SADIE AND THE GOLDEN LOCOMOTIVE
My granddaughter Sadie and my daughter Sunshine are birds of a feather. They keep their eyes open. They both know a good thing when they spot it. Sadie might be better at it than Sunny. They’re both pros though. Grandparents are the prime target for each of them. Sunny always had my folks in the cross hairs. Sadie has me wrapped around her pinky. There’s no escape. It’s tradition.
If a pickpocket ever tries for my riches, chances are they will probably take a look at the stuff in my jeans and carefully put it back. Then, they’ll take some of their own money and, very cautiously slip me a few bucks and go rob someone else. The fences just don’t need any thing I got. Of course, value is a matter of opinion. In a crisis, a bag of spuds will be worth more than a bag of gold. Gold is just not that tasty or nourishing but, spuds fill an empty belly. A coin is just a coin but, a souvenir is a memory when you’re all alone. One such memory sits in my pocket. Let me tell you how it got there.
Sandy and I were riding through Phillipsburg, NJ about nine years ago. Sadie was in the back seat. She was three or four years old going on thirty. I can still hear her talking. “Hey, Pop Pop! Why are we going thirty five miles an hour?”
She kind of caught me by surprise. I had to look at the gauge and talk fast. “Gosh, I don’t know Sadie. I guess I just am. Does it matter?”
I guess it did. Sadie got right on the case. “Pop Pop, you just passed a twenty five mile an hour sign. You could get a ticket.”
I guess she was right. I slowed down a bit only to be reminded that twenty seven miles an hour wasn’t twenty five.
It seemed to take forever but, we finally got to our destination. I parked the van and, we all hopped out. Sadie worked the parking meter. I had to help her up to reach it. The destination was a surprise so she had to close her eyes and walk with her eyes closed till I said she could look.
When we got close enough I told her to open her peepers and there she was standing right next to a big operating steam locomotive. The engine was blowing off steam and let out with a whistle. It must have been twelve feet high. That’s pretty tall to a three year old. The engineer and fireman were looking out of the cab. It was to be a Halloween run so, they were wearing goblin masks. Most kids would have wanted to run. Sadie just cheered with a big thumbs up.
I had been advertising this excursion on the radio and, as a result, I knew some of the crew from an interview we did together. The engineer hollered down to me. “Hey Doc! Do you two want to come up and take a look around the cab? Put your granddaughter in front of you as you climb and she’ll be OK.”
I turned to ask Sadie if she’d like to climb up the engine. She was already heading for the ladder. I guess that was a yes. Up we went. It didn’t take long and, we were stepping into the cab. The crew took their masks off and said hello. They did a pretty good job of showing her how the engine worked. Sadie wanted to know if she could drive it. They said she’d have to be a bit older than four.
I mentioned that a big fire that turns water into steam makes the whole shebang run. The crew opened the firebox doors for Sadie to see. Sadie walked up to the flames and warmed her hands. I knelt down next to her and pointed out the water jacket surrounding the fire. Sadie asked if that’s where the steam would be. I told her yes and that it’s mostly steam and very hot water behind the steel, more than enough to pull the whole train at a pretty good clip.
It was time to climb down and get into the passenger cars. Sadie shook hands all around with the crew. Her hands were filthy. She liked that. When we got back on the ground, the crew waved and let loose with the steam whistle and told us to hurry up and get on board. We were the last ones except for the conductor. Sandy got us to our seats. Our fannies hit the seat with a thump as the train jolted us off our feet. We were on our way to the pumpkin patch eight miles down line.
The ride was a good one. We got to the pumpkin patch on time. Sadie picked out a nice pumpkin and said hello to a few of the ghosts and goblins that haunted the area. Soon, we were on our way back to the station.
On the way back, Sadie asked if there was a gift shop on the train. She was and still is, pretty big on gift shops. I told her that it was just a small train and, they probably didn’t have one on board. Sadie looked around the coach and pointed at a sign and hollered. “That sign says there is a gift shop on board Pop Pop. It’s in the rear car.”
Sandy, likes gift shops too. So, the two of them headed to the rear. I stayed back and looked out the window at the Deleware River passing by. I was remembering my first train ride so long ago. I was daydreaming about how good the hot dogs were at the Newark station when I felt a tug at my sleeve.
It was Sadie. She could hardly contain herself. She handed me a tiny bag. Her smile had her speechless. I took the bag as Sadie told me to open it up right now. I did as I was told and found that I was now the proud owner of a miniature steam locomotive key chain. Sadie was the first to point out that if I pushed down on the steam bell housing on the top of the engine, the headlight would light up. “That way, you can see the keyhole in the dark Pop Pop!” Darned if it didn’t work just as she said. I held it as if it were made of gold because it was.
Well, the years have not been kind to the locomotive key chain. The key holder part fell off first. The battery died in about two months. The roof came off the cab about a month ago. The wheels are long gone. Most of the paint has worn off too. One day a while back, I couldn’t find it. I searched for hours and finally found it under some dirty socks. Every evening, it’s the last thing to go on the bed table. Every morning, that little engine is the first thing in my pocket. That’s because it’s made of gold…..sort of.