even checking your rear-view mirror.

Once there were stores all up and down Main Street.  It had doctors, grocers, lawyers, bankers and Indian Chiefs.  There were all sorts of businesses.  The train ran on a regular schedule and there was lots of traffic in and out of town.  A co-worker used to tell about riding the train to a nearby town where she took piano lessons.  A good friend said that as kids, they would often ride the train to neighboring towns for the day.   But all that was before my time in this small place that I love to call home.  Now, Main Street is a wide stretch of empty, deserted buildings with broken windows.  Most were built in the thirties or forties and what is left is crumbling.

Sometimes, on quiet days when I am sitting on the back porch, swimming in the pool or walking to the mailbox, I hear the plaintive whistle of a train and the clackity-clack of the wheels on a track.  Nowadays, I just pause, listen and smile. 

When I first heard the train, I asked my good friend about it.  She took a quick look to see if I was kidding and when she saw I was not, she replied with a curt and nervous, “There is not a train or even tracks here anymore!”  Then she refused to discuss the subject.  This is the friend who built her house at the location of another small town that no longer stands.  I think she has stories to tell.

When I mentioned the train to my oldest daughter, she asked me not to mention this to anyone else (in fear they may think me a bit eccentric or downright crazy).  So the train and I kept our secret until recently.  My grandson and I were swimming when he stopped, lifted his head and listened.  Then he turned to me and said, “Grandma, do you hear a train?”