Another Day in the Country
Sounds shatter silence
© Another Day in the Country
Ramona is usually, thankfully, a rather quiet place. Dogs bark. A lawnmower starts up. Someone is in the mood to mow. A chain saw buzzes. A limb cracks and falls. Roosters crow.
When I first lived in Ramona, I could hear screen doors slam, but no more. It’s either my hearing or we’ve made progress and just install those screens that close slowly and quietly.
On weekends, in small, unpatrolled areas, hot-rodding is always on the verge of breaking out; so, especially for us long-termers living in Ramona, we are thankful when it’s at a minimum.
Sometimes, on a weekend, karaoke breaks the silence. I call it, “broadcasting.”
Unfortunately, inside the house — where I retreat — with doors and windows closed, you can’t hear the lyrics or even the melody, if there is one. What you feel, though, is the bass beat reverberating through the walls. That’s when I wish I was out of town!
Traffic in Ramona is minimal except when some unsavory element moves through and suddenly midnight movement increases, car lights flashing past at 3 a.m. and we know it isn’t the garbage truck picking up trash.
“Oh, no, not again,” we mumble in our sleep. We pretty much know what it is and who it is and why it is. It’s unsettling to be awaked in the middle of the night with more traffic than we’d seen all day!
Most of the time, I like the sounds in Ramona — even the most common, most recognizable sound of all — the trains.
The trains in Ramona are omnipresent — always there, if not physically blocking the road into town, they are waiting on the sidetrack, groaning, huffing, puffing with impatience to go on to somewhere else. Every once in a while one flies past, powering through, whistling, calling out incessantly, as they race by the edge of town, “I’m in a hurry!”
To me, the sound of the trains is soothing, especially late at night as I lay in bed in the dark hearing the train whistle calling out the crossings, getting louder and more insistent as it approaches the sleeping town and then recedes into the distance on its way to nowhere, everywhere, or somewhere important.
It can also be a haunting sound, especially in the summer if you sleep with your windows open. The blast of the train whistle can startle a person.
Sometimes it’s aggravating. Once in a while the incessant honking wakes a body up suddenly. “Whoa, that train is too close. It sounds like it’s right in the room.” The wind must be blowing from the south.
And then, “Whoooooooooooo, who, who,” is that a message??
Some code to a relative living nearby? It’s been known to happen. “C’mon guys, we’re trying to sleep here.”
After you’ve lived close to the train tracks for long enough, the sound of the train is just there. It is always in the background of life, not really a conscious thing unless it’s absent for too long or again if it lasts too long.
The other day, I was baking and all at once I became conscious of a train horn just going on and on — continuous.
Was that engineer angry? Had someone crossed dangerously in front of him and he was chastising them with this abnormally long blast of his whistle? What was going on? Could it be stuck? Did an engineer have a heart attack, fall across the whistle control? Was he calling for help?
All kinds of scenarios went through my mind. The horn blew on, a minute, two minutes, three, four, five and I moved toward the door.
“Was it really a train horn or the tornado siren?” I wondered.
Outside, it was louder than ever, of course; and the sound was definitely coming from the tracks but that could also be the fire station where the siren is located. The sound went on.
I walked down toward the center of town. I could see the fire station. No one was scurrying around. All was quiet there.
The sun was shining. No tumbling clouds.
“It’s a train horn,” I said to myself. “It’s definitely setting on the edge of town, blowing its horn, no breaks in between toots, just constant. Is it still stuck?”
I wondered and wouldn’t you know it — no sooner than acknowledged to be stuck, after at least ten minutes of hooting, the sound stopped! The silence was deafening but it didn’t last long. The train whistle started up again and went on and on and on.
Eventually the reason for the train to be waiting passed, and the engine engaged, began moving, with what I’d now concluded was a “stuck whistle,” still wailing away as it faded off into the distance, heading toward Tampa.
It’s still a mystery, on another day in the country.