Thursday, 4 May 2017
Our Home by the Railroad
If I’m being real honest, the house wasn’t as grand as you see it now. Back then it was built with love, sweat and tears and over the longest of times; if I’m guessing, I’d probably say nearer seven years than six. Christopher Lawson made his money from a store in town – one that he and his wife lived above - and one, that he had promised her, that they would escape from one day when they would move out into the countryside.
She had grand ideas about her home, and Christopher spent every spare hour in helping to build her dream. When he wasn’t at the house, he was at the store and this all eventually took its toll. At the age of thirty-seven, Mr Lawson raised a hammer for the very last time - just before his heart gave in. His wife (after a decent amount of time) moved back out East and married, a Philadelphian, by the name of Jeremiah Cruvitz.
That was when the house fell into the possession of my great, great-grandfather and I have to tell you, it has stayed in the family ever since. The house wasn’t built beside the railroad, rather the other way around. By the time the trains came our way, my grandfather had made the building fancier, with more bedrooms to accommodate his growing family. My great, great grandparents had visited New Orleans one hot summer and decided they wanted their house to reflect the same ‘tasteful elegance’.
The first big train that passed our house, and I’m reading my great, great grandfather’s diary here, was one bringing the soldiers from the war down south back to their homes in the north. Man, these guys were hollering and singing and hanging from the train. It had been a long few years and now they were all going back to their kin folks. President Lincoln had defeated the succession and slavery was gone. The sad thing is, that only a few weeks later, my family were standing by the railroad as the body of our greatest president went rolling by.
There were happy times, too. One summer, in 1893, there was a knock at the door real early in the morning. Heck, from what I hear the sun even didn’t even have time to get its pyjamas off – it was that early. One of my family answered the door,for a man with the longest and curliest moustache in the world, to say: “Could ya spare some water for my elephant?”.
Seems the train taking the animals to the Chicago World’s Fair had broken down about a quarter-mile from our house, and the animals were all getting thirsty. What a day that was for my folks. In the end, they held their own private circus in our garden, then the show folks slept in the barn and some on the kitchen floor. In the morning, their train was good to go and they were off on their way to Chicago.
Two more World Wars came and went, and guns and soldiers were shipped to the east coast (or the west, as happened in the second war).
For a long-time afterwards trains kinda fell out of fashion, although you’d still get the two-mile-long cargo caravans. It stayed very much that way until the late 1960s, when we all went down to the tracks, dipped our heads and watched as the train carrying Robert Kennedy passed by the house on the way to Washington DC.
Passenger trains came back into service again, and folks started to pass our house. Some would take the time to wave, while others were busy on their computers and all.
Late in 2018, trains started heading towards New York and Philadelphia with armaments of all shapes and sizes; tanks, rockets, landing crafts, you name it, the trains carried it.
It was only a few months after those trains passed that we saw the flash in the sky – long way off my daddy said – but we could still feel the wind all the same.
Ain’t no trains been passed the house in a mighty long time, no trains at all – speaking of which, we ain’t seen another human in all that time, either.
bobby stevenson 2017