It was like moving to a different country in 1948, as the train choked
and puffed toward the little town in South Texas. I was very young.
After sleeping all night, in the upper birth of the Pullman, I struggled
to dress myself in the little birth, with a curtain for a door.
My mother and three year old sister slept in the birth below.
There was little time to gulp down our breakfast served on a white
linen draped table with heavy silver utensils and tall glasses. The smell
inside the train was that of furniture polish and the jerking motion of
the train sang with a rhythm of its own that still tickles my ears. I also
recall the smell of tiny soaps in the tiny stainless steel sink of the tiny
bath, where I brushed my teeth and heard the sounds of flushes, as
the toilets emptied on the tracks below. Did anyone ever see it, I
The conductor rocked to and fro down the aisle, as he collected the
tickets, after each stop, when new passengers came aboard. The news-
paper man or sandwich man, as he was called, occasionally walked
down the aisle, as well, passing newspapers, candies, sandwiches, and
cold drinks to the interested passengers, who had nickles and dimes.
When we left Oklahoma that day before in late February, it was
still cold. The grass was brown, and patches of snow blanketed corners
of fields, bridges, and street corners in the city. The sky was cloudy and
the wind blew so cold across the prairies of what was once Indian
Territory, a brief forty years before. It raised the hair on jack rabbits to
stand at attention.
I looked out the window at the small Texas town of LaGrange.
The sun was shining and blue flowers called flags were waving to
us from their garden spots. And red roses smiled close by. How strange,
but wonderful, to see flowers in the winter. And green grass on the
lawns. I hoped it was a sign that we were going to be happy when my
grandparents arrived to take us to our new home down the road.