Train kept a-rollin’

It could be said that men my age have fleeting, and sometimes inaccurate, memories of themselves at those ages.

I remember with complete clarity the nights in those homes when a
haunting, mournful, yet beautifully rich sound issued across the dark
night skies of Oklahoma City. The one I remember most clearly occurred
at about 4:30 in the morning. It woke me, to be sure, but the sound
passed quickly, and sleep once again dominated my mind. In the morning, I
would get up and, while showering or shaving, remember that mournful
sound with great affection.

It was, of course, the
sound of a train’s whistle as it passed various crossings ranging from
downtown to the northern limits of the metroplex.

loved that sound, and still do. So I read, with some regret, that a
movement was under way to eradicate that sound (News, Tim Farley,
“Quiet, please,” June 5, Oklahoma Gazette). I knew that the
movement would succeed, and that another minor, yet subtly pleasant,
aspect of growing up and living in Oklahoma City would disappear.

knew that after that sound disappeared, we would be one step closer to
hearing nothing more than the sad and empty silence of a population that
lived for nothing more than the real estate deal, the stock exchange
transaction, the mineral lease rights agreement, the monthly board
meeting, the weekly golf game … and all the other silences that define
the myopic and ultimately dull lives of the monetarily obsessed.

the moments that this sound softly permeated the room in which I slept,
I fantasized about traveling on that train to distant places and
altogether unique spaces that existed where those rail lines led. And I
fell asleep again to dream the dreams of voyagers to far, distant lands.

Go ahead; create a “quiet zone.” All you will truly be creating is a hole in the fabric of life.

—John Smelser, Oklahoma City

John Smelser

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