Pine Nuts: Sneaky Legs, Jasper and me

Sneaky Legs, Jasper and I turned thirteen and we were feeling our oats, so we concocted this cockamamie scheme to test our courage. Carrying a pick and two shovels on our bikes, we peddled along the railroad tracks that led out of Moraga into the hinterland. Once assured our privacy was secure, we bivouacked and went to work digging a tunnel between two ties, under the tracks. It was tough going and it took us several days to burrow a lair large enough for a body to wriggle into. And once we were satisfied with our work, it came time for Jun-Ken-Po, (Paper- Scissors-Rock) to determine which of the three of us would be first to get run over by a train and live to tell about it. I won.

Well, we were familiar with the train schedule by then and it came my time to meet the iron horse as it were. (If you’re thinking this is stupid, you’re right.)

I took my shirt off and managed to slither face-up into our tunnel. Sneaky Legs and Jasper covered my face with my shirt so the train engineer would not freak out, and we were ready for business.

Little did we realize at the time that this ridiculous stunt was a thing teenage boys do, like a kitten pouncing, to harden the mettle they are going to need to fight future wars.

Well, I could feel a slight vibration and a tingle ran through my body while Sneaky Legs and Jasper shouted encouragement from their place of hiding. As the vibration grew stronger and stronger I started to wonder, a little late, if that train might leak hot oil onto my bare chest, and I considered wriggling back out, but it was too late. The roar of the approaching engine was chilling. Three names popped into my head, Jesus, Joseph and Mary, particularly Mary.

The roar was deafening. I closed my eyes and wanted to stick my fingers into my ears but I couldn’t move. The train ran straight over the top of me and in fact it did leak a little hot oil onto my bare chest, which caused me to shout something like, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”

Once the caboose had passed over my body, Sneaky Legs and Jasper were quick to come running. They hauled me out of there and attended to the oil on my chest. Their silence was comforting in the absence of the thunderous clatter.

“So who’s next?” I asked breaking the silence.

Funny, but nobody answered. They were corked up pretty tight.

For the balance of that summer my first name was lost altogether, and I was known as, “The boy who got run over by a train.” How could I know that getting run over by that train was symbolic of the senseless and useless internecine wars that lay ahead. Will we ever wake up and see warfare for what it is, akin to getting run over by a train, and not living to tell about it …


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