Tag Archives: travel

Communications


Good morning Everyone!

I finally have relented and allowed Kayla to join Facebook, with the single stipulation that I MUST approve all friends and follows before she either makes or accepts either.  Her first wave of friends includes most of our family (if there’s anyone out there I missed, it’s purely accidental and I apologize!) including my mother.

Last night, I went in Kayla’s room to check on her, and she was very proud to tell me she had just been chatting online with my mother (her Grandma Dottie.)  Kayla was happy and excited.

The conversation led me to think about communications.

Bare foot Girl

Messages By Foot
http://www.clipartonline.com
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For millenia, the only means of communication that people possessed was mouth-to-mouth.  Coupled with transportation limited to the use of the foot, it took a very long time for messages to get anywhere farther than maybe the next cave over.

Assyrian War Ship

Relief Carving of an Assyrian Battle Ship from around 800 B.C.

A few brave souls realized that you could travel to certain places quicker if you went by water.  There were unique dangers involved and the range of places you could reach by water were limited, but you could travel farther faster then on foot.

One day during those vast uncharted millennia, some enterprising soul evaluated the risks of falling off a horse trying to break it versus the rewards of being able to get a message three villages over in half the time, and the use of the horse for transportation and communication began.

Ox Cart

Ox Cart
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Another incredibly brave family apparently very fond of their possessions and wanting to move elsewhere without having to leave any behind decided to take two or four oxen and attach them to a wagon with their stuff in it.  Big animal + big horns = big problems, but someone persevered long enough to make it work.

Smack dab in the middle of antiquity, the Phoenicians, who were fantastic sailors, decided to invent the alphabet.  Before that, the Babylonians had invented a kind of picture language they inscribed on stones, and the Egyptians invented the hieroglyphics they wrote on papyrus and tomb walls, but while the Babylonians and Egyptians wrote primarily for local purposes, the Phoenicians were salesman, the tradesmen of the Mediterranean, and they need something fast, snappy, easy to adapt and relatively easy to learn.

Roman Road Algeria

Remains of a Roman Road in Algeria

So now, messages could be sent directly to someone else in a fairly far away place preserved in writing rather than dependent on memory and transmitted by ox, horse or foot power.  The Romans, believing that conquering required an excellent road system, aided this process with a series of excellent roads built throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Portions of those roads, some of them built over 2000 years ago, still exist today.

Bear in mind  that it took the world thousands of years to reach this point.  For another couple of millenia, communications’ revolutions were sedate, although people, being people, continued to make better versions of the equipage that animals could pull behind them, the ships that men could sail and the materials used to preserve and transmit messages.

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick’s “Puffing Devil” (Replica)

Then, on February 21, 1804, Richard Trevithick’s “puffing devil” steam locomotive made the first train run on a track from point b to point a.    It took  about a decade for the commercial ramifications of steam engines to come to fruition, but by 1850, there were over 9000 miles of track laid down in the United States, and over 6621 miles laid down in England.

In 1837, inventors in England and in the United States invented separate telegraph systems capable of receiving and transmitting messages across wires in mere minutes.  Communication possibilities exploded.

Bell 1880 telephone

Alexander Bell Talks on a Telephone in 1880

Until now, the driving force behind communication/transportation innovations was to improve commerce, (although train companies were quick to pick up on the possibilities of passenger service).  However, communications began its next evolution in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone, that is, the first device that was capable of producing a clearly understandable reproduction of a human voice.  By the 1900’s, not only had telephones spread throughout the United States, but their main switchboard facilities had begun to become mechanized.  As part of the effort to improve telephone service, the first digital networks began to be developed starting in the 1940’s, although it wasn’t until 1978 that Motorola developed and sold the world’s first mobile phone.

In the early 1970’s, my family lived overseas in Taiwan for a couple of years.  Even then, we could not talk to people back home by telephone very much or for very long, so we would record stuff on cassette tapes and mail them back home to the states.  I was very moved when, on my grandfather’s death a couple of years ago, I came across a cassette tape he had kept from that time.

1950 Rotary Dial Phone

Rotary Dial Phone from the 1950’s

Even when we came back to the states in the mid-1970’s, people had rotary dialing, not touch tone, and the phone stayed attached to the kitchen wall because cordless phones were either not invented yet or at least not inexpensive enough for normal people.

Now, of course, we take instant communication for granted.

New Model Cell Phone

New Model Cell Phone: HTC One, M9

If I can’t remember something I needed at the grocery store, I stop in the middle of the store and call home to find out what the unknown item was.  In fact, I get miffed if I can’t reach someone right away.

Instead of having to run for the kitchen phone from remote areas of the house when the phone rings, we now get to hunt for the cordless phone all over the house because Kayla and I both seem to be constitutionally incapable of putting the darn thing back in the same place every time.

When one of my bosses went to Germany a few weeks ago, he never missed a beat back here at home.  The speed at which he could obtain his e-mails was only limited by whether they were coming in at a time of the day when he wanted to read them.

Sometimes, (read “almost always” if you are below the age of 25), we don’t even talk on the phone anymore; we text messages back and forth on our cell phones.

Many younger people are beginning to eschew home phone lines altogether, keeping only mobile phones.  I can understand that, but it just seems so unrooted not to have at least one landline connected to your place of residence.

We can chat face to face by Skype to people on the other side of the world and receive news from anywhere in minutes through signals bounced up to and down from satellites orbiting the earth.

And we take it all for granted.

Until the smile on your child’s face after talking to her grandmother lights up your world as well as her’s.

Have a great day!

Nancy

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Hello!


Good morning Everyone!

It’s really hard to believe, but we are already 1/12 of the way through 2015!  I have lots to share with you from the past month, but first I have to figure out how to download and coordinate pictures from three cameras taken in two states and one district.

This year, we did something very different for Christmas – we took a family vacation to Washington D.C.  We were there from December 24 through December 30 and had a blast!  Mark and Kayla had their cameras there, so I need to figure out how to get their pictures downloaded onto my computer.  (I’ll have to dive into the morass of cords in the electronics graveyard drawer.  Wish me luck!)  We went to Mount Vernon, Monticello, some of the Smithsonian, saw a play and had dinner at the Kennedy Center, had my birthday dinner in Georgetown and toured the Capitol building.

And we went by one of the many Tyson’s Corner shopping centers – how do they keep them all straight up there? – where the parking deck blew me away!  Each spot on the deck has a light above it – green if it is open, red if it is taken – so you can see far in advance where a spot is available.

Kayla participated in a bridal fashion show the first weekend of the New Year, so I have those pictures to download from the big Nikon.  She was lovely – and the dresses and other models were stunning, too!

I have finished my first novel and three edits of my first novel which I will write about another time.

We also camped near Mobile two weekends ago and went to the Alabama Battleship Memorial that Saturday.  Unfortunately, we forgot all three cameras that day, but I can still tell you about it!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have been doing over the past month, give or take a few days, in addition to the regular round of daily living.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Like Mother, Like Daughter


Good  morning Everyone!

Kayla left with my mother yesterday for about a ten-day trip to visit some family members, and so I was helping her to get up and get ready.

After she finished her bath, she disappeared into her room and silence reigned.  After about 10 minutes of that, I called out, from the den “Kayla, you need to be getting dressed!”

From her room, she replied, “I am!”

I said, “You need to stop lying on your bed drying off and start actively putting clothes on.”  FN1.

Her voice drifted down the hall again, amazed, “How did you know?”

Fast forward to about 7:30 in the evening, when Mom had Kayla call to check in with us.  I told her that since it was just Mark and I at home, I had fixed him a gourmet dinner – pan con gelee y butre especial FN. 2.   She snorted on the other end of the phone and asked, “What is that – spaghetti and meatballs?”  I laughed and told her she was close – it was peanut butter and jelly.

It’s nice and funny that we know each other so very well!

Mother Daughet Photo

Kayla and I, Gatlinburg, November, 2013

Have a great day!

Nancy

FN1.  Yes, it bothers me too – she wraps herself in a towel and then lies down on her bed after her bath to dry off.  Every single bath.  Without fail.  And yes, her sheets do get damp, but somehow they always are dry again by nightfall.

FN2.  I made that phrase up, of course; I’m pretty sure either the French or Spanish words for “butter” are not “butre.”  I just needed something that had a nice ring to it.

 

 

Random Thoughts from a Professional Woman On the Move


Good morning Everyone!

Yesterday I had a three hour drive round trip for a court appearance.  Since I was free associating, I thought I’d share with you some of the random thoughts flitting through my brain.

1)  I am the only woman in the entire state praying at this moment for God to grant me the grace to eat my breakfast in the car without getting it on my clothes.  (He did!)

2) Another one bites the dust! (Noticing a run in my hose on the way home.)

3)   That wasn’t a nice name to call the driver of the log truck that just cut me off, giving me the privilege of sitting through the third set of lights at this intersection.

4) He deserved it!

Golden Arches, McDonald's, Time Square

Photo Credit: Giorgio Martini from Wikimedia Commons

5)  When the manager of the McDonald’s in Tallassee sees me for the first time in two years and still remembers me, perhaps I went there a little too often for breakfast.

Beam me up Scotty!

Beam Me Up Scotty! Photo by Keven Law from Wikimedia Commons

6)  Where is Scotty and a good transporter when you need them?

On the way home, I could stop at:

7) The book store.

8) The craft store.

9) The fabric store.

10) The ice cream store.

11)  Will power is over rated.

Have a great day!

Nancy

 

Tubing on the Little Pigeon River – ish


Good morning Everyone!

I hope each of you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  We spent the long weekend in Gatlinburg to attend the Gaither Family Fest, a three night series of concerts by some of the best artists in Southern Gospel music.

Even though our nights were booked up, we had time during the day for other activities, so we decided to take advantage of the pretty weather and try some sort of water activity one afternoon.  Our choices were inner tubing down the Little Pigeon River, going to the Water Park at Dollywood or white water rafting.  To be honest, Mark and I would have preferred to try white water rafting, but Kayla was pretty scared, and I had no wish to fight crowds at the Water Park when the main attraction for me there was the Lazy River, so the compromise agreement was that we would go inner tubing.  Somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that inner tubing down a river would be much the same as going to a Lazy River attraction, just on a real river rather than a man-made one.

Of course, the two are nothing alike.  My first clue came when my neck started hurting because there as nothing on the inner tube to support it.  The best way to get relief was to stretch out in full nap position across the top of the inner tube, which would have been okay except for the shoals – there are two or three spots on this particular inner tubing path where the water gets very shallow and runs over a series of rocks.  We called them “the rapids” although I am sure they were quite tame when compared to the real thing.  They were not designed with naps in mind.

Because the rapids are so shallow, it is easy for your inner tube to get hung on some rocks.  You can get “unhung” in one of two ways – either you push yourself off of the offending rock and back into the mainstream of the river, or another inner tube does that for you.  However, when I got hung, another inner tube coming up behind me hit me at just the right spot to flip me out of the inner tube into the shoal.  The water was only mid-calf deep, so I wasn’t in any danger, but the current was very fierce, and the rocks very slippery so I couldn’t get my footing to stand and get back in my inner tube.  While I was still pondering my way out of the dilemma, another inner tube came along and bumped me in just the right way to separate me from the inner tube I was seeking to get back into.

So now it was just me sitting on the rocks in the rapids.  I saw that Mark had caught my inner tube down the river and was trying to get it back to me, but the current at my location was too strong.  Finally, I ended up scooting myself over the rapids rock by rock like an upside down inch worm – my posterior in the water – until I could get to the deeper, quieter water.  By the time I was reunited with my family and my inner tube, I was exhausted.

The other problem with inner tubing is that the river is completely in control of your progress and path.  While I don’t think of myself as a control freak (Kayla, stop giggling here), eventually the lack of control started driving me crazy.  The river liked to drive me towards the banks where there were more rocks and things for my inner tube to catch on, while I wanted to keep towards the center of the river.  Apparently inner tubes were not designed to allow you to use your arms to steer them, so my attempts to do so left me yet again exhausted.  It was a great upper body workout though!

There were some parts of the river where you could just float lazily along and relax – one part was so placid I think we almost stopped – and the people inner tubing along with us were incredibly friendly and nice, so I’m glad we did it.

I’m even gladder, though, that there are no photographs of me during my impromptu inchworm impersonation.

Have a great day!

Nancy

 

Kayla’s Turn: Photo Essay, Charlotte, North Carolina


Good morning Everyone!

When Mark and I first married, we lived in North Carolina for three years.  While most of that time was spent in a small town called Rockingham, North Carolina, we did have the opportunity to live for at least a few months in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Even back then, in the late 80’s, Charlotte was a beautiful city.  It ended up being one of the places we enjoyed living in most out of everywhere we’ve been.  We had a chance a few weeks ago to go back to Charlotte for the first time, and we took Kayla with us.  While we were driving through downtown Charlotte, Kayla took the following pictures, which I think (proud mama alert!) are quite extraordinary for a 12-year-old armed with only an iPod.

Charlotte, North Carolina

This one is probably my very favorite of all of the pictures that she took.  One of the unique features of Charlotte is the quantity of trees the city, even the downtown, still has.  Early on in its urban development, Charlotte’s city fathers passed ordinances requiring trees to be kept intact whenever possible.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte got its start as a town in the first gold rush that ever occurred in the United States – gold was found in Charlotte in the early 1800’s. Now the city is a financial services mecca, headquarters to many different banks and other financial institutions.

photo 1

 

We were riding through on a misty morning, and the tops of the skyscrapers were hidden in the clouds, a fact that fascinated Kayla.

photo 2

 

I, of course, hardly recognized anything downtown from when we lived here over twenty years ago, and yet I still recognized the spirit of the city.  The city that can maintain the balance between old and new and still retain its original identity is a rare city indeed.  But then, that’s Charlotte!

photo 3

 

Have a great day!

Nancy

Consideration


Good morning Everyone!

It’s good to be back!  For any of those kind enough to notice that I haven’t posted for about five days, we are back from a family trip to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Since I worked the whole time (ain’t modern communications grand?) I can’t really call it a family vacation, but we still had fun and Kayla and Mark got some well deserved “Daddy-daughter” time.  I even learned something about myself – I may be overly concerned with being considerate to others.

Raking

Raking Words
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

I have a program on my work computer called WordRake.  It highlights words and phrases it thinks can be deleted from whatever draft I turn it loose on.  It is a great tool for my work in legal writing and entertaining, too.

I am particularly amused when the parts of my work briefs that WordRake lights up like New York on a dark winter’s night are quotes from appellate cases.  (Hey, we all get our kicks somewhere!)  I also enjoy arguing with it about its editing selections.

Using a GPS

Using a GPS
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

Our relationship reminds of the first trip I ever used a GPS – it was in a rental car on a trip to Boston.  My mom (who grew up there) was visiting as well.  She loved to ride with me and to program the GPS so she could tell me that it was wrong and direct me to go a different way, thereby giving the GPS a heart attack.  At one trip, it got so frustrated it stopped giving directions and simply churned through “recalculating” for about five minutes!

Last night, I was using WordRake on a work draft, and I caught myself agreeing to some edits that I wouldn’t have done on my own because I didn’t want to hurt its feelings by ignoring it too much.

That’s probably taking consideration a little too seriously, don’t you think?

Have a great day!

Nancy

The First Trip to the Beach, 2014


Good morning, Everyone!

We went to Panama City Beach for the weekend using a Groupon for the Edgewater Beach Condominiums.  While we were hoping for good beach weather, and were led on by the various forecasts we observed until we passed the cancellation date, we ended up with cloudy skies, a brisk wind and a high of 69.

However, it was the beach, so we managed to have fun anyhow.  We had invited a friend of Kayla’s to go with us, so Kayla was happy from the beginning.  She loves having a buddy with her!

We got a late start on Saturday.  For some strange reason, the two girls, ages 11 and 12, weren’t exactly eager to get up in the morning – I think it had something to do with the talking and giggling that occurred once we finally made it to the condo Friday night and after Mark and I went to bed.  Once the two girls had showered and done their hair (here you can add another hour!), we went to Another Broken Egg Cafe which has fabulous brunch dishes.  After that, we decided to go shopping at Pier Park.  I gave each of the girls a little spending money, and had the best time watching them shop.  They would enter a store and just start wandering through the racks.  They would then find something they liked, check the price and then decide whether they could afford it, and, the more difficult decision, whether the item was something they wanted enough to spend their money on.  Kayla’s comments on the prices of things were pretty funny, as were her comments on the multitude of T-shirts whose messages she found offensive in a few stores.  Miss Priss announced that there was no point in buying a T-shirt that you couldn’t wear to school!  I agree with her, but would get embarrassed when she would point to a T-shirt and talk at the top of her voice about how inappropriate it was.

Kayla was also afraid to buy anything because there might be something else farther down the line that she would want more.  She agonized over the Vera Bradley purses (until she found out what they cost!), over these hair twister plastic thingies that would have cost her $30 for 4 (essentially all of her money), and several other items.  She finally decided on a souvenir cup from the retail shop at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaurant, and it took all of the sales person’s helpful comments about the lifetime warranty on the cup to for her to keep her resolve.

On the way into the shopping center, we had gone by a kiosk where a man was selling children the opportunity to jump up and down on a trampoline-like thing with harnesses and bungee cords that would let them reach much higher heights than normal.  With the unerring eyes that children have for such things, Kayla saw it on our way in and kept commenting on how much she wanted to “bungee jump.”  Mark hadn’t seen the trampoline outfit, and thought that Kayla was talking about bungee jumping for real, so he was getting very aggravated because he knew that there was no way that she would climb up a high tower and then jump so she could be bounced up and down on an elastic cord.  The situation was not improved by Kayla’s mentioning bungee jumping every 5 minutes or so.  However, as her friend observed, at least it had taken her mind off going to the beach, which had been mentioned every five minutes or so until Kayla saw the trampoline.

Once Mark and Kayla  finally got the resulting word tangle smoothed out, Kayla and her friend got to jump on the trampoline – $10 a child for four minutes of jumping.  I think the kiosk person should have given us a discount – he had no-one waiting to do the jumping until my two girls started, after which he had a line about three families deep.

We returned to the hotel room, where both girls insisted on at least going to the pool.  The pool immediately behind our unit was large, beautifully landscaped and not heated.  They both said that was the one they wanted to try first.  I told them to go on to the pool and try dabbling their feet or their arms in the water until I got back with the towels from the car and let me know when I got back if they still wanted to stay in that pool, or instead find a heated one.

It took much less time than I expected.  They greeted me at the door leading to the unheated lagoon pool expressing a decided preference for the heated pool.  It was only behind the next tower, so it wasn’t far.

The heated pool was a big success with them! I sat pool-side and read while they played.  Late, late in the afternoon, the sun burst through the clouds for just a little while, and they both begged to go to the beach.  We only had about a half hour left anyhow before we had to return to the room, so I took them on down.  My child’s friend tried the water at various depths, announced it was too cold, and returned to play on the beach but not in the water.  Kayla kept insisting the water wasn’t that cold and spent about 20 minutes in it, after which she too finally came out.  She said you got used to the water after a while; I’m convinced that her legs just went numb from the cold.

We finished our night with a wonderful dinner at Captain Anderson’s, a fabulous restaurant, and mini-golf, which was a  lot of fun.

We had to get up early the next morning in order to return home, so we sent the girls to bed about nine.  I’m fairly certain they didn’t sleep until a long time after that, but at least we tried.  They spent a fair amount of time sacked out in the car as we drove home.

The forecast for Sunday, when we had to leave by 7,was, of course, sunny and 75.  It looked like Panama City Beach was going to reach that and more when we left.

I hope all of you had a Happy Easter!  Have a great day!

Nancy

An American Love Story


Hi Everyone!

President Andrew Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

I have a confession to make:  the first time I “met” Andrew Jackson, I did not like him.  I was first “introduced” to this larger than life figure in a book about the “Trail of Tears,” the forced march of the Cherokees from their homes in Georgia and Alabama out West to the Mississippi I found his decision to relocate the Cherokees and other Indians unconscionable and unjust. 

Unfortunately, human beings are complex, and very few of us are entirely evil or entirely good, so later, as I learned a little bit about the Battle of New Orleans, and when I realized what Andrew Jackson accomplished in that major victory of the War of 1812, with the very limited men and supplies available to him, my attitude changed to include just a little bit of grudging admiration. 

That grudging admiration increased even more when I learned about his enduring and reciprocated love for his wife, Rachel, who was originally Rachel Donelson.  From all accounts, she was the only woman he ever loved. 

Rachel Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

He met her at the age of 21, when, just arriving in the frontier town of Nashville as Solicitor (ie., prosecutor) for the Western District of the North Carolina Territory, he was looking to make his own mark.  He first boarded in a boarding house run by Rachel’s mother, which is how the two met.

Prior to meeting Andrew Jackson, Rachel had a brief, but unhappy marriage to Captain Lewis Robards, and the two separated in 1790.  In 1791, believing, due to a false newspaper article Robards caused to have printed in the local paper, that Robards had obtained a divorce from Rachel, Rachel and Andrew Jackson got married. 

In 1794, however, for the first time, Rachel and Andrew Jackson learned that Captain Robards had not, in fact, filed for or obtained a divorce.  Immediately upon learning this, Rachel moved out of Andrew’s house, and filed for divorce herself.  The divorce, the first ever in Kentucky, was granted in 1794, and the couple remarried. 

For the next 35 years, Andrew Jackson and Rachel Jackson stayed happily married.  Since Jackson was always a controversial figure, Andrew Jackson’s political enemies claimed that Rachel was a bigamist as necessary to attempt to defeat him in various political races.  The presidential election in 1828 was particularly brutal.  When Rachel died after the election but before his inauguration in 1829 of a heart attack, Andrew Jackson forever after blamed her death on his political opponents.  FN.

It is in his response to her death that some of the most endearing traits of Andrew Jackson come to life.  When she first died, Andrew Jackson refused to believe that she was dead, and urged his family and servants to put more blankets on the bed in case she woke up and was cold.  Soon after her death, he commissioned an artist to paint two miniatures of Rachel from a portrait done late in her life so that he would always be able to carry her with him.  He said good night to her every night before he went to sleep, and her final portrait hung across from his bed so that she would be the first thing that he saw when he woke up.

In the tomb that he built for her at their beloved home in Tennessee is etched the epitaph that he wrote for her.  In these words you hear the love and grief echo back through centuries:

Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died December 22nd 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind. She delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures,and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods. To the poor she was a benefactress; to the rich she was an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament. Her pity went hand in hand with her benevolence; and she thanked her Creator for being able to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transplant her to the bosom of her God.

Through one of those occasional miracles that occur in the preservation of history, the Hermitage, the Jackson home in Tennessee, has been remarkably preserved.  You can go see the Jackson tomb, now with both Andrew and Rachel Jackson buried there, surrounded by a garden that is much the same as it was when Rachel tended it.  The house itself is open for tours, and contains the furniture that Andrew and Rachel Jackson owned.  The entire presentation does not gloss over the less savory aspects of Andrew Jackson’s career; instead it presents, unapologetically, a full portrait of a complex, gifted man- and his tender relationship with the woman he loved until the day he died.

Photograph of Andrew Jackson just months before his death by Matthew Brady;  Jackson told Brady that Brady had made him “look like a monkey.” 
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

FN.  I am sure the tactics on the Jackson side of the election were equally brutal, but that is not the point of this post.

How FRED killed the Caboose


Good morning Everyone!

Whether or not I paid attention anytime else in my life, I did pay attention in Kindergarten and First Grade.  Really, I did.  And in my first classes, we were taught about trains.

CSX Freight Train

CSX Freight Train

Trains are fascinating to me even though I have never ridden a passenger train anywhere. (I don’t think riding the steam train around Disneyland counts.)  There’s something mesmerizing as you watch the giant cars trundle by, each one filled with something different, bound for who-knows-where, and many of the box cars(at least in the U.S.) decorated with spontaneous and colorful pieces of graffiti.

caboose

A Traditional Caboose

In elementary school, I learned that every train had at least one engine, the cars behind it and a caboose.  The caboose was one of my favorite parts of a train – not only does the word itself have a delightful ring to it, it usually had a unique shape and it was like having a period at the end of the sentence as far as a train was concerned.  Traditionally, the caboose was red, but over time many railroads began to paint the caboose to match their corporate colors.  Still, red or no, it remained the caboose, proudly marking the end of the train.

Burlington Northern, caboose

Burlington Northern Caboose

I can remember when most trains had a caboose.  One day in the 1970’s, some poor engineer in Illinois nearly had a heart attack when a car driven by my grandfather and carrying all three of us girls raced it all the way to a crossing.  By the way the train was wildly blowing its horn, I am sure the engineer thought we were trying to beat it over the tracks, but that was not so – Grandpa, at our request, was just trying to get us enough ahead of the train so that we could watch it go by, and see the caboose at the end.

Caboose interior, 1943

Caboose Interior, 1943, from wikipedia

A strange thing happened though, over time – the caboose gradually disappeared.  Sitting here today, I cannot specifically remember the last time I saw a caboose on a train (unless you count the steam train that travels around Disneyland, which I do not.)

Disneyland, steam train

One of the Steam Trains at Disneyland

I was caught at a train crossing yesterday, and watched the train cars flash by until we reached the end of the train – a coal car – and it seemed so unfinished without the caboose car to bring up the end.  I decided to investigate the mystery of the missing caboose, and after copious research (that translates to one google search and reading the entry on Wikipedia), I have discovered the identity of the person who killed the caboose – FRED.

FRED, train

FRED, the villain!

FRED is a device that reads all of the information that used to be gathered in the caboose and transmits it electronically to the front.  FRED also emits a flashing red light to mark the end of the train.  FRED has about as much personality as a blank wall in an unfinished house, yet it managed to kill of the caboose in the name of progress and profits.

I think someone needs to bring charges against FRED, don’t you?  The ghosts of a thousand thousand cabooses (or is that caboosi ?) demand it!

Abandoned caboose

An Abandoned Caboose in the desert

Have a great weekend everyone!

Nancy