Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.
January 24, 2018
Raining. Has been for days. Off, more on. Soaking the sweeping, seeded fields as gravity forces the runoff into trickles then streams that overflow every little-to-large depression ad infinitum. Morose, mercurial clouds, messengers of inclemency relentlessly release their heavy burden upon the sacrificial land. Along the miles of contouring blacktop uncovered winter wheat: this year’s harvest painting the muddy earth with neat rows of green freckles. Out here every man counts. Every man does what he is able and more to move the EWG “Scoot” down the line. Moreover, every man is “here” because he is a railroader at heart. Diesel flows through his veins, oil blackens his duds, that pungent odor of creosote rises from his steel-toed boots, and the “105” hangs proudly from his keychain. He’s at home out on the rails riding the iron horse to wherever the tracks take him. He uses his gut acumen to accomplish the task at hand; to get his machinal horses to bite into the railhead and pull thousands of wheat tons, east. Adding more and more from wherever the outbound crew has left empties that are filled or will be, soon. Today is no different. I see mechanics, Jeff and Starr who’ve been weathering the damp morning making sure the girls are good to go. True, their dresses aren’t pretty, anymore. But they’re not here for their looks but their brawn. Back in Cheney, 96 milepoles east, the crew is already on duty reviewing their track warrants, job briefing the pending work, then load – grip in hand – into the crew van for the 2-hours west with unseen crewman Murphy. But they’ll work around him. Meanwhile, bundled CWGG hands finish loading their allotment of Color Mark and “Employee-Owned” CH’s which they one-by-one muscle-spot under the crib spout across the CW Main from the brick Methodist Church using their lime green Steiger. The enduring scene produced a few memorable images, yet only one embodies the essence of the “CW.” A tradition only briefly broken by derailments, storms, and once by embargo awaiting dismantling, when wise men came together and saved it from certain death.