While runnin' from da 'Storm' last month, Peggy, tryin' to escape traffic, and trusting a map, 'stead of askin' me, turned onto the old "O.G. Track Road" in St. Landry Parish, tryin' to get to highway 71. Well, this 'shortcut' turned into a 'long-cut', and she had to backtrack, regroup and start over. I hadn't thought of the old train track in years. It is a place from my youth, back when times were simpler and I was a kid. Here's da story:
I heard it since I was a kid; "The legend of the ghost of the O.G. Track". Mama and her family lived there some years ago, and Grandpa share-cropped a patch of land off the tracks. Mama loved the trains as they steamed by, puffin' lil white clouds as the piston pumped da wheels around. It was a steam engine with it's often imitated, never duplicted steam whistle. The engineer yusta throw bags of candy and fruit to Mama and her brothers and sisters, as they stood on the side of the tracks, pumping their elbows to get the whistle to blow. Years later, Mama taught me how to place straight pins on da tracks and let the train wheels press 'em into lil pairs of 'scissors', or how to smash a penny under the wheels of da train to make a guitar pick. (Mama was an unbelievable guitar picker.)
Anyways,...Mama told us the story of the 'ghost', and all of her brothers and sisters backed the story up. It seems that a lady was driving home one night with her young child in the car, when they stalled on the tracks and got hit by the train. The child was said to have been thrown clear and lived. The mother was said to have died in the crash. After this happened, reports of a ghost started circulating around town and it wasn't long 'til Mama's family heard about it. The 'Ghost of the O.G. Track' was said to be shining white, resembling a woman, and float above the track, gliding along mournfully looking for her child.
Years went by, the lil train went outa business, the whistle fell silent, they took up the tracks and left a gravel road in their place. The road follows the old track line, eventually dying out at the bayou where the old train bridge was. The bridge was removed, leaving just a row of pylons marching silently across the bayou to the other side.
When I came along, the tracks were just a memory, but the dead-end gravel road made our family's secret picnic spot. I remember many wonderful weinie roastin', campfire singin', marshmallow roastin', bbqin' good times at the old bridge crossing. It was like our own private lil park. Some of my earliest memories of my Dad are of him standing on the bank of Bayou Courtableau, casting a top-water popping 'bug' at the pylons with his fly rod. It was magic for a small boy, of somewhere 'tween 4 and 7 to see dat 'bug' float back and forth in a whip-like motion, landing inches from the pylons, and "pluck-pluck, float" and repeat 'til a Bass made the water explode around the bait, as it sucked up dat 'bug'. We always left the campsite and headed back down the dusty ole road before dark, to avoid the skeeters, but for a young lad; we were leavin', so the ghost wouldn't git us. In case I would forget this, I was retold the scary story from the front seat of the ole jet-black '57 Chevy, (with a bright cherry-red interior), as we rattled our way down the ole dusty road towards home, on many Sunday picnic afternoons. That ol' Chevy was Daddy's pride and joy. He bought it "cash on the barrel-head" with his back pay, when he cycled out of the Navy.
Flash forwards a few years. I was like 10 or 12, before I was old enough to be invited to go on midnight rabbit hunts with some of my older cousins and uncles. (I was prolly 16 or so 'fore I found out you could even hunt rabbits in the daylight; and muchless, that was da legal way.)
Well, one night they picked me up in Uncle Jessie's ole step-sided pickup, and sure enough, you guessed it.....they headed right down the O.G. Track Road, with us kids perched on the hood and on top of the truck cab, with high beams on. Dat ole truck bristled with guns like one of Mama's pin cushions. I warned 'em 'bout da ghost, but they kept goin', and long 'fore we reached the end of the track road, we had like a dozen or so nice big rabbits in the bed of da ole truck. We stopped at the end of the road; the beer drinkin'-age cousins all hadda pee. (Yup, beer drinking, and heavily armed, night huntin' Cajuns...it's a miricle I'm here to tell this story.) We loaded up for the return trip, keepin' da rabbits company in the back. Uncle Jessie turned da ole truck around and headed back down the dark ole dusty road. About halfway back, as we slowly rounded da only curve on da road, Uncle Jessie stopped da truck and quietly said through where the back window aughta had been, "Look boys, I tink it is da ghost".
Did they set me up? Who knows. Was it some elaborate plot to scare da Jesus outa a kid? Maybe. They won't tell, and I'll never know, but there she was!! White, shining, floating above the road in the headlights...and 'kinda out of focus' is the best way I could describe her.
I screamed like a girl, the other cousins chiming in, and Unc 'floored' da ole truck. Smoke and dust erupted, gravel showered out behind the truck, as the old bald Maypop tires fought to get traction, and my crazy uncle headed da truck with all of us in it straight for da ghost! Me and da boys dove for cover among the bloody rabbits and assorted clutter of the spilled contents of a rusty ol' paint can that had been full of hunting tackle. I seem to remember the white figure of the ghost passing over the truck as we sped down the bumpy ole wash-board gravel road. The memory fades over time, das why I'm tellin' it now, but one thing remains certain; we hadda clean lots more than rabbit blood outa da back of dat ole truck when we got home.