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December 2009, vol 5 no 4

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Francis Masat

 

Way, Way Down the Tracks

      for “Peanuts,” 1910-1979, small only in stature

1950: Gandy dancers comin’! way, way down the tracks. A rough, nomadic-like mystery in their arrival, they ride the rails on flat hand-pumped cars. A ready smile and a faraway look in black luminous eyes, they move with sinewy muscles, burnished by sun and wear. Sledgehammers seem light in leathery hands as they set spikes. Slowly circling their Gandy tampers as if dancing, they stomp their way over rocks and oily ties. Heads bob, backs ripple with sweat, and feet shuffle as they clang slowly along the tracks.

Hats shoved back, they grin and grimace, taunt each other as if to somehow ease the aching work. They show a stoic endurance to keep going. And always they move on, near heroic, stirring wanderlust in those who watch. In turn, though, they also seem as mere pages to the iron knights that roar past leaving them in a dirty gritty wind-wake.

truck-glutted freeway –
in the weeds
traces of a railroad

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