The teacher gave us an assignment: "Write about a significant event"
so that's what I aim to do. Trouble is I don't know what is
significant about the event I'm telling about and it is going to take a
lot of writing to tell it. That's the trouble with writing. It takes
a lot of discipline. Anyway, this involves a significant event in my
younger life which took place about 1935 when me and Felix were going
to the Wilson Grammar School on Bourne Avenue in Rumford, Rhode Island.
First off, let me tell you that Felix was a natural born liar and I
knew that from first hand knowledge. He would do or say anything just
so as he could be the winner at whatever was being measured. He could
always swim the farthest under water and dive from the highest point
into the least amount of water. His bicycle was the fastest and he
could run the farthest and his father could beat up Joe Louis.
When we were promoted from the fourth grade of Miss Cute's Union
Primary School to Miss Brush's fifth grade at the Wilson Grammar
School, we had to make a new route to the new school. No more Union
Primary School woods and no more Pawtucket Avenue Cemetery. Now our
path would be past the Meeting House Pond, "Uncle Ray's" gravestone,
the Rumford Baking Powder Company, the Rumford Post Office and then
over the Greenwood Avenue railroad bridge.
Exploration of our new route to and from the new school got serious one
time when we had to stay after school for some minor infraction of
school rules. One of us got caught red handed passing notes to the
other about one of the girls in our class. Felix blamed me for the
note which was not unexpected by me. Felix told Miss Brush that maybe
John Agren had forged his (Fee's) name on the document in question.
Miss Brush knew Felix. He couldn't fool her!
Well, that night on the way home we discovered that the bridge over the
railroad tracks at Greenwood Avenue had a bunch of iron beams and
girders running east and west and up and down underneath the road. A
kid could, if he was careful, climb over these iron beams and girders
and position himself directly over the train tracks when a train passed
over the tracks and under the bridge. A red light went off in our
heads when we were shaken up by the roar of a steam engine with a line
of passenger cars headed north for the Narragansett Race Track. It was
"The Gansett Special" going north to Narragansett with a train full of
betting people. Narragansett was a major horse racing track then and
every passenger train headed for the track from Providence had to pass
under the Greenwood Avenue Bridge.
Anyway, getting back to "A Significant Event", Felix and I were going
to have a contest at the expense of the next train. When a train
passed under the bridge, we were going to see which one of us could
"get" the most cars. We took our places among the girders and waited
for a target.
We saw and heard a train as it rounded the corner of Roger Williams
Avenue south of our girder perch. The signal to get ready was to be
given by me when our train passed Burlingame's Hay and Grain Store a
little south and west of the bridge on North Broadway. The big black
engine had a super bright headlight that made it look like some big
monster crawling insect from outer space. The engine sounded like
thunder and was belching flames and smoke and fire like a dragon as we
got ready for the contest to start.
When the train had passed Burlingame's, I hollered over, "Get ready
Fee. Here she comes!"
We had big trouble holding our place on the girders. We had to hold on
to the girder with our left hand and aim with our right hand. The
train shook the bridge and sent up so much smoke and steam and so many
sparks that I expected to be impaled on the huge smoke stack and be
seen going towards the race track with the smoke stack passing through
my stomach and my feet sticking away out in the air. After the train
had passed, I hollered over, "Hey Fee, I got ten, how many did you
get?" (I didn't "get" ten. I only got five, but I knew that if I had
said "I got five", he would have said "I got eight" but I thought that
if I said "I got ten" Felix would never have the gaul to claim a higher
number. How could he? There was only ten cars in the train!
But sure as shooting and without blinking an eye, Fee said, '"I got
twelve." I hollered back, "You're a big liar. You couldn't have
gotten twelve because there was only ten cars in that train." He said,
"Yea, but I counted the engine and the coal tender as cars, so I really
got twelve." "Fee", I said, "You're a big liar. I saw your stream and
you didn't even get started till the engine and coal tender was past."
He said, "Yea, but I was still going after the last car went by and I
COULD have gotten twelve if it wasn't such a short train."
Note: The other kid's name was not Felix! I had to use an alias for
him because if his father found out it was him he would give him a
licking. This is a true story. If you don't believe me, you can ask