Riding the train out of Denver, leaving behind the mountains, the oil refineries, the brick and mortar, steel and glass. Passing endless rows of black cylinders on wheels carrying refined oil to markets near and far. Coltranes Giant Steps playing melodically in the background. The green and brown planes stretching out to the horizon in every direction. Ponds filled with ducks, herons. Stands of trees with nests high in the thier branches. Heards of cattle, black, brown, young and old. Calfs running at the sight and sounds of the steel and iron locomotive passing steadily by.
Steel blue ski capped by flat bottomed cumulus clouds. Shade of pink giving way to darkness. The rain filled nature of puffy whiteness evident. Remnants of a thousand farm machines, tires, steel hulls lay at track side. A farmer putting life’s used and no longer useful remnants as far from home as possible. Hay stacks like wheatabix filling a field like a checker board, tan blocks defining work yet to be done. High tension power lines carrying volts, amps, and watts across the country to those asking release from all which ails them.
Night closing in. Tufts of grass distinguished only by shape and color springs forth, pea green grass mocking in days last light. Eyes straining, then settling into a soft vision of the land. In the distance beacon covered poles rise from the ground like sentinels to misguide no one wandering along at dusk. Deer grazing and setting down.
Fellow passengers reclined in a precursor to sleep. Not a farmhouse in sight. The only light coming from a north bound train. A town appears on the horizon marked by green, yellow, and white lights. Hard working people long ago having settled in for the night. The long arms of an irrigation pinwheel stretch motionless across the land.
Wheels of the train stuttering along across bumpy tracks, moving forward. Chattering like teeth on a cold lake. The trains horn fortelling of yet another road crossing, warming those present and not that movement is afoot. Puddles and pools reflect what light remains, a light post casting it’s last shadow.
Tractors, motorbikes, and pickups outnumbering cars by a ratio of two to one. A truck stop filled edge to edge. Eighteen wheels all lined up like cigarettes in a pack. Driverless for the moment. More tires lines up like fallen dominos, telling the tale of so many rows of plowed corn, sheaves of wheat, and beans of soy having been pulled from the land. A testament to earths continual gifts.
The land evolves appearing now like an emerald and gray envelop slowly closing, holding the story of the day. As the world outside closes shop the lights within the train take over. Steel and aluminum drilled, bent and formed. Plexiglass, polyester plastic Velcro, and all manner of artifices now reveal themselves. Velcro everywhere, holding curtains shut, disposable head protectors, seat cushions. I’ll have to hunt for more. There must be more Velcro.
The engineer fears not the dark. The train steers itself. His only jobs maintaining speed, keeping a watchful eye out and ensuring that horn never sleeps for long. Steadily we move. Town after town.
Streetlights, tai lights, house lights, So many lights illuminating this place and that. Advertising gas and groceries. One dollar Chinese food, beer, wine and cigarettes. Reminding the riders that the next smoke won’t be for six hours. Time to quit, time to quit. It’s the plains, only apartment blocks and grain towers stand more than a story tall.
With a growl a West bound train passes. At first it roars, then wishes, settling into a rhythmic wish, wish woosh. Car after subsequent interconnected car makes its way along fixed track. Wheels turning over and over and over, forward moving, mile after parakeet mile.
The flat plains have transformed into lush, green rolling hills. Morning has come, bringing with it hundreds, no thousands of cows continuously grazing like a heard of Hoover vacuums cleaning the land of vegetation. Passes through gullies, under one bridges and past mile after ever changing mile of rich dark soil.
Green lawns effortlessly rise up from moist ground. Trees stand firm and tall like chandeliers of half grown leaves. Long lines of clouds with rolled leading edges suggest rain may soon feed this deserving land.
It’s is a quiet and noble place. No neon signs, no chain stores. Only the occasional basketball hoop speak of a life beyond the land. Creek feeding creek. Ponds of every shape and size perched at the edge of hills formed by farmers two turns of the century ago. Wooden fence posts holding rusted barbed wire both competing to show their age. Dirt roads marked by pentaganal signs, T441, convey a code only sensible to locals and geographers.
Amorphous shapes, turkey, lumps of mud, and old shrub park the imagination beyond the point of accurate perception. Silo’s sit empty having fed all comers throughout the winter. An endless cycle of planting, harvesting, storing, feeding, and slaughter so that Big Macs, Whoppers and square patties grace our strip malls with incomprehensible deleterious effects.
Heards of sheep scatter perhaps taking solice in the fact that they at least will be sacrificed in the name of a special day and not merely as a five minute breaks from the escape of a cubical farm in some distant urban human encampment.
Encampment is to kind, if we are to be accurate they are farms pure and simple. Born and raised to be a consumer proudly stamped in blue ink on our haunches. Bread to consume endless quantities of anything you can sell us. Media, substandard processed food, fast cars to take us from point A to point B with all the speed which our congested, cracked, pothole filled roads will allow.
911’s racing Pacers, bumper to bumper stop light to stoplight gaining milliseconds of advantage between applications of finely tuned brakes. Egos puffed buy extra layers of paint, and the skin of the animals (one just consumed at the drive through). A custom color of red or black signifying the death and blood of those you have trampled to gain the honor of driving a vehicle which will surely contribute to the very demise of the planet they aim to rule. Clinging to the dream that our reputations will at least survive longer than the lease on your wheels.
Stands of wild turkey feathers displayed like fans. Dancing the dance of love, free from the farm, free from everything except the desire to sleep, mate and survive. Geese, blackbirds , sparrows all share the field in harmonious fashion. Plentiful is the water, and the food.
Another town, the train slows yet again. Lakes surrounded by trailer homes suggesting summers fun. Hundreds of port-a-lets lined up in military fashion ready for duty when duty calls. Industrial buildings, water purification plants, and multilateral bridges announce the entry into a larger town.
The magic of nature gives way to church spires, brick, stone, wire and steel. Trees transform into polls, covered not by vines but by mile after mile of electrical wire. Groups of grey haired ladies with page boy haircuts laugh gleefully as they make there way towards the city. Somewhere a beautician is staring at an industrial sized bottle of hair dye. Wondering what color will be in fashion next. A change that will sweep through the town like a permanent wave. It’s been a quick stop this time. Only chance for a short smile and a breath of fresh air.
Across the river sits a building aptly named bridge view center. Not much of a bridge, or view. Can’t speak to the center itself .
Freight cars layered with years of graphiti, rolling art exhibits sit in rail yards like so many postcards sent out Neither the sender nor the recipient knowing if anything was communicated. Yelling I’m here into an empty field. Hoping for some recognition. The only response being a subsequent artist finding a primed canvas on which to lay down paint. Perhaps centuries form now curatorial staff from the American folk art museum will remove layers of paint to reveal the early works of some long forgotten master.
Back at speed again, we race forward. Cows become horses, calves are now foals. Cemeteries line the tracks commuting the interred to an afterlife of train whistles and price watchers. The smell of nail polish permeates the car. Revenge no doubt for last evenings snore filled cabin.