The Little Engine That Wanted To

By Kathy Horn
Tuesday December 23, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM
The Little Engine
By Kathy Horn
The Little Engine

1955. Little Girl dreams Roller Coaster lives outside her bedroom window.  

What a fun Dream! 

When Girl is Woman, She, Man and Child go live on Top of the World in the Eucalyptus woods. Man makes firewood from trees hurt by the Freeze of ‘72. Family camps out, then becomes the Boxcar Family. Old Watertruck hauls in water. Propane brings lights, stove, fridge and hot water. Slowly, simple structures appear. And a Baby!  

One day, Family drives to Richmond Brickyard. The huge domed brick Kilns are about to be demolished! Man pays to go into the Big Dark, and pushes unfired bricks off the little railcars. Crane pulls them out and loads them into Dump Truck. They all drive home happy. 

It is time to build Little Engine! Kids will have a train to ride on Top of the World! Man uses Friend’s shop, cutting many, many pieces of steel. He welds shapes together with Torch. He adds a good Datsun motor, real cast railroad wheels and silver and brass decorations. Back home, Mill cuts wooden ties from logs. Man makes jig to bend rail into curves, pounds spikes to hold the rails 15” apart. 

Six years later: Big Day!! Dump Truck drives Locomotive home! Woman stands in the driveway, watching it come up the hill. Oh My Goodness! Such a large piece of Jewelry!!  

A beautiful Dream. 

Crane carefully moves Little Engine onto her new Track. She fits perfectly! Engine is so Happy!! She loves Man squirting oil in all her joints, firing her up for a run around Quaint House, Redwoods and Oaks. White flags fluttering, she lets Cowcatcher point the way. Cherub beats his drum in front of Smokestack. Little Engine loves hearing Kids ring her Bell, laughing.  

She kind of likes scary trestle.  

Night Runs with Moon and Stars are enchanting! But then again, she is not too sure about those tall shadowy Totems standing amongst the Trees! Or Redwood Cougar always leaping off that Roof! Raccoon and Skunk nose around, looking for tidbits. Liberty Bell barely bongs when Owl swoops in to perch. Fox steers clear of Bobcat. Gopher and friends dig tunnels under Track. Deer Family munches tasty flowers. 

Bright Day Again! Opossum stays safe in Burrow across the road, far from Little Iron Horse chug-chugging around at any odd moment. Opossum does not like surprises! Girl and Boy bravely head off for book learning. Loco and Speeder gossip and reminisce, whiling away the lonely hours. Privately, Loco wonders, “Why DO Kids love racing around on MY track in that old white Speeder??!! I’m SO much prettier and more dignified...”  

Burro brays, Ducks quack, “I see You!” when new Little Folks arrive. They climb on Flatcars and journey past Gypsy Jeep, Supersleeper, Boomtruck and Lumber Mill...Blast Booth, Bing Crosleys... Fageol, Jungle Cabin, Ecobarn II... and Aermotor catching the breeze up top the biggest, baddest tree. Now, just Who is playfully pelting the passengers with Eucnuts from the Lone Star Observatorium??!  

Cedargirl calmly pours silverwater into her Pond. 

Little Engine loves it when Woman hangs the Christmas wreath on her Headlamp, or plants marigolds in her Windowboxes. When Man gives Kids brushes, they paint graffiti on her Caboose. It tickles!  

What a funny Dream! 

Some mornings, slow motion ocean Fog silently lays in, muffling World below.  

One day, Earth quakes, Bridge breaks, Trees shake, “sh-sh-sh-sh” so faint.  

Winter storms bend trees. A big old Euc smashes Pickup.  

One Indian Summer, Fire rages! Immense black smoke across Valley. Sirens! Sirens! Planes dropping red! Huge pieces of houses rise up in the heat. All day. All night. Who died? 

Other tragedies happen, or amazingly, do not. The list of blessed Coincidences is much longer.  

2001. Clock chimes emphatically: “It’s only a Matter of Time!” Shark roars up driveway, yelling. Friends always said Family would be Grandfathered In. They love Grandfathers. That sounds fine. 

But soon, Family sadly takes everything out of Shop, Barn, House and Studio. Friends come by to help and say “Good Bye.” Off come windows and doors! There is so much racket as buildings are taken apart or crunched! What is happening??  

Crane lifts off the roof panels, then the walls of Sibley’s former Firestation 22, now Family’s Redwood livingroom. Crane lays them flat on Trailer Of The Future. Last, Family gives away Housetrailer Haven on Craigslist. It goes to Mountains with Cat for company.  

Man starts pulling up spikes and stacking Rail!! Soon, Little Engine is all alone on not enough track to go Any Where, certainly not around the Top of the World. Is Family going to leave Little Engine all by herself in the Sky?? 

Such Not a good Dream!! 

Crane rumbles over and carefully slings Engine and track section up through the air, gently setting them down onto another Trailer. Heavy chains clamp down to hold her safely. Engine rides down the same road she had come up so long ago, onto Free Way, through the Tunnel, to Martinez. Man parks her, and wraps her with a tarp. 

It is so dark in there! But she can hear Aunty Tanker and Uncle Diesel rolling past on Big Track nearby every day. If only Man would unwrap this dark coccoon so she could at least watch! 

Nobody comes. 

Nobody hangs the Christmas Wreath on Little Engine. Nobody plants Marigolds in her Windowboxes. Engine wants Track back, Scenery and Kids!! Little Engine wants to Roll! 

Grandkids ask about Engine. Man and Woman look at each other and shake their heads, “Not Yet.” “We don’t know.” 

And they wonder: Maybe there is a new Friend they have not met yet. Maybe Some Body reading this knows a new Place with Scenery and nearby Kids, where Man, Woman and Little Engine can make a New Dream Happen. 

They wonder.