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A Banjo Lesson

 

So I was sittin in Renville, Minnesotta, workin the sugar beet harvest, when the lack of work and rain got to me enough where I said fuck it. Take my money and run. I hitched up to Wilmar, MN to try to catch that Grand Forks to Galesburg train. Ran into a car knocker right away who was overtly nice. He went to the yard office, pulled up the call list, printed it out and brought it back. So now I had the lead unit number and the eta. The crew had already been called so I moseyed up under the ped bridge there to wait it out, where I noticed that several friends had been through recently. In fact some one had caught out of there every month this year through Oct!! Anyhoo I'm sittin there when the car knocker rolls up and brings me dinner. Half way through eatin I hear the sound of road power rollin through the other side. My train is comin through on the other side! Needless to say I missed it, but spending the night in that yard wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a fella with workers and crew van drivers bringing me coffee and food all night!!

So a unit grain train comes in from South Dakota and they pull off the power to service it. I mosey down find a nice Canadian and settle into my sleepin bag and go to sleep. I wake up wondering how the hell am I ridin dirty face? and realize I'm headed southwest to Sioux City! In Sioux City I start headin down to the CN yard to catch that turn to Ft. Dodge. Passin the UP yard a friendly conductor talks me into takin a rear unit ride to Council Bluffs. Fuck it, I'll just go to KC, ride KCS to St. Louis, then on into Nashville on CSX I figure. We eventually get under way. So I'm sittin back enjoyin the 40 mile-an-hour ride when the conductor comes strollin in to take a shit. Turns out he's not the guy who I talked to and freaks. Runs back to the lead unit and calls the cops. I hear all this on the radio. It seems he's never seen a tramp before because he's really confused. We stop to pull me off but the city cops seem to think I'm with the crew because the yell up to me that they can't find me!!! So we get under way, I'm still ridin, and we stop for a meet. I hear the UP bulls are on their way so I decide to bail and hitch, we're next to the interstate anyway. I talk to the crew a minute and calm them down, but I'm not ridin if the bulls are gonna be lookin for me.

So I hitch in to Council Bluffs the next morning and go to check my email at the library. Who do I run into but that conductor who called me in. He runs up and says he's sorry he kicked me off and called me in but he's never seen a tramp before (with 30 years on the railroad that's weird) and got scared.

We talk a minute and he asks where's my dog. "Oh, over next to my banjo" I say. He gets all excited about the banjo, seems he just bought one and can't play it. His is in his car so I give him a lesson on tunings, clawhammer style, and show him a song. He pays me and promises to let the tramps ride from now on!! The rest of my trip was pretty uneventful, a circuitous and out of my way one but none the less enjoyable. Ended up riding back to Mankato, going over to La Crosse, gettin on the BN to St. Louie and grabbin CSX there.