Monday

Apr. 30, 2001

Casey Jones

by Lawrence Siebert

MONDAY, 30 April 2001
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Poem: "Casey Jones," an anonymous lyric.

Casey Jones

Come all you rounders if you want to hear
The story of a brave engineer
Casey Jones was the rounder's name
On the "six-eight" wheeler, boys, he won his fame
The caller called Casey at half past four
He kissed his wife at the station door
He mounted to the cabin with the orders in his hand
And took his farewell trip to that promis'd land

He looked at his water & his water was low
He looked at his watch & his watch was slow
He turned to his fireman & this is what he said
"Boy, we're going to reach Frisco, but we'll all be dead"
He turned to the fireman, said "Shovel on your coal
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
I'm gonna drive her til she leaves the rail
For I'm eight hours late by that Western Mail"

When he pulled up that Reno hill
He whistled for the crossing with an awful shrill
The switchman knew by the engine's moan
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones
When he was within six miles of the place
There the No. 4 stared him straight in the face
He turned to his fireman, said "Jim you'd better jump
For there're two locomotives that are going to bump"

Casey said just before he died
"There're two more roads I would like to ride"
The fireman said "Which ones can they be?"
"O the Northern Pacific & the Santa Fe"
Mrs. Jones sat at her bed a-sighing
Just to hear the news that her Casey was dying
"Hush up children, & quit your cryin'
For you've got another poppa on the Salt Lake Line"

It's the birthday of Annie Dillard, born in Pittsburgh (1945). She won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 29 for her first book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Her latest book is For the Time Being (1999).

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now."

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Larry Niven, born in Los Angeles (1938). He created his own sub-genre, called "hard science fiction," because of its basis in current research. His first big book was Ringworld (1970), based on the ideas of physicist Freeman Dyson.

On this day in 1900, engineer John Luther Jones, better known as Casey Jones, died in a train wreck near Vaughan, Mississippi. He was filling in for a sick friend, making up lost time so quickly that he said to his fireman, Sim Webb, "Oh, Sim! The old girl's got her high-heeled slippers on tonight!" A few minutes later, the fireman spotted the end of a freight train up ahead. Casey yelled, "Jump, Sim!" just before his train plowed into the freight. His body was found near his locomotive, the brake lever in one hand, the whistle cord in the other. A black engine wiper named Wallace Saunders wrote the first ballad about the wreck, and there were many other versions after that.

It's the birthday of poet and critic John Crowe Ransom, born in Pulaski, Tennessee (1888). He was teaching at Vanderbilt University in Nashville in the 1920s when he and fellow poets Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren founded a poetry journal called The Fugitive, and held a symposium calling for the South to resist industrialization and reclaim its agricultural heritage. They became known as the Fugitive Poets. Ransom's poems are still read and admired today.

It's the birthday of writer Jaroslav Hasek, born in Prague (1883). He's best known for The Good Soldier Schweik. He died at the age of 40 in 1923, having completed only two-thirds of the book, but it became a great classic.

It's the birthday of Alice B. Toklas, the secretary, manager, and champion of Gertrude Stein, born in San Francisco (1877).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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