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“the Whistles Started Getting To Me …”

May 2024
1min read

H. Barber of New Port, Oregon, an honest-to-God old hobo and one of the last of a great breed, saw Clark Spence’s “Knights of the Fast Freight” in our August issue: I am from Southern 111. Had the Cotton Belt & Missouri Pacific for a play ground plus the Mississippi River, not many kids are that lucky. The whistles started getting to me at a very early age. Any way folded my books & decided to explore the places I’d read about in the geography & History books, have never been sorry for one minute of my decision. Learned more from the first six months on the road than my seven yrs. in school.

Guess my first trip from St. Louis to Denver was by far the most interesting, rode #79, a hot shot out. Was at 9:05 in the night, was shot at, it made me think about going back home but decided to make it to Denver one way or another. The trip was worth the danger when I saw those snow capped mts. for the first time.

There were plenty of hostile R.R. bulls left in my day, like Denver Bob of Amarillo, Father Son & Holy Ghost of Hannibal, Broadway out of Dupo 111. to mention a few. The only silver dollar division I encountered was on the Colorado & Southern, from Pueblo to Trinidad. It was shell out or get knocked off.

I rode a stock train from Durango to Alamosa in Nov. of 1927. It was 30 degrees below going over the hump. At that time there was a line from Durango to Farmington New Mexico, made a run on it, also from Durango to Silverton & on up to Ophir. Think Ophir was as near to the end of the world as one could get without falling off.

Remember when a freight leaving Mears Junction lost its air, and jumped the tracks it was quite a wreck, killed 9 Hoboes. Was lucky not to be on that one, was working in Salida at the time.

Riding the rails gets in your blood and stays there. One thing I know, except for the sound of my mother’s voice after crawling off a freight after 2 or three yrs. the most beautiful sound to me is a lonesome whistle in the night & the train wheels clicking on the coupling joints. There are no rails here, suppose it’s just as well, for at 65 its a little harder to catch em on the fly.

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