Railroad Wreckage

Jack lost half his seniority with the railroad but it was worth it to transfer up to NW Wisconsin. Commuting to his job on the Dinky Town railroad section was getting a little dreary when Jack first moved ‘up north’ to a small house with 30 acres. Driving every morning with his 1947 Ford to Minneapolis was the cost of the veteran’s loan approval. Of course, getting the loan in the beginning was harder than the drive to pay it off.

The paperwork alone helped heat his new house in the wood stove that Jack had little experience to run. The better words would be ‘no experience.’ Jack bought a chain saw, a bicycle and a splitting maul from his old friends hardware store on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Jack also got an old GM pickup to haul the firewood from the state forest about 15 miles north of his new digs.

Of course, at that early time there was not much commuter traffic as the concept of commuting had not taken hold. That was a good thing as Led headlights had not taken hold nor been invented yet. Being blinded by a new pickup these days with lights that illuminate about twenty miles of road is now somewhat of a hindrance to that long drive. Dreary and dangerous too as Jack had to keep a wing window open for fresh air to keep the CO gas out. Tiring it was to drive a long way with an exhaust leak. It seems white tailed deer had not been invented yet either, at least the ones that commuted across highways. However, back then, cars weighed a lot and had real bumpers. Sometimes you knew when you hit one. Jack’s job was on the section at DinkyTown, right across the river from his old neighborhood.

So, pulling into the section yard and sometimes being called to do some ‘back breaking’ jobs outside of the section. Derailments, road crossings and laying ribbon rail were some outside jobs. The section would survive a few days without continuous maintenance. Jack and big Leroy were called out to put in the dome spikes on crossings. They were about two feet long and had to be pounded through the crossing planks down into the heavy black ties beneath. Swinging those 16 pound malls was a young man’s task. The spikes would rotate going down and had teeth that would engage the plank at the last swing. The deterioration to L4 and L5 began then. Leroy was well over six foot seven and weighed around 250 or so.

When Jack transferred up to the ‘farm’ with it’s pump jack well and log barn he was green to the isolated and rural life. A few new friends made at the local watering holes helped him adapt. To wood burning stoves and chimney rebuilding it was made doable with these other young men who grew up working the farms. It was quiet and the only link to the outside world was the black wall phone by the sink and a new princess phone next to the wall in Jack’s bedroom. The phone was out of reach unless Jack was in bed.

Jack got transferred to a section gang closer by over in Minnesota and gained respect with his strength and accuracy of work. The road master would call for Jack to put the pin into a switch actuator while the man held the pin at the two holes. “Get Jack up here” Jack never missed with the spike mall, never. That back damage was still lurking but not complaining much yet. It was good work and respected by the locals. They knew strength from farm work.In spite of all the good camaraderie with his new crew, Jack was transferred to another section, closer to home.

When Jack showed up, the foreman immediately insulted Jack and gave him a job in the yard that was hard, demeaning and unpleasant. It involved jumping from a ladder into grain cars to sweep them our of grain dust.

This was the last straw for Jack’s back. Back at home after work, Jack suddenly could not get up from a sitting position and collapsed in agony on the floor. He could crawl but standing was impossible. Also impossible to call for help. “The first day and night was the worst. The second day and night was the worst too. After that and no water, Jack began to go into a bit of a decline”.1. The cat water bowl helped a little and suddenly, Jack figured a way out of death.

He pulled all his clothes out of the lowest drawers and the bed sheets and blankets and made a ramp he could roll up into the bed. Grabbing the phone then and calling for help Jack does not recall any more than waking at the hospital and being somewhat free of pain. Drugs. He remembered the addiction he had and was a bit concerned about this but the lack of pain was OK. The usual hot and cold packs, traction and hospital food (motivator) did it’s work and Jack could walk again and his railroad days were over. It was then pretty good . Not luck, something extraordinary as when Jack was out in California. Jack thanks his Lord for the saving of his life. Again. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

1. Douglass Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

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