Thursday, July 20, 2006

That was my dad

My father was a railroad man
Lloyd Sloan was a railroad man. He was a big man who drove big trains. To a small boy, it seemed he literally moved mountains. He became the mountain. He was my father and he had powerful magic.

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

My dad's train

Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

The City of New Orleans
Arlo Guthrie made popular for my generation this song by Steve Goodman. The lines from the song that to this day cut through me like a knife, are these:

And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.

My dad

And that was my dad
A big magic man, who had a magic carpet that seemed to me to be as big as a mountain. In 1977, on this day, he died after a disease took away all his magic powers. He was 58. I was 21. That was four years after I graduated high school, less than a year after Steve Jr., my first son, was born.

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