Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)
- TITLE: Jumping Off the Train
By Esther Phillips
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My mother made a meal for us to take so we didn’t just show up with a large family and expect them to feed us. As we travelled, I watched for signs that we were getting close. I knew they lived by railroad tracks. I had listened to many stories about people they called “Bums” who frequently rode the train. They jumped off one mile from town which was my grandparent’s farm. My mother told stories about these men knocking on their door and asking if they could do any work and get something to eat. Grandma fed them and Grandpa found some chores for them and frequently bedded them down in the barn for the night.
It seemed like it was a really long trip, but I wasn’t going to close my eyes like my brothers did. I didn’t want to miss a single thing on this trip. Eventually, I spotted the train tracks, and I knew we were getting close. Then I spotted the wooden windmill in the front yard, and it was surrounded with a field of flowers. I knew this was the place. I could hardly contain my excitement. Grandpa and Grandma came out as soon as we drove in the yard. Big hugs were given all around and Grandma would always say, “My, but you kids have really grown!”
I tagged along behind Grandpa and asked him to tell me the stories of the men who came to their house looking for a meal in the Depression Era. He said, “We had many men for a long time that jumped off the train and came into the yard asking for something to eat.” They didn’t expect a handout. They always said they were willing to work in exchange for something to eat.
There was a long porch on the front of the house and Grandma said she told the men, “You sit on the front porch and I will bring you something to eat.” After they had eaten, Grandpa found them something to do to help him out.
My mother told that he didn’t always have work for them, but he made up things for them to do. He said, “They will feel better about themselves if they feel like they contributed.”
Sometimes, they asked Grandpa if he had any place they could bed down for the night. He always put them in the barn where they could make a bed out of the hay. The next day, they would hop the train and go on down the road.
We couldn’t stay long because we had cows to milk and chickens and pigs to feed when we got back home. After we had a noon meal and visited for awhile, we got in the car and headed out. I soaked up the stories I heard. They will forever be in my head from a time long ago when times were tough and how people helped each other.
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