Meeting Death

TrestleOnce when I was a young man I sold encyclopedias. Actually all I ever managed to sell was one set. This job required a suit; I bought a new one; they said I’d be paid by commission. My thoughts rambled away; me musing; sitting upon an old wooden rickety park bench. Gazing up through tree branches; a few autumn leaves still clinging; white clouds floating in a light blue sky. A very hot day that the trees about provided little shade or comfort against. I sat there questioning my decision to accept this job. A door to door salesman of books I myself would not buy nor did I believe in.

This bench was in a lovely park placed in a small town on the periphery of Roseville. I no longer remember its name nor can I locate same on Google maps. Perhaps because it is a victim of time. Swallowed by the ravenous megalopolis known as Sacramento. Back then there were actual spaces distinguishing each place; a milk farm; pastures; cows on golden hills chewing their cud. But now the valley is an endless city sprawling for hours down the road in all directions.

The song Windmills of Your Mind still played in my head. I heard it in the diner earlier while we had breakfast; it has been accompanying me; adding to my reverie. This splintering wooden bench was my refuge; a resting space; more than two grueling hours of rejections. Remarkable how many no’s are spat at you when answering the knock of a door to door peddler; whose only plead was to buy ones  goods. I moved my head a bit out of scanty shade; allowing sun to dry sweat from forehead; turning the back of my eyes deep red with bright drying sunshine.

My mind adjusted; relaxed; ready to knock on ever more doors. I got quickly up from the bench accompanied by a horrendous ripping sound. A rusty nail had snagged and ruined my brand new suit. It tore the posterior completely off my pants! Sadly realizing how my path was changed. I made my way back to my motel room to change.

Sauntering out of the park and to the road a cloud of overhanging gloom the only shade. Suddenly my quest came to a complete standstill; I stared at the ominous sign barring me from bridge. It simply said, “NO PEDESTRIANS”.

This bridge spanned a wide cavity long ago carved out by a river one hundred feet or more below. The road itself was four lanes wide with two lanes of heavy; fast traffic; both directions; no sidewalks on the bridge. I searched up and down the gap I needed to cross as best I could for some other way. About a mile further down I spotted a train trestle. I sighed and sloughed a path through fields of chin high grain.

Arriving I found it too was made of old splintery wood. Two shiny steel rails were laid parallel atop perpendicular planks of woods each spaced three feet apart. A guard rail on the right side would allow me to hold on.I prayed it would keep me from vertigo and falling to certain death below. I began my slow sojourn firmly placing both feet on each plank before balancing and moving left or right foot to the next plank with trepidation. Something was niggling at the back of my mind. My sweat addled brain approaching sun stroke ignored it as best I could.

Exhausted at halfway across I heard from behind me a sound that instantly chilled my blood. A “toot-toot”.  Turning I saw a steam locomotive pulling a long train of cars heading straight for me! It was already pass  the beginning of the trestle; mere seconds away; I instantly petrified. There was nowhere to hide on this trestle. No room for both me and the train. I glanced to the river ten stories below wondering. Was it deep enough? Could I survive the plunge?

With little time to move I pressed my back to the handrail praying the two by four beam would bend but not break. I emptied my lungs and thought of Jesus upon the cross with my own arms outstretched; nailed to that handrail by fear as I made myself as narrow as I could.

It passed within inches of my nose and belly. Extremely loud with a hurricane of draft sucking at me and doing its best to blow me off. With a final clickety-clack it was pass. I remained stun until the thought crossed my mind that there might be another train along soon. I found new strength and made it off that trestle. I never imagined that morning how close I would come to meeting death.