Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Scale

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Scale

Article excerpt

The model trains my father liked were small

And fragile looking. He called them H. O.

I think those were initials for some brand name

I never learned. What else could that spell to a boy

But half of ho-hó? The little boxcars,

Flatbeds and caboose were a joke compared

To the larger, cartoon-colored Lionels-

I trembled at that name-which Rex, the kid

Next door, would show me imperiously. He laughed

When I told him about my father's. Those

Are for sissies, he smirked. I should've punched him,

But I was too ashamed. How could my dad

Do this to me? I wondered. Mom had said

He was an engineer. But not the kind

I wanted: a man who drove a locomotive.

On Saturdays my brothers and I would watch

A man on TV dressed like one. The host

Of a cartoon show, Brakeman Bill would joke

With Crazy Donkey, his puppet sidekick.

For years after, I could get my brothers to laugh

By calling Dad "The Brakeman": his nickname,

Though he signed himself James W, was Bill.

I didn't learn till I was grown my father

As a young man had ridden a train

Clear across Australia in World War II. …

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