Copyright Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1947, 1948 / All rights reserved

Selected Writings From Raintree County

Train doesn't know the earth it passes over.

Ross Lockridge, Jr.,
Raintree County, pp. 232-3.

   Train doesn't know the earth it passes over. Train thunders daily down the stretch behind the Old Home Place. Train is a tumult passing. Hoarse voice of train wails in the valley of Danwebster.
   Sleepers in the earth, do you hear the train passing? Do you any longer hear the sound of its diurnal course, beloved sleepers in the earth of Raintree County?
   Listen to the voice of train. The way for it is straight and far across the land. It rushes far and fast across the Nation, passing westward, passing through Raintree County.
   (O, blithe days, o, early agrarian days on the breast of the land! O, Eden of bland repose!)
   Listen! There is a voice of thunder on the land. It is the voice of years and fates, crying at intersections; it is the bullhead beast, who runs on a Cretan maze of iron roads and chases the naked sacrifices hither and thither. The bullgod comes up fast out of the east, under the churning of his round rear haunches. Smell of a blackened ash, odor of hot metal, the frictioning iron parts, blows across the earth of memories.
   (O, sweet young days of the aching but unripped seedpurse. O, tall endeavors. O, innocent, fragrant time.)
   Listen! What voice is calling now, voice of the grooved wheels on the roads of the hurrying days! It is the thunder of the big events. They are coming, full of malice and arrogance, they are coming on hooves of iron, wounding the earth of Raintree County. They will travel straight and far, through the light barriers of the corngold days. Lo! they will drive the young gods, the beautiful young gods, from the river's reedy marge.
   The day becomes brighter and hotter. In court house squares, the streets of the Nation, the people gather. The train bears its streamer of black smoke, a banner of progress fast and far across the land. Lo! we must keep our appointments. The clock on the Court House Tower is telling the time of day. We have a rendezvous in a train station, there where the thundering express stops a moment in the bright day and lets down out of its smoky womb a procession of remembered faces.
   Listen! great voice of thunder and urgency, voice of titan yesterdays and of still more titanic tomorrows! Do you still bring me tidings, have you still a bundle of headlines to throw down for me, will the face of the most beautiful of women look unexpectedly from a window of the trembling coaches for me? Or do you bring again, as so often before, a somber freight for me, who hearken the voice of your passing here on the breast of the land?
   He walked back through the tangled grass of the Danwebster Graveyard, trying not to step on graves.

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