Though few took much notice of the posters nailed and fading on poles supporting telegraph wires along the streets but somewhere the knowledge of what they meant embedded itself in the collective unconscious of the town folk. In homes all along the main road ears pricked up whenever the vibrations of an oncoming train began to rattle the dishes in the cupboard, shake loose dust from the ceiling, and send the cooped up fowl into a feathery tizzy. In the middle of scrubbing a plate at the sink or re-inflating the front tire on a bicycle there would be a visible pause while they unwittingly waited for the warning whistle to blow, announcing the iron-horse’s arrival to the meager population.
They wouldn’t need to wait for the whistle to know for sure on the day they didn’t realize they had been waiting for. A slew of boys stood on their bike pedals as they sped ahead of the train that was spewing steam, braking to slow its approach. The boys screeched unintelligibly, apparently speaking in tongues that were miraculously understood by all.
The children reacted the fastest, dropping toys in the dusty grass and dashing off to the tracks, cutting through lines of shrubs and hopping fences that stood in their way. The youngest children ran in the other direction, searching for a parent or older sibling whose outstretched hand they could pull along or whose shoulders would serve as the perfect perch. Those adults would smile in compliance before abandoning their activities and revealing their own enthusiasm as they swung the small bodies up in their arms to move faster towards the commotion.
Most of the trains that came through were simple freight trains loaded with either animals headed further out to the country side or with raw materials needed to keep production running in any of the many factories and mills along the rivers crisscrossing. All the trains were supposed to slow down as they approached any such populated are but this train came in at a crawl to accommodate the bodies with straining necks that were so close the loose gravel crunched beneath the shoes of those who wore them.
The bright colors came to life as the cars drew close and began to slowly pass by. The whistle was lighter, tinnier than the usual bellow. Still, despite the noise and flash, the only movement was the rocking of the cars as they advanced along the steel rails. The town folk waited and watched. Then a tanned hand appeared at a window and waved. A long, muscular, grey and pink appendage creeped out of what looked like a vent and shook from side to side, much to the small crowd’s delight. The previously quiet caravan erupted as animals competed to be the noisiest. Furry faces appeared between slats and at cracks not realizing they were the ones being watched.
As slowly as it approached it passed, trialing festive music to walk the town folk home again.