GRANDPA PAT AND THE HEIFER

102 & Pat Fairchild copy

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The man on the left in the photo above is my maternal grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild.  He was an engineer for the Canton and Carthage Rail Road.  This treasured photo was taken in the early 1930s.

Grandpa Pat had two sons, both railroad men… and two daughters.  One daughter married a railroad man, the other married my father, a grocer.  So my hands-on railroading experience is limited to model trains, although I do like to think that I have at least some ‘coal dust’ in my blood.

Railroad men have stories.  My favorite of Grandpa Pat’s involved a heifer.

In the 1930s, the Canton and Carthage was primarily a logging RR.  The ‘big’ sawmill/lumber yard in the area was located in Canton.  The Fairchild’s lived in McAfee, a thriving RR community just west of Carthage.  Grandpa Fairchild made the Canton run numerous times.

There was a slight ‘hill’ along the Carthage/Canton route, a grade that required a second locomotive when pulling an especially long and heavy load to the mill.  But Grandpa Pat mastered the art traversing this grade using only ONE engine.  Speed was the key.  Simple inertia did the work.

On the day in question, Grandpa Pat was pulling a long and heavy load.  He’d gotten up the speed he needed, when… looking ahead, he saw a cow standing on the tracks!  Grandpa Pat never slowed.  That’s what that angular device on the front of a locomotive is for.  And that’s why it’s called a ‘cow-catcher.’  Scratch one heifer.

The next day, a very angry farmer showed up at the RR Superintendent’s office, demanding payment for his lost animal.

The company paid the farmer.  And Grandpa Pat was called before the superintendent.

“Pat,” he said angrily, “I hear that you killed a heifer on the tracks yesterday, and that you made no attempt to stop and clear the tracks.  You know full well that we don’t like to rile the local folks around here.  We had to pay that farmer $35 for the cow you killed!  I hope you have a good answer for what you did!”

“I do,” replied my Grandpa.  “That run yesterday, with that load I carried, usually requires two locomotives.  I made it with only one.  May I ask, sir… how much would that second locomotive have cost you?”

(Now remember, this was in the 1930s)

“Well,” the superintendent said, “around $45 I suppose.”

“Do you want to give me that $10 I saved you – now,” replied Grandpa Pat, “or just put it on my paycheck at the end of the week?”  Case closed!

The engine (#102) in the photo could be the engine in this story, and one of the two well dressed gentlemen could be the superintendent.

 

 

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Billy Trauma – Carthage, MS

Goshen WP

© 2018 Bill Murphy

My father, William Hendrix Murphy, was named after his maternal great-grandfather, William Hendrix.  It seems that everyone in the Carthage area has nicknames, and my Dad’s grandfather was referred to as ‘Uncle Billy Hendrix.’   I’m not sure where the ‘Uncle’ came from.  Dad chose to go by Hendrix, which the family shortened to ‘Hinx.’

Mom and Dad were both from Carthage, Mississippi.  After they married, they moved to the big city of Jackson, MS.  When I came along in 1941, and was given the name William Hendrix Murphy, Jr.,  Mom immediately began calling me Billy.  But everyone in the Carthage area, especially my many aunts, uncles, and cousins (Dad was one of 11 children) immediately applied the resurrected name of ‘Billy Hendrix’ to me.  It was only logical I suppose, as I was Billy, son of Hendrix.  One of my treasured keepsakes is an engraved keychain given as a high school graduation gift – from Carthage – engraved not with WHM, but… BHM.  I suppose that was my first ‘Carthage Trauma.’  I didn’t like the added ‘Hendrix’ to my name.  I thought my name was plain ole Billy.  Oh well.

My first genuine trauma came when I was around 4.  I dearly LOVED going to Carthage.  It was a whole new world.  It was not all asphalt and concrete.  Carthage had gravel roads, hay, horses, cows, chickens ,pigs, fresh-laid eggs, popcorn still on the stalk, and peanuts in the ground!  It was a zoo and a large park all rolled into one.  My grandmother, Momma Murphy, still cooked (by choice) on a wood burning stove!  They even still had an outhouse, with two holes.

We visited my grandparents OFTEN, at least once a month.  One Sunday evening as my parents were getting ready to leave, I begged and pleaded to STAY!  I must have put up a strong argument, because they relented.  I got to stay!  A few hours later, it was dark. And I had a sudden, over whelming attack of extreme home-sickness.  There’s no sickness quite as gut-wrenching as home-sickness, especially to a small child.  Momma Murphy called Dad, asking him to come back and get me.  (That was a long-distance call back then).  His answer, “I can’t come until I get off work TOMORROW!”  That was one traumatic night!

A sister of my Dad lived a few miles north/east of Carthage, very close to the family’s home church, Goshen Methodist.  The photo at top is a watercolor of Goshen Church that I did for Dad for Christmas of 1971.  That particular weekend, while I was still in grammar school, we drove out to visit my aunt’s family.  The problem was, along the narrow, winding, gravel Goshen Road, a small forest fire was slowly burning out.  I suppose Dad had no doubt phoned ahead and learned it was safe to traverse Goshen Road.  I suppose.

Anyway, off we went.  For what seemed like miles, the smoke was as thick as pea soup fog.  But the most frightening thing was – on both sides of the road you could still see FLAMES!  It sure brought to mind that time honored saying I’m sure you’ve heard – We’ll all be killed!  Thankfully, we weren’t even singed.

Trauma three happened at Goshen Church.

It was during the same general time period as my forest fire near death experience.  Goshen was having a festive dinner-on-the-ground after church.  Church was much like school in the late 40s’early 50s, in that most folks attended church close to home – often within walking distance.  Goshen Church was like that, but being ‘in the country,’ most members didn’t live exactly within walking distance.  Bringing hot foods (which would get cold) and cold foods (which would get hot) to the church (which had no kitchen) – presented a problem during muggy Mississippi Summertime.  So immediately after church, many hastily returned home to pick up their food.

We young-ones were gaily playing in the church yard, when a returning family drove up with their food – and with an unexpected surprise.

We suddenly heard screaming and shouting.  A large commotion gathered behind their vehicle. We dashed over to see for ourselves.  My, oh my.  What a terrible sight!

It seems that while most of that family was inside their home, one of the younger children took their pet goat (on a leash) out for a walk.  You guessed it!  The child tied the leash to the back of the car, and forgot about it!

Goshen Road was a rough, dusty, graveled road.  Natural sandpaper.

The poor goat behind the car was only half a goat, a dry and dusty half-goat.  It had only two legs now, both on the same side.  Someone flipped it over.  It was dry, dusty, and hollow inside.  You could see all the ribs, the back side of the ribs.  Yes, it was a traumatic sight to behold, the stuff of nightmares.  The family’s children were going bonkers.  I thought I’d be sick.

I suppose one could say that there was 1.5 Billy’s at that Goshen Gathering – me and the half-billy.

 

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE BUG

Spider 1

© 2018 by Bill Murphy

It was a strange bug indeed, very strange.

He noticed it quite by accident, when he thought he saw movement on the carpeted steps leading to the upstairs bedroom.  It was tiny, hardly 1/2 inch long, and beige in color.  It blended perfectly with the carpet.  He snapped on the stairway light, and leaned to have a closer look.

It appeared spider-like, but this bug had 6 legs.  Two long antennae poked from the head, giving the illusion of an 8th set of legs.  For a brief moment, he thought the thing had turned to look at him.  That’s when he stepped down on it, hard – and continued on up the steps.

Paul Nelson had packing to do.  He‘d pick up the dead bug when he returned downstairs – with a wad of tissue in hand.  That morning, before reporting for his shift as a 911 operator, he’d taken the time to lay socks, underwear, and pajamas on the bed.  Two suits, dress and casual shirts, and pants, on hangers hung on a rack attached to the back of the bedroom door.  Soon, his suitcase and hand-up bag were packed and ready.

Grabbing a length of toilet tissue from the upstairs bathroom, he headed back down the steps, careful to watch where he stepped.  The bug was on the 4th step from the bottom. But it was not where Paul Nelson had ground it into the carpet… it was a full 18 inches closer to the wall… and still crawling.

He stepped down on it again, harder this time.  Lifting his foot, he saw that it was again, obviously dead.  It looked dead.  He continued down the steps and into the kitchen.  The kitchen trash, where he knew he’d find an empty soup can, sat in the corner near the steps.  He returned to the steps, picked up the bug with the wad of tissue, and stuffed both into the soup can, which he crammed back into the trash can.  There!  That takes care of it.

He returned upstairs, took the suitcase off the bed, and sat it beside the bedroom door. He then took the hang-up bag downstairs and hung it by the front door.  He would have taken the suitcase downstairs also, but he still needed his shaving bag in the morning, so he’d add it to the suitcase then.  On his return upstairs, and as he walked past the kitchen trash can, he didn’t hear the soft scratching sounds coming from deep within the trash.

He set the alarm for 5.  One of his co-workers would be picking him up at 5:45 to take him to the airport.  His flight to Washington DC would be leaving at 7:45.

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Paul Nelson had a strange dream that night.  At least he thought it was a dream.

The alarm rang 5:45.  He pulled himself out of bed, and seemingly by rote, completed his morning bath ritual, and dressed.  Next he packed the shaving kit into the suitcase, and took it downstairs – and waited, until he heard the honk of a car horn.  Picking up the clothes bag and suitcase, he exited the front door.  It was a short walk to the curb, where his co-worker sat waiting in his vehicle.  Paul Nelson placed the luggage on the back seat, and then sat in the front, staring ahead.

“What’s wrong Paul? You look funny – troubled, or something,” said his friend.

“No, I’m ok. Let’s get to the airport,” replied Paul.

“I’ll bet you’re just nervous.  I know I’d be.  I’d be as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.  Golly, and meeting the President too.  And getting that award – Paul Nelson, 911 Operator of the Year.  How lucky can one man be!”

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Paul Nelson didn’t have a strange dream as he thought he did.  It was real.  It was very real.  He only thought he was dreaming – that is, while he could still dream, and while he remained in possession of his own brain.  He thought he was dreaming about the strange insect crawling into his ear, and into his brain.

But it wasn’t an insect.  And it wasn’t a dream.  Paul Nelson is now no longer thinking for himself.  The mind of Paul Nelson has ceased to exist.  It has been hijacked, and replaced.

It is less than 40 feet from the kitchen trash can to Paul Nelson’s bedroom upstairs.  It is approximately 400 miles from Paul Wilson’s home to Washington DC.  And it is close to 4 light years across the milky way, to the home base of the mechanical insect-like drone.  Tomorrow the drone will made its final journey, an undetected transfer from Paul Nelson into the most power and influential leader on this element-rich planet.

The President is known to be a hugger.  4 inches is all that is required for the transfer… for that final journey.

The rest, as they say, will be history.

 

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