Tell Me a Story

In East Tennessee the performance side of storytelling can be observed at The National Storytelling Festival. Usually, when I tell anyone that I am going to a storytelling festival, they say, “What is that?” We have become accustomed to getting our entertainment electronically and the tradition of telling stories would probably be lost if it were not for places that make a point of preserving the oral storytelling tradition.

In the tiny town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, the telling of stories has become an art and “tellers” are celebrities with their own entertainment circle. The National Storytelling Center is in Jonesborough and you can visit it and hear stories by resident tellers anytime, though not in the quantity you hear during a three-day, and into the night, storytelling extravaganza. It is amazing to see a person without any props other than a microphone and a stool hold thousands of people spellbound.

Some of the storytellers are musicians who are most likely performers first and then weave the music into the story they tell. Some tellers are teachers, journalists, or speakers from other fields. But some are simply “talkers.” They have a story about something that happened to them or someone they know and it is too good to keep to themselves. Because they are talkers, not writers, they choose an oral accounting of the event.

Some of the stories told are true and some not as true. Embellishment is allowed if it helps the story to be a better one. A rule of thumb is usually that it is okay to embellish as long as it is obvious that it is not true. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to tell truth from fiction. One of the favorite tricks of tellers is to start out with an honest and forthright story and when people are totally convinced, to turn the story into such an absurdity that it is obvious that the listeners have been taken in. Audiences love these “tall tales and just plain lies.”

Does your own family have a storyteller? Often an older member of the family is the “family historian” and tells stories from their own life or that of ancestors. These stories can be passed through generations and eventually become folk legends. My mother was a storyteller. She was not a public performer and her stories were more of interest to relatives than to others. I remember many stories that she told about her childhood, most of which were finally written down, but some of which went unwritten and have been lost.

It is difficult to describe large-scale story telling as it is not only the story, but the shared experience of listening and being part of the audience that makes it what it is. It is not only the entertainment, but participating in an event that is somehow bigger, or more significant than the story. We are all familiar with these phenomena as fans at sporting events, when sharing in collective worship, or when attending a concert or play. Something just makes it better when you are not the only one who appreciates it.

Because I am a writer, the sharing of my tales is done with the pen or the keyboard. That does not mean that I do not appreciate other kinds of sharing. Stories may be sad, funny, or poignant, but are always entertaining, which is why they are stories, not reports. My stories are often humorous. I don’t always intend that, but the nature of a personality comes out in how a person tells their stories. The more you share your stories the better they become as they are polished with each telling like the smoothing of a rough stone into a gem.

And this is my story about stories. Remember what they say, “Everyone has a story.” Be sure to tell yours.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Southern Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Security Blanket

Blue Bear is a well-chewed toy that belongs to our dog, Dixie. It was never intended to be a dog toy; it was created as a toy for a child. The dog doesn’t care. In spite of many other toys in better condition, it is Blue Bear that is loved most.

Blue Bear has endured a number of major surgeries. Every so often, it’s soft furry body yields to the dog’s sharp teeth and acrylic stuffing begins to pop out. This means finding a needle and thread and attempting to sew up Blue Bear before it falls completely to pieces.

In addition to his many close brushes with the trash can, the bear has endured the amputation of one leg. We do not know what might happen if Blue Bear ever perished. We have tried to introduce other toys like Squeaky Fox, which was a short-term favorite. But after a while, Squeaky no long squeaked and Dixie returned to her first love, Blue Bear.

Like pets, children often have security blankets that they drag around and cling to for relief of anxiety, especially at bedtime. Eventually, kids outgrow the need for this type of security and “blanky” is put away or thrown away. However, some people save the object of affection even after childhood. While they no longer sleep with it, they retain it as an object of sentiment.

As a child, my daughter had a stuffed raccoon named Wally. Eventually, Wally was loved to death. We bought a new Wally, but it was never the same as the old tattered Wally, who was carefully placed on the top shelf of the closet where his dilapidated remains could be taken out for an occasional visit.

The security blanket of cartoon character Linus was made famous in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Linus held it to his cheek and sucked his thumb, a behavior to which many people could relate. A child can become so attached to an object that when a beloved security blanket is misplaced, the child will become anxious and unable to sleep without it.

Blue Bear has been around for a long time. He was Dixie’s favorite toy when she was a tiny pup fresh from the kennel. The dog was not much bigger than the bear at that time and she would often sleep with her head on the toy like a pillow.

We gave her the toy because the pups in the kennel had stuffed toys. We thought it would help to relieve the anxiety of separation from her mother and litter. We expected it to be a short-term relationship. Little did we know that we would be sewing up a stuffed bear for years afterward.

Dixie sometimes goes without playing with the toy for weeks at a time. We lose track of it and it is lost behind furniture or in some other place where blue bears hide when they want to rest. Then one day, the dog will come bouncing into the room with Blue Bear in her mouth. We have no idea where she found it.

My mother says that when I was a child, I had a doll that I made myself from a sock. Mother says she once overheard me tell the doll, “Honey, you are so ugly I would throw you away, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Apparently, at some point I hurt its feelings and got rid of it.

For adults, a security blanket can be almost anything, an item or something intangible that gives comfort, like religion or a relationship. Security blanket has become a synonym. But for Dixie it is simply a toy from puppyhood that cannot be replaced, even with an identical toy, as nothing else would smell, taste or feel like Blue Bear.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Creatures, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bad Things Come in Threes

“What happens twice, happens three times.” You’ve most likely heard this old saying. It falls in the category of superstition. I tried to look it up and found anecdotes about three celebrities who died the same week, three tornadoes happening close together, or any three other seemingly related things that happened in a short period of time.

The experts seem to think that we simply notice bad things more when they happen close together or one right after another. One mishap is simply a circumstance, two a coincidence, but three and it is a pattern. Either we do not notice a fourth occurrence or we start counting all over again.

Our mind seeks order by grouping things together. We have this, that, and the other; yesterday, today and tomorrow; before, during and after. This all seems very plausible when you read it, but why three? At my house, things do always seem to come in threes, especially broken mechanical things that need expensive fixes.

First, it was my kitchen range, barely old enough to be out of warranty. Do manufacturers plan it that way? My old range lasted 25 years before it died. This one is less than two. The oven temperature buttons no longer work — except for number 5. No problem if you want to cook something at 555 degrees. Unfortunately, there are not many things you can cook at a temperature that high. I tried it and incinerated a batch of chicken nuggets.

When looking for an authorized service center to fix the range, I found they only do warranty work. That is reassuring, isn’t it? There are so many things breaking down while under warranty that repairing them is a full time job. So, now I am looking for an appliance service that will reply to a voicemail with a call back and then actually show up to do the job. If you’ve tried it lately, you know it isn’t easy.

Secondly, there is the matter of the TV, the big screen TV that is too large to go to a repair shop. The picture and sound work fine, but the thing keeps turning itself off. Turn it back on and it plays a while and turns itself off again. Is it the satellite receiver, the remote control, or the timer on the TV? The timer is not set; using a different remote doesn’t help; and no other TV in the house is acting up, so it doesn’t seem like the receiver. A TV person is scheduled to come today.

“Bad thing do not come in threes. It’s only superstition,” I tell myself, but I feel paranoid, waiting for the clock to strike three. What else could go wrong?

Yesterday I found out. My car started making a noise. Oh, no! I tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away. It didn’t. Finally I called the car repair shop.

“My car is making a noise. I need to bring it in.”

“What kind of noise?”

“Clickity, clackity, clackity.”

“That doesn’t sound good to me.”

“Me either.”

“Bring it in tomorrow, but if the oil pressure is low, get it towed.”

“Towed…?”

Let’s see: I can’t eat. I can’t watch TV, and I can’t go anywhere. Sounds like a fun weekend coming up.

I don’t know that this proves anything about bad luck coming in threes. However, I do feel safer now. Three things have happened already so impending doom is over and gone — just like my bank account will probably be before this is over.

As far as experts who say bad luck does not actually happen three incidents at a time and we only think they do, let them come live at my house for a while.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Home, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Stretch Shoes

The shoes felt fine in the store, but when I got them home, they suddenly didn’t fit. I can’t understand it. They are the same size I always wear.  A larger size would be too big. They will stretch out after I wear them a few times, I thought, but I couldn’t wear them long enough to stretch them. I found myself hobbling around or kicking them off under my desk.

So, I did what any woman facing such a dilemma would do. I hid them in the back of the closet and tried to forget about them.

Then the other day, I found the shoes. I might as well throw these away, I thought. I never wear them. But I loved the style and they were still nearly new. Maybe I will give it another try. It was not long before I remembered why I discarded them in the first place. The right shoe was biting my foot while the left shoe was pinching my big toe.

There must be a way to stretch this leather! I refuse to throw away a perfectly good pair of shoes.

I looked it up. “Use a hair dryer,” said the article. “Put on several pairs of socks and force your foot into the shoes. Then warm the leather with a hair dryer to soften it and make it stretch. If it doesn’t work the first time, do it again.”

Oh, the torture! I couldn’t tell much difference and I was getting tired of taking my socks and shoes off and on. What I need is a blow torch, not a hair dryer.

I decided to try a different method. “Fill a zip-lock bag half full of water and stuff it into the shoe. Then put the entire shoe in the freezer. When the water freezes, it will expand and stretch the shoe.” How clever! So, I filled up a couple baggies with water. What could go wrong?

The person who suggested this idea must have big feet as my water-filled baggies did not fit inside my shoes. I poured water out until it was finally small enough to fit inside. You cannot believe how hard it is to hold a water-filled baggie in one hand while zipping it with the other.

When I finished cleaning up the mess, I stuffed the baggies inside the shoes and put them in the freezer. Wonder how long it will take the chunk of ice to melt when they are done? I only hope no one finds them and cooks them for dinner.

Once again, there was not much difference. Back to the drawing board. The rest of the suggestions didn’t sound very practical. Who wants to stuff shoes with wet newspapers or pour grain inside a shoe and wet it to make it expand? I wanted to stretch shoes, not make breakfast.

Then I found, “Spray them with stretching spray.” Why didn’t someone tell me about this before? Where can I get stretching spray? Available at most shoe supply retailers, it says. What is that? Where I live, you get it at Walmart or you don’t get it.

If I can find the stuff, though, I will try it. Stretching the shoes has become an obsession. I can’t let a pair of ill-fitting shoes defeat me, can I? I only hope they do not go out of style before I can fix them.

I found the stupid spray after driving all over the stupid town. I sprayed the stupid shoes and wore them with a pair of thick socks. It worked! In fact it worked too well. Now the stupid shoes are so big I can’t keep them on my stupid feet.

Wonder if there is such a thing as shrinking spray?

I think I will do what any woman would do when facing such a dilemma, hide them in the back of the closet.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

 

Posted in Fashion, Humor | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Orange Juice Caper


Some things are so small, so trivial that they are not worth getting upset about. But some people do not realize that. Some people get upset at the smallest hint of provocation.

“We are out of orange juice again.” says Honey.

“So? If we don’t have any orange juice, drink something else. Drink some of my juice in the 6-pack bottles.”

“If I drink that then you won’t have any juice,” he growls. “I have to go to Publix.”

It wouldn’t be so bad if we only had this conversation once in a while, but we have it two or three times a week. How much orange juice can one man drink?

“Somebody drank my orange juice,” he says, eying me suspiciously.

“Well it wasn’t me. I have my own.”

He rants for a while. “What happens to all the orange juice around here? Somebody drinks it.”

Good grief! It is only orange juice. Get over it.

I don’t want to accuse anyone, but I’m beginning to wonder if he pours it out to have an excuse to go to the grocery store. Every night, right at dinner time, he has to go to Publix.

It makes me crazy. What is it with him and Publix? It is a nice store and all, but not that nice. I swear, if I didn’t know him better, I would think he is having an affair with the cashier or something. He is at the grocery store more than he is at home.

Of course, the grocery store cashier never runs out of orange juice. Maybe that adds to her attraction.

Then one day we decide to stop at Publix on the way home from work. I really don’t like the store that much myself. I think the prices are too high. But it is the grocery closest to where we live.

“We are out of orange juice,” he says.

Where have I heard this before?

I often wait in the car when he makes his little pit stops, but this time I needed a few items too. “I think I will go inside with you.” I watch out of the corner of my eye to see if he looks like a man who is up to something.

We get inside and he heads for the orange juice. I head for whatever it is that I needed and add a few impulse items, of course. I can’t seem to go in a grocery store without spending $50. If I went as much as he does, I couldn’t pay the bills.

I finish shopping and head for the checkout counter, but I can’t find Honey. Where is that man? I’m tired. I want to go home. Then I see him at the Customer Service counter. Since when did they start selling orange juice at Customer Service?

I stomp over to the Customer Service counter with death-by-grocery-cart on my mind. “What are you doing? Hurry up!” He turns around with a handful of lottery tickets.

“Oh, you are buying lottery tickets?” Personally, I never play the lottery. I donate enough money to the state coffers when I pay taxes on groceries at check out.

“I have to have them run through the machine to see if I won,” says Honey. So, that’s what this addiction to orange juice is all about? It’s just an excuse to play the state lottery?

BUSTED!

I thought he had another love, but who would suspect it was the lottery.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Food, Humor, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Suitcase Blues

 

Why am I always buying new luggage? I don’t know, but here I go again. It seems that I cannot keep decent luggage for some reason, and every time I go somewhere, I have to buy a suitcase.

My red luggage looked so nice when I bought it years ago, three pieces all matching. A trip or two with airport luggage handlers playing soccer with it and it began to crumble. The inside had pieces of shattered plastic to clean out before packing. The outside trim left a trail of plastic crumbs behind me like being followed by ants. I could not bear the humiliation any longer.

I have a nearly new suitcase that I bought when we went to Egypt, a carry-on size. It is purple. When I bought it, purple was the only thing I could find on short notice that would meet the airlines specifications for size. Do the math. This is not a very large suitcase. However, I have now learned to travel light and to always buy a good suitcase.

As it turned out, purple was not such a bad color choice.

When hundreds of black suitcases all looking identical come tumbling out on the carousel at the airport, my purple one is easy to spot. So, I figured I would use the purple one again this time. I forgot that my daughter borrowed the purple suitcase and it now belongs to her. I agreed that she could have it, forgetting that there might be a next time. Besides, newer luggage now has four wheels and two-wheels are obsolete. Don’t tell my daughter.

I can never seem to keep decent luggage. About the time that I purchased a nice set of leather Samsonite years ago, luggage with wheels came along. My no-wheels luggage was instantly obsolete. Who do you see walking around carrying a suitcase these days — no one.

After my leather luggage went the way of the dinosaur, I bought a new black suitcase with wheels, the largest one I could find. “This will hold everything,” I thought. And it did. And it weighed a ton. Most airlines charge $25 these days to check luggage, and it is much too large to carry on. My brother-in-law finished off the big black suitcase when he dropped it and one of the wheels broke.

This time my new suitcase is blue. The purple, red, and green ones were all the wrong size. I hope blue will be different enough that I can find it. The suitcase salesman said that business travelers want black. Seasoned travelers have a carry-on and take it with them. No checking luggage, no delays, no lost luggage.

Unlike the two-wheel versions, which still require a certain amount of balance and strain your back when you pull it through the airport, my new suitcase is a spinner, four wheels. You can push it, pull it, or walk beside it. And unlike the other suitcases, it has round wheels like a ball instead of flat wheels. It’s the latest thing, the luggage salesman assured me.

Now that I’ve spent big bucks, I’m certain they will come out with something even better, something indestructible that can do cartwheels instead of merely spin. My little spinner will be obsolete before I can use it twice. Suitcase designers are busy every day dreaming up new ideas.

They now have smart luggage with a battery that will put out an electronic signal so it can’t be lost. Traveling gets more complicated every day.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Pursuit of a Purse


As all ladies know, we must have a purse to haul about our “stuff.” The amount of stuff needed depends on the individual lady, but all of us need something to carry it in, whether large or small.

I once decided I didn’t need a purse. I could get by just fine with keys and a cell phone, I declared. It didn’t work out. I needed things at home and things at work, and what if I was not at either place or needed something both at home and work? You can see the problem.

My pockets and lunch bag became fuller and fuller until I finally relented and decided I needed a pocketbook, as long as it was lightweight with bare necessities inside. If I have to carry a handbag around, it might as well be a nice one, I thought. That meant buying a new purse.

Ladies will pay in the hundreds for this most important of fashion accessories. Designers turn $20 worth of leather into big bucks with only a signature or brand name. Personally, I can do without a designer purse, I decided.

I only need something functional, something functional and leather. I do like leather as it lasts longer. So, as long as it is functional, leather, and pretty, I’m okay with it — and lightweight, of course. I want something functional, leather, pretty, and lightweight. That is all I need.

I do not want to pay hundreds for a designer’s name.

I wanted a purse that would go with everything for daily use. So, I did a quick search online to see what was available as I have not shopped for purses for a while — a longer while than I want to admit.

The purse I useed was rather pitiful, made of quilted fabric. It wasn’t too bad until I decided to wash it in the washing machine. Even my daughter says it is pathetic now. I have leather purses in the closet, old ones, but I want something new, something that will make a statement.

Searching online for multi-color purses, I found some. My, gosh, they are beautiful, and leather, and functional, and light weight. The bags I found were hand-painted leather. They had flowers growing out of them, birds flying over them, peacocks spreading their tail feathers, and butterflies flitting around them. They were almost too gorgeous!

I narrowed the vast designer collection down to four hobo-style handbags and finally to two choices, Henna Rose and Flying Jewel. The prices wilted my credit card. Yes, I know I said no designer purse, but that was before I saw these. Besides, I’m not buying for the name, I rationalized, I am buying because I need a purse.

Maybe it is too gaudy? Maybe other people will think it is tacky. Another woman’s opinion might help. I’ll ask my daughter. I showed her the picture on the computer. “Oh, that’s pretty,” she said. We agreed on the Henna Rose design. “That looks like you, Mom,” she told me. I had to order it now. How could I not order it when it looks like me?

I had a $60 credit with Amazon, compliments of some promotion codes I had been saving up, so the hit would not be quite as severe if I ordered it from there. Darn the precautions, full speed ahead. I clicked the “purchase now” button and the purse will be mine in 3-5 days with free shipping.

My credit card had a nervous breakdown, but women will understand.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Fashion, Humor, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you Smarter than Your Smart Phone?

I lost my phone today. . . again. I think maybe I am not smart enough to have a smart phone. I am a loser. I first missed it when I was out this morning. I always put it in my pocket so it will be handy if it rings. I dug and dug in my purse, but it wasn’t there. I was not too worried. I must have left it at home. Drat it! No checking email today or surfing the internet. It was an aggravation, but I would survive.

As soon as I got home, I looked in the pockets of the coat I wore the day before. No phone. Well, maybe I left it in my pants pockets. I searched them and all the other pants in my closet, just in case. No luck.

Call the phone! It will ring and I can find it. I called and it went straight to voicemail. Either the battery was dead or someone had turned it off. My heart sank. However, Apple devices have this neat app on them called Find My iPhone. It picks up the phone’s signal and tells you the location of your phone. I clicked Find My Phone, but it only found my iPad, the one in my hands.

Last time I lost it the app located it in the car. The car? That’s an idea. I went outside and searched the car. It wasn’t there. This time I had really lost it. Maybe someone would find it and return it? Yeah, right, someone will turn in an iPhone? Why did I have to buy a smart phone?

I’m not smart enough to have a smart phone. If it is lost, I am going to do without a phone. (I know I am telling a lie, but it makes me feel better.) Sometimes phones turn up later. We found my granddaughter’s phone behind the bed a month after it was lost. The bed? Did I look behind the bed? I looked again, also under the bed, and under the blankets, sheets and pillows.

I was starting to panic. “I lost my phone,” I told Honey.

“Is it in your purse?”

“No”

“Did you look in your coat pockets?”

“Yes”

“How about the car?”

“Yes”

He continued naming off all the places I had already looked. Sometimes something turns up where you have already looked, so I looked again. How often have I found my lost debit card in my purse right where it was the entire time it was lost?

In desperation I looked everywhere, under the sofa cushions, under my desk and even in the refrigerator. No use. I’m a loser. It’s gone!

So, I did what I always tell my kids to do. “Sit down and think back to every place you’ve been since you had it.” I looked in the bathroom where I made a pit stop, in my daughter’s room where I sat for a few minutes and talked to her. Then I had changed clothes into something more comfortable. Wait a minute. Where are those clothes?

I searched the dirty laundry, no phone. But no dirty sweat pants either. That’s odd. I’ve lost my pants too? How could I lose my pants? If I can find my pants, I can find my phone, I’ll bet. Then I remembered the hook on the back of the bathroom door where I hung them when I took a shower. I ran to check.

Yes, the phone was in the pocket. I found it!

The phone was dead as the proverbial door nail. When I put it on the charger, the alarm sounded to tell me it was found, as if I didn’t know.

And that’s the story of how I outsmarted my smart phone. . . at least this time.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Humor, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blue-Haired Lady

The other day I saw a woman with long hair streaked with dark blue color. I guess I was a little shocked and that was probably the intended result, or else she simply wanted to be noticed. Maybe both. I could not resist taking a picture when the woman’s back was turned.  She seemed perfectly normal in other ways, was even pushing a baby stroller.

I  wonder how my hair would look blue?

Hair can be almost any intense color these days thanks to hair dye, including colors that do not occur naturally.  It isn’t easy. In order to make hair an unusual shade, all color must first be removed by bleaching. Then, after the hair rests a week, the new color is applied. It seems that unusual hair color is more often a do-it-yourself project than a beauty salon creation.

The artificial color I’ve noticed most often is pink, probably popularized by the pop star whose stage name matches her hair. I also saw a contestant on a prime-time reality show with a pink ponytail, probably the result of color growing out. Pink highlights are popular too.

There are temporary hair sprays, such as green for St. Patrick’s Day, and some people use Jell-O for a temporary change. However, I think one might as well go all the way and change the hair with permanent color.

I don’t think I want green hair, though. Somehow it reminds me of a head full of pond scum.

Orange hair occurs naturally and, therefore, is not quite as shocking as some of the other colors. Wynonna Judd has orange hair. However, orange can also be obviously fake. Remember the Batman Movie theater killer and his bizarre orange hair?

Artificial colors are often associated with punkers. Punk started out as a style of music, but later came to be a style of dress or fashion. Punk-rockers dress to be shocking, have weird hair styles and hair colors — anything to be anti-mainstream society.

If punkers can have colorful hair, why can’t I?

Pop music stars also dress and act in ways to be noticed. They have unusual hair colors to draw attention as publicity is essential in show biz. Some stars have hair dyed to match their dress, or use colored wigs for theatrical purposes. Young people emulate the stars and dress like they do.

A small percentage, about 2 percent, of the population has naturally occurring red hair. However, regardless of the shade of red, from strawberry blond to dark auburn, it is not a true red.  Blood red hair for Valentine’s or Christmas is artificially created.

I’m not sure I want a color that bright, though.

Blonde hair is often due to bleaching, but is not seen as shocking since it can also occur naturally, depending on the shade of yellow. Bright canary yellow is not something we normally see outside a club or comic book.

I do not think I would look good as a canary.

Like me, some people are unable to decide on a color and color hair more than one hue. Hair can be done in a rainbow of colors by using aluminum foil to carefully separate the colors of various sections of hair during the dying process.  Less brave people may put small streaks of color in their natural hair — easier to change back if you decide you are not as rebellious as you thought.

Funny, the more people there are who try outlandish hair colors, the more accustomed we become to it. One of these days, we may all be dying our hair blue, green or purple and think of it as the normal thing to do.

Tell you what — I’ll dye my hair pink or blue right after you do.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

Posted in Fashion, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

It was a weekend morning, and I flipped on the TV hoping to watch “Tennessee Crossroads,” one of my favorite programs on local public television. Instead, the channel was having a fund raiser and showing a program about trains.

“Um, this is kind of interesting. I might as well watch it.”

Honey was snoring away blissfully still asleep and unaware that the program was convincing me that we should ride a train. The trains on the program were not ordinary trains, of course. These trains were steam locomotives, puffing, coal-eating, smoke-belching locomotives.

Although steam locomotives were retired and sent to rail yards to rust years ago, some survived. Train enthusiasts loved the old engines and a few have been restored to become popular tourist attractions. In Tennessee some train-lovers believed that trains were not only to look at, but also to ride.

“How can you learn about trains unless you can ride one, see the steam and feel the clackity-clack of the rails sliding beneath you?” they reasoned.

I woke Honey up early the following week to drive the 150 miles to Chattanooga. I chose a one hour train trip as I was not quite ready to commit to six hours on the rails. Once we left the interstate in Chattanooga to look for the attraction, the roads became small and narrow and led us to an industrial area. It seems that train yards are not necessarily in the best part of town.

The old train depot had been restored to its former glory, however, and was a sight to behold, as were the sidetracked black engines and bright red cabooses in the rail yard. Inside the depot we bought our tickets and waited on the long wooden refinished benches, while watching the old antique clock tick. The old ticket booth was fully restored and looking through the bars on the ticket window, I could see an old manual typewriter, just like the movies.

Finally, the train arrived with much whistle blowing and steam hissing. The passengers from the first trip departed and we boarded the train. I had forgotten that conductors punch your tickets after you get on the train instead of at the steps. Speaking of steps, I had also forgotten how steep and high they were.

“All aboard” yelled the conductor. We were off on our adventure to nowhere.

Our tickets were finally punched and the train ride was pretty much as I remember trains, though it didn’t shake quite as much since the train moved rather slowly instead of at the tooth-rattling speed of a diesel train that I once rode from St. Louis to Washington, D.C.

The main attraction of this particular tour was a long tunnel under a mountain ridge, dug by hand prior to the Civil War. Unlike in olden times, we were not robbed by outlaws or attacked by savage Indians.

In case you are wondering, this train is not the infamous Chattanooga Choo-Choo, which has been permanently de-railed and turned into a commercial hotel, inviting guests to spend the night in luxurious sleeping cars, which include modern amenities, even free Wi-Fi. It is rather sad that the Choo-Choo train no longer runs.

Our tour guide, who looked like Santa in a conductor’s uniform, lamented the fact that we had missed the six-hour train to Georgia, which has a dining car. I have dined on trains before, though, and remember that eating on a train involves dishes vibrating on a white tablecloth while you try to ignore the splashing liquids in the glasses and eat before your plate slides off the table.

The most interesting part was watching as a fireman shoveled coal into the firebox to heat the boiler and make steam. It is not the conductor or the engineer that makes the train run. It is the fireman who shovels the coal that makes it go.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

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