(Tom Jirik wrote columns in several newspapers in Iowa from the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This column originally appeared in the The Boone Today)
There is a big window in our bedroom. At night we drop the blind to keep our privacy in and prying eyes out. It is an old window and does not open. On rainy days we sit on the bed reading in the gray light or just watching the cars and trucks splash by.
The window has a wide sill. And when the blind is pulled up and the sun spills in, it is perfect for a catnap- if you are a cat.
The window is less than a stone’s throw away from the double Chicago and North Western tracks that run thru Boone. We can not see the tracks from where we live. Other buildings block our view. But we can hear the trains. Their sounds have become familiar. Some night if no trains go by, I wonder if we would be able to sleep? Perhaps we would lie awake with the uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong, without being able to quite put our finger on it.
But the trains come. And at night, behind the blind, the window rattles angrily as the trains go by. I suppose it rattles during the day, but we are too busy to notice it then.
As we lie there in the darkness, we can hear the big diesel locomotives laboring in the yards on Boone’s eastern edge. The echoing crash of two empty cars being hooked together booms through the night, yanking us back from the edge of sleep.
Where will those cars go? Will they be loaded in the grimy industrial districts of Chicago or Omaha? Or will they catch the golden spill of corn cascading out of an elevator on some remote siding in rural Iowa?
Now a locomotive comes toward us. Perhaps there are two or more of them. Our window’s rattle tells us they are working hard. Are they coming from the west, bearing car after car of coal? Or do they approach from the east, towing long flatcars with boxes that have somehow lost their rubber wheels and now must ride the train?
Tonight the train comes from the west and the air horns blare out a warning to late-night motorists on Story Street. The blast of horns mingles with the fading rattle of the window.
It is as if the window dislikes the locomotives the most. Once they have passed, the window is silent and we only hear the click-clack of the track and the rumble of steel wheels.
So I listen as I lie there in the dark, having been rudely pulled from the gentle abyss of sleep by the booming of railcars and the rattling of a window. I wonder where those wheels will stop rumbling.
Next weekend our window will be rattled by Pufferbilly Days revelers. The beer tent will be just down the street and the street dance will be just beyond that.
But intermittently those noises will be interrupted by the sound of a laboring locomotive and the blast of an air horn as if to remind me, my window and Pufferbilly Days celebrants beyond, just what it is we celebrate in Boone on the weekend after Labor Day.