Most of a lifetime ago in a village far, far away the Kansas City Southern Railroad ran trains through my home town headed south to New Orleans or north to Kansas City, and a hundred points in between. Our town of 800 living souls had a rail terminal where passengers could buy tickets and board or disembark from their comfortable travels (at least compared to airlines). Freight trains rumbled through at all hours of the day and night, but the fast passenger came through like clockwork at 7:30 a.m. southbound and 5:55 p.m. northbound. The passengers were pulled by diesel locomotives but some of the freights still followed coal-burning steam engines. For them, Mooringsport Station had a fully functional water tank, a necessity for steam powered engines.
My mom taught school and dad worked construction. Five out of seven days each week of my early years were spent with my grandmother “Big” (named for the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof character Big Mama). On school days in 1952 I’d hear a steam engine coming and cry out “Noo-noo nain!” In a minute Big’s old ears would catch the sound, and she’d mimic it with words reflecting the historic place of the railroad in American life: “Black and dirty, makin’ money. Black and dirty, makin’ money.”