May 26, 2024


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

Passing Trains & Passing Time

Passing Trains & Passing Time

Paula and I recently visited Dickson, Tennessee, a small bedroom community about 45 miles Southwest of Nashville. The goal of our trip was to visit our daughter, her husband, and our grandkids. This time around, my oldest daughter was also going along so she made reservations at a two-bedroom Air B&B in the tourist area of historic downtown Dickson.

If you’ve ever rented an Air B&B, you know those beautiful interior photos on the website sometimes fail to convey the less-than-pristine surrounding environment. We were, however, familiar with the historic section of Dickson and were confident about our upcoming stay. Occupying the third floor of an early 1900’s office building, the B&B was fantastic…until it wasn’t.

Around midnight, the first of many trains came rolling through town about forty feet from our bed. If you’ve ever heard the sound of a tornado described as a train passing close by, you can imagine the effect. The floor shook, the windows rattled, and the metal-on-metal banging was so loud that I actually believed one train car had derailed.

I should also explain that the ground floor of the building next-door housed the primary bar serving downtown Dickson. It was busy until 2:00AM, at which point the last of the drunks congregated below our window to prop themselves up against anything solid (including my truck) and tell some of the raunchiest jokes to ever cross my sensitive eardrums. Those were some good jokes.

Now that you’ve experienced enough amusement from my suffering, I should reveal that this turned into one of my best road trips ever. My grandson, Sam spent the day with us Saturday while his mom ran errands and his dad worked on building their new house. My wife, Paula, and my oldest daughter, Bethany, thought they could wear the boy out by taking him bowling. Meanwhile, I stayed at the B&B, working in between trains.

My wife and daughter returned exhausted and aching and in need of a nap while my grandson was still raring to go. After all, he’s a nine-year-old boy and it was Saturday. He and I set out to explore the historic district.

First, we stopped at the nearby train tracks where I explained to him the fine art of placing coins on the track for passing trains to smash. Someone had left eight new pennies sitting atop the rail — I’m not saying it was us because some curmudgeon later pointed out that any activity generating that much fun is illegal.

Next, we visited that local bar. “Kill the mystery; Kill the allure.” That’s what I was thinking (at least if my daughter asks) but, as it turned out, a quite conservatively dressed waitress brought my grandson a coke and she brought me a tea.

What I misjudged is that Tennessee considers itself part of the South and when one orders iced-tea, one is ordering sweet tea. After I gagged and sprayed the first mouthful all over the table and my grandson’s t-shirt, the nice waitress brought me a glass of “sissy” tea and wiped down the table. Then we were off to experience the town.

Rather than explore all the unique shops — which apparently, my grandson had already visited — we plopped down on a park bench beneath a shade tree and commenced to keep an eye on those eight pennies “someone else” had left on the tracks. That provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy an extended conversation with an energetic and inquisitive nine-year-old boy.

I would categorize our topic of conversation as “Math” and more precisely, “Ratios”. Passing cars captured our attention, so we discussed what makes fast cars fast — the ratio of horsepower to weight. Then, we discussed why some of the passing girls were wide while others were narrow. Once again, it was all about ratios of height vs weight.

While we were delving into the concept of coins being smashed flat and how that caused them to expand in diameter (more ratios), passing strangers greeted us and even joined the conversation. One lady actually sat with us for fifteen minutes while my grandson played with her six-month-old German Sheppard. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen amidst the paranoia and hurry of big cities.

Later — around midnight that night — a fellow occupied our same park bench and switched between playing trombone and trumpet along with Van Morrison tunes on his boom box while local couples slow-danced on the sidewalk.

I ended that day with more energy and positive feelings than ever. In fact, just writing this, I can still feel the cool breeze and hear “Moondance” accompanied by a soft trumpet.

Perhaps, we all need to reconsider the ratio of time we spend on our frantic schedules versus the amount of time we pass on small town park benches.

Disclaimer: It was not until Sunday morning…when my grandson and I were eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and admiring our collection of flattened pennies…while listening to a live band belting out Hank Williams toons in the local coffee shop, that his mother walked in and explained how strict she is about his diet. How was I supposed to know?

Let’s talk. I’d really like to hear what you have to say, and it might even give me something to write about. Email me at
I’ll buy you coffee and we can compare notes. I promise not to steal your ideas without permission.


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