Monday, March 29, 2021

We used to stupid and illegal things down by the railroad tracks

There was a period of about two years back in the early 80s when my friends and I spent a lot of time on or around the railroad tracks not far from my house.

What was the attraction of "the tracks," as we called them? They were just railroad tracks surrounded by woods.

Well, as I look back on it, there was actually a lot going on there.

For one, there were those woods (which are now gone, by the way). Young boys, for the most part, enjoy being in and around wooded areas. Not sure why, but that's just the way it is in my experience.

Second, there were the railroad light towers that we weren't supposed to climb but did anyway. That was fun.

Third, and probably worst of all, there was the occasional stopped train.

Back in those days, trains had cabooses on them. And more often than not, when there was a stopped and abandoned train, the caboose would be unlocked. So we would go inside.

This was both illegal and stupid. I'm shocked we never got caught.

There wasn't really much to do inside these cabooses, so we would just lay on the beds or sit at the little metal table. We did also occasionally steal flares.

Illegal and stupid.

And we would light those flares just because we could. At that point, we could have been arrested for trespassing AND theft.

There were also these little explosive things with metal tabs that you could put on the rails and, when a train came along and ran over them, they would emit a satisfying boom.

One time (this is a true story), my friend Mike and I were kidnapped at the tracks by two older kids from Eastlake. And when I say "kidnapped," I just mean they wouldn't let us leave because they had been doing something illegal and were afraid we would go and tell the cops about it. I can't even remember what they had been doing.

And besides, we had no intention of snitching on them. We just wanted to go home.

Eventually they let us go, but it did add to the adventure and mystique of the tracks.

Sometimes we would take 1- or 2-mile walks down the tracks just to see what we would find. Within the stacked blocks at the cinder block factory near the Worden Road overpass, for example, there was a little area where a homeless person had clearly been living. There were ketchup packets and other items of detritus (great word) in there.

We probably didn't call him a homeless person, though. I'm sure we referred to him as a "bum" or a "hobo."

There was also a little dirt road that ran alongside the tracks on which a police car could fit. I know this because, several times, a Willowick or Wickliffe police officer would be driving across the tracks on East 305th, look to his right, and see us playing on a light tower or something about 200 yards away.

So he would turn down that dirt road to try and get to us and we would scatter appropriately. Someone would yell "COP!" and we would take off in different directions into the woods. None of us was ever caught, though I do remember some close calls when we didn't notice the oncoming squad car until it was almost too late.

Anyway, the best thing to be said about our time hanging out at the tracks was that none of us was ever seriously hurt by jumping onto a slow passing train or arrested for whatever illegal activities we engaged in.

There are no dumber people in the world than young boys, but man, now that I think about it, we had a great time.

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