On Capers, Learnings and Such
At the tender age of ten, time does not exist
life, the juicy oyster, is hardest to resist
for a boy who watches Cowboy shows, fueling fiery dreams,
besotted by my plots and plans, I began to cook up schemes.
But not like my best buddy, Jack was his first name,
(not our Soupy-Poet Jack, but his mischief was the same).
Villains and heroes we played a bunch, to while away the days
Cowboys and Indians aplenty, unique in quarreling ways.
My pal Jack the dreamer. Lord how he could plot!
I the lowly lemming, followed and got caught
in pursuit of grand adventures, clueless, unaware
my back against a wall—the dreadful double-dog dare!
His mother of all schemes? The stuff his dreams?
To rob a mail train, weird as it seems.
But not improbable, because we lived by the tracks,
near the local station, (yes m’am... just the facts).
Sundance and Butch blew up a car, surely we could do no less.
Could we rob the Empire Builder, without a great big mess?
As the engine murmured and sighed, astride a well-earned a rest
the porters loaded baggage, we watched disembarking guests.
Then we did the stealthiest sneak (ever!), along the northern side
clambered up the mail-car ladder, without even being spied.
“Reach for the sky!” we boldly yelled, startling the postal clerk
who sorted mail with practiced hands... nearby the gold did lurk.
Looking down the barrel of a cap-gun forty-four
he cast a nervous glance at a very distant door,
but could not feign bravado—we had him dead-to-rights—
any sudden move, he knew, and we would dim his lights.
He stammered, “Fa..fa..fa..fa..fellas... take it easy now,
we’ll have to see the Engineer, especially seein’s how
I alone can’t breach the vault, for I only have one key
and the engineer has one, it takes two of them, you see?”
So off we strode with him on point, our bluster burst aglow,
with him in front and us in back, it was the grandest show!
Little did we comprehend, a button had been pushed
ensuring a surprise for us, we soon would be ambushed.
My pal Jack had blundered. Remember—it was his plan!
Inside the locomotive was a brave and mighty man,
not just a lowly hostler, but Casey Jones the third,
how quickly mettle turned to mush, when Casey said one word:
“FREEZE!” (...suckas) and “drop those guns, you dogs!”
(We didn’t pee our pants, but our brains were stripping cogs.)
“Sit down over there,” he said... did he try to squelch a smile?
We said, “YESSIR!” much in unison, and sat for quite a while.
Casey took our guns and told us not to move
heavily deflated, our day had lost its groove.
Mostly he ignored us and went about his work.
As our eyes parked on the floor, the train began to jerk.
We were moving! MOVING?! Apple pie and jam!
Holy smokes and artichokes! How would we ever lam?
Our minds were set to fretting, our brows were set to frown.
The pride and joy of Jimmy Hill was heading out of town.
Like most tales of remembrance, this one’s out of hand
it’s time to wrap it up and on a happy ending land.
You see, a small town’s nothing, if not tightly knit
The hero, Casey Jones, was really Bob Dewitt.
The station master Wilbur, with Bob had made a pact
to teach us boys a lesson, on how we ought to act.
Wilbur called our mothers (horrors!), Bob applied the gas,
he set the throttle hard for a run up Lost Trail Pass.
On the other side of Lost Trail, a Westbound freighter waited
its fate and ours were soon to meet, up close and related.
Bobby stopped the train that day, (which was against the rules)
and transferred to the freight train, two silly little fools.
Grown ups laughed I’m sure of it, as us lowly villains pouted
the story of two lads a’thwarted, ‘round the town was shouted.
But, we got to ride up in the cab, of those brawny awesome trains
which both did conquer mountains, and roar o’er mighty plains.
Often I’ve looked back.
What is stuck inside my noodle?
NEVER TRUST A GUY NAMED JACK!!!
notes: The Empire Builder was the premier passenger train of the Great Northern Railway. GNR was founded by James Hill who was known as "the Empire Builder."
The train is still in service, although it is now operated by AmTrak. Photos is courtesy of the Great Northern Railway Historical Society.
Copyright © John Wulf