A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: The Legend of The Train-Hopping Brotherhood

A set of railroad tracks lead away from Center Drive toward the rest of the town of Orrington.
A set of railroad tracks lead away from Center Drive toward the northern side of the town of Orrington.

Legends, they say, become even bigger over time and if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of days it’s that me and my two best friends created a little bit of a legend in these parts while we were growing up.

Twice this week the words “jumping on trains” have been uttered in reference to me and these two friends, bringing forth instantaneous flashbacks of how indestructible and stupid we all were in our younger years.

When I was in third grade I was given to me, by the Gods of Fate, the two brothers my own mother would never be able to pop out.

Jody and Robbie were a year ahead of me and a year behind me, respectively, in school and they lived just about 200 yards down the road from the house where I grew up. Thus, through a love of sports, a love of exploring our neighborhood and a growing love for each other we became fast friends.

In time, we were like brothers; they in the literal sense and me, of course, as the brother from another mother.

If I wasn’t staying at their house, they were staying at mine. Their mother became my surrogate mother, feeding me, fixing me, making sure I got to and fro on certain days when we went places.

For the better part of the next 10 years we were all but inseparable.

Their family had moved twice within our little town while my family moved just once, but the way things worked out we wound up being separated by a set of railroad tracks — a route that would cut our journey to and from each others’ houses almost in half.

In wasn’t that one of us was suddenly from the wrong side the tracks. In fact, the tracks led directly toward each other, instead of driving us apart.

We could walk the road or we could walk the tracks.

And, sometimes as the late great movie icon Dalton from “Road House” once said, we could ‘Take the train.”

If the timing we worked out just right, a train might come by and if it was going in the right direction, we could hop a ride.

Yes, you read that right, we were young and foolish enough to jump onto moving trains as a mode of transportation between our respective houses.

Thankfully, bicycles soon became our main mode of transportation and shortly thereafter we all got our driver’s licenses and our worlds were allowed to expand further than we could have imagined.

Upon arriving in Maine last Sunday, the first person I caught up with was Lois — Robbie’s and Jody’s mother.

I hadn’t seen her in perhaps 15 to 20 years, but she had run into my own mother during certain shopping excursions and word always got back to me that the next time I returned home, I better stop in and see Lois or there would be hell to play.

Hence, she was my first stop coming home.

We laughed over many of the old times of my growing up years and “the trouble we caused” as kids. Thankfully that trouble wasn’t too bad and, more thankfully, we never got caught.

That’s when she admitted she had learned in her later years that us boys would occasionally hop on a train and go for a ride. We were modern-day mini-hobos — at least if you considered the mid-to-late 1970s modern day, which we did back in then.

There were plenty of trains to choose from back in those days as the big paper mill down in Bucksport, the town adjacent to the humble little hamlet we grew up in, was always receiving deliveries and then shipping things out.

Trains were a common sight back in those days; unlike today as the recent closing of the Bucksport mill has sucked even more life from the state I once called home.

Today, the train tracks leading from my house toward their house is overgrown with weeds and tall grass; trees and bushes sending their branches outward to hover over the rails.

I didn’t think much of the train hopping after that — at least not until Tuesday night when I stopped by Robbie’s house to catch up with him.

Sitting on the front porch of the house Robbie shares with his own family, he suddenly looked up at his stepson and said, “This is the guy we used to jump on trains with.”

The legend really did live on.

The best part about growing up with friends like Robbie and Jody is that time doesn’t separate the bond we formed as boys growing up together.

For the two hours, I spent with Robbie — stealing him from his family for a beer at a bar in Bangor — it was just like old times and we didn’t miss a beat.

Lots of Laughs. Sharing memories. Remembering what our dreams were and how we ended up where we were.

Time did nothing to corrode our relationship, our enduring friendship; nor the love we have always had for one another.

It was noticeable from our first embrace to our final handshake and I noticed as I drove away from Robbie’s house on Tuesday night that I already missed him.

Robbie and Jody will always be my brothers — if not in blood, then from formative bonds of everything we went through and everything we know about each other.

We jumped onto moving trains together.

That’s what brothers do sometimes.

 

 

 

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