Chasing Trains

The past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened.  P.L. Berger

I Hurt My Head As a Kid..

Did you fall on your head as a kid?

Many people know that for me the answer is yes.  When I was three I was in the back seat of our car sitting on my great-grandmother’s lap. I’m told that my Dad was driving about 50 miles an hour when I reached down, opened the door and out I went. It was Summer and we were on our way to my grandparent’s house in Mukilteo Washington to spend a week with them. This event definitely interrupted things but we finally got there.

If you live in the Puget Sound area in Washington and you have money you live on waterfront. My grandfather was in that category and his house was on five acres of high-bank waterfront that looked across the Sound at Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains beyond. This is where our extended family got together every year. There was always a bunch of kid’s at these gatherings and my Aunts’ Suzie and Sally (16 year-old identical twins) were put in charge of us. I remember they would take us down to the beach and we would run back and forth across the railroad tracks waiting for trains. Sooner or later a Streamliner would come racing by and we would all run along side it, waving to the engineers. If the fall from the car didn’t kill me then playing on the train tracks surely should have. Looking back I honestly don’t know how I survived those trips to the beach.

My grandfather had chickens and we were often sent to the hen-house to get eggs.  Suzie and Sally called the hens “the girls” and the chickens would squawk like crazy when we interrupted them.  My grandfather also had rabbits and sheep that grazed on pasture grass on the property. If fried chicken was served at dinner you could also find yourself munching on rabbit. I’m not sure what the sheep were for but he must have had a purpose for them. I always liked the sheep. They were the only animals that didn’t scare me.

Spending the Fourth of July at Mukilteo meant fireworks. And I don’t mean just some sparklers. My grandfather would buy hundreds of dollars worth of real, commercial grade fireworks. I’m certain this is where I learned to blow things up, a hobby I enjoy to this day. By the time it was dark the adults were thoroughly intoxicated which meant it was time to light the fireworks! Once again my brothers, cousins and me cheated death. Despite pyrotechnics going off in a million wrong directions no one ever got hurt.

My grandfather died unexpectedly when I was about seven and the summer trips to Mukilteo came to an end. My grandmother sold the house and moved to town. My own family soon moved away to California. 24 years later in 1977 Terri and I decided to travel to Washington to see where I spent the early years of my life. Terri was interested to see what this place I called “Mukilteo” was all about. I didn’t have an address but I had a feeling I would be able to find the house. I quickly learned however that Mukilteo Blvd (the main road closest to the water) had hundreds of houses on both sides of the street, and it went on for miles. I knew I must have been close but I didn’t find the house and we gave up for the day. The next morning I woke up in our hotel room and told Terri that I knew where the house was. She asked me, “How?”  I replied, “I had a dream and they told me.”

About an hour later we headed back toward the waterfront in Mukilteo. I drove about four miles, then made a left turn, maneuvered through some trees and down a long narrow driveway. Suddenly I was in front of my grandparent’s house where I chased trains in my youth. And the sheep were still there.

5 thoughts on “Chasing Trains

  1. Great story. I noticed in the picture you had a cast on your head. Did the fall fracture your skull? Your story reminded me of my youth and adventures with trains. My friends and I would place pennies and even larger items on the railroad tracks and be amazed with the flattened pennies. The larger items usually became flying pojectiles which we dodged….and laughed if somone came close to being hit.


  2. Yes, it was a cast for a fractured skull. But kids’ bones are soft which worked in my favor. Terri and I took our youngest grand-daughter, Lily on a train ride about a year ago in Snoqualmie Washington. Before we got on the train we placed pennies on the track. We collected them, perfectly smashed at the end of the ride.


  3. “I had a dream and they told me.” Who’s “they,” Bart? Sounds ominous. Like that alone calls for another post.

    Living in Roseville, I’ve been within spitting distance of trains my whole life. Apparently I was denied this passage of youth though. Maybe it was my generation; maybe it was my family. We were a lumber family. We tended to have more close calls with falling trees and chainsaws…


  4. I knew I should have expanded on this a bit. Just two more sentences would have done it. The day before I found the house we had been to the cemetery visiting the graves of my ancestors, including my grandparents. When I woke up the next morning I had a clear vision of how to get to the house. I believe “they” (my grandparents) somehow put this vision in my head while I was sleeping.


  5. Well Bart; who knew we were such kindred spirits. I completely “got it” when you said “they told me.” I have had comments made so clearly to me that I turned to look who said it. I am not a ghost whisperer or anything, just open to answers when I have questions.


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