April 28th, 2008
The other day I was killing a bit of time between NHL playoff telecasts by trying to catch a couple of z's on the couch. Yeah, I know, tough life, eh? Anyway, the window was open and I was just dozing off when I heard a sound we very seldom hear anymore. It was a train whistle, or horn, or whatever they call them.
I guess if you live on a main railway line you still hear the old whistle quite often but, in Kipling, not so much anymore. In fact, it's so rare that I imagine some young children were running home in fright, wondering what that loud, unfamiliar sound was!
It's just another sign of the constant change in rural Saskatchewan. I'm not trying to be all “Grandpa-ish” about the old days, because it wasn't that long ago, but it's odd how some things just slip away into the past without much notice.
There was a time, in the recent past, when there was a “prairie skyscraper” (grain elevator), every few miles, or so it seemed. Even the tiniest hamlet with a total population of three, (the elevator agent, his wife and their dog), had a train stop by a couple of times a week, the whistle a-blowin' announcing its arrival. But as Bob Dylan so aptly put it “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
A little more than a few years ago, before my wife, our oldest daughter and I moved back to Kipling, we lived very near the rail yards, the Regina Airport and a highway. Needless to say, we were very accustomed to train whistles, screaming jets and vehicle traffic at all hours.
After we moved to Kipling, we had to adjust from too much noise to nearly none at all. In fact, it was so quiet that all I could hear at night was the ringing in my ears. More than once I woke up in a panic thinking I was in a “Twilight Zone” episode where I could possibly be the only human left alive on the planet. A timely train whistle would have at least reminded me that I wasn't alone.
I could probably do a rant about how some wizards and geniuses decided that moving all of the heavy products on train tracks wasn't economically sound and how pounding the stuffing out of our highways by moving these heavy products via trucks to larger, more convenient locations was a much more viable solution, but, alas, what good would it do?
I'll just have to suck it up, accept that change is the one constant, and fill the train whistle noise void with the sounds of the retarder brakes of the semi trailer trucks as they backfire all the way into town.
“What we call “Progress” is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.”- Havelock Ellis (1859-1939).