Ah, Winter!


Although winter muted most noises, really cold weather seemed only to aid the most magnificent sound in outdoor America, a sound which in recent years has been all but stilled-the cry of the steam locomotive. In the splintery air of a northern winter, the whistle of, say, a Grand Trunk mogul pulling a string of cars, was a mighty noise that shattered the woods and the night, a trump to shame all horn players since Gabriel. It was a blast to roll on over the blueberry swamps, over the timbered hills, on over the stark fields, to warn all human beings, all animals wild and domestic, and even the fishes in the muttering streams, that the Fast Freight was going through with a full head of steam. In its echo was the sweet sadness of remembered sound that made old men restless and called boys to leave farms and villages to roam in far places.


There were other sounds peculiar to winter and cold. When northern lights flared up and danced along the horizon, one heard a faint whishing noise, like escaping steam. Sometimes the strange lights seemed to crackle. These were sounds that remained in memory. So was the humming of the telephone wires. No other sound was quite so desolate as this, so solitary, so filled with a great loneliness. Even in one’s own dooryard, this mysterious humming transported a boy to some unknown region near the moon and left him there sole, alone and facing the enigma of time, space and existence. It was a mystic thing. It came only with winter.