Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling

 

Porch Tale     

 

Uncle Adron and the Tit-High Temporary No-Train Water Reservoir Railroad Ride

by Jim Reed

 

 
 

Uncle Adron is bouncing up and down, head nearly bopping the ceiling of his Model-A Ford automobile, each time he pops upward. He's bouncing involuntarily about every second, so that you could set your watch by the sound of his bottom hitting the seat on the front driver's side. 

Uncle Adron is bouncing along because he's driving one way across a railroad trestle in Lilita, Alabama. One way along a one-track train track, heading east. 

The wheels of the Model-A don't quite fit inside the parallel tracks, don't quite fit onto the surfaces of the rails, and aren't quite far enough apart to fit on the outer sides of the rails. So, the Model-A automobile is riding kind of side-saddle, the driver's side wheels on the outer edge of the rails' north side, the passenger-side wheels nudging the inner edge of the rails' south side. 

Below the trestle is water. No bridge. No road. No field. Just water. The water came from nowhere last night--at least, the water came from the sky in torrential rains and caused water to fill up the small valley under the train trestle. A lake appears where grazing grass lay yesterday, Saturday. A road had cut through that pasture on Saturday, the road that Adron and his three companions had traveled on westward early Saturday morning. 

Right now, on Sunday, Adron is steering the Model-A to the east, trying to get home safely, hoping that the lumber mill behind him is closed on Sundays. It is the lumber company for which the railroad trestle exists, and trains usually go to and from the mill--when the mill is open for business. 

At this moment, Adron is operating on his usual stock of blind faith and extra ounces of sheer gut and willpower. He's hoping that the old tenant farmer who manages the hunting lodge nearby is right: "Nassuh, that sawmill don't open on Sunday. Ain't no train today!" 

If the farmer is correct, Uncle Adron doesn't have to worry about being hit by a train. All he has to worry about now is controlling the Model-Al as it enters no-person's land in the middle of the trestle, bumping over and intimately feeling each and every crosstie under the tracks. One moment of concentration broken could make those wheels slip beyond the trestle and the rails and the crossties. 

Limping ahead of Uncle Adron, scouting to be sure there are not broken crossties or other surprises along the track, is Tommy Reed, my father. In the 1940's, when Tommy and Adron are still young enough to have adventures such as this, Tommy is the cautious one, Adron the daring one. 

Behind the Model-A, following like careful sheep, are Brandon McGee and Jack (Buddy) McGee, my uncles. 

The four men have spent the weekend doing what they like best—traveling from Tuscaloosa past Epes, past Livingston, to go to the Hunting Lodge in Lilita--a shack in the middle of nowhere (Lilita being almost nowhere, you see)--where they can have a few laughs, a few smokes, a chaw or two, without any visible signs of the heavy responsibilities they carry on their shoulders during the work week. 

The Hunting Lodge is a place to listen to the silence, clean weapons, and talk without talking aloud, laugh now and then about the silliness of life and the predicaments they find themselves in now and then--and Now. 

Earlier in the day, the four hunters weigh their possibilities, looking at that water below the trestle and wondering how deep it is, wondering whether they risk getting into even more trouble by trying to drive that Model-A Ford into and across the water. At last, help arrives. A large cow saunters to the edge of the lake that was on Friday its dinner buffet of mixed greens. The men stiffen and watch silently. If the cow walks across the water safely, they'll take their chances in the Model-A. After another thoughtful pause--or thoughtless, as the case may be--the cow walks into the water and freezes.

"As soon as I seen that water go over the cow's tits, I know'd it was too deep to drive across," Uncle Adron tells me, a full fifty years later.

That's when the four men--Tommy, Uncle Adron, Uncle Brandon and Uncle Buddy--put their heads together and come up with the Master Plan. 

Now, here is Uncle Adron, bouncing up and down as the car lopes over the crossties one by one, looking down from the driver's seat at nothing but a great expanse of uninvited and uninviting water, sticking his head out to see if he still has the feel of the car wheels hugging the train tracks. 

And that's the story. 

Did Uncle Adron survive his adventure so that he could tell it to me fifty years later? I just told you that, didn't I? 

Did Uncle Buddy avoid having to jump into the lake to keep from being run over by a train, so that he could move to Harlingen, Texas, and raise a family and try to forget all the atrocities he'd seen as a paratrooper in World War II? 

Did Uncle Brandon survive another day in order to work his father's general store in Peterson, Alabama, for a few more decades, bringing laughter and fun to two generations of nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews? 

Did Tommy Reed go back to being a carpenter on Monday morning, so that he could spend the next forty years raising kids and grandkids in Tuscaloosa? 

Did I, the son of Tommy Reed, live long enough for Uncle Adron Herrin to finally tell me and my brother Tim the tale of the tit-high water reservoir and the one-way train trestle trip without a train in Lilita, Alabama?


Jim Reed is a lifelong resident of Alabama and has written literally hundreds of true and actual stories about his life there. His book Dad's Tweed Coat: Small Wisdoms Hidden Comforts Unexpected Joys and several other titles are available through his website:  http://www.jimreedbooks.com  

To contact him directly: jim@jimreedbooks.com

© 2003, Jim Reed, All Rights Reserved