Monday, September 13, 2004

Railroad Days

This past weekend was Truckee's annual Railroad Days. Every day is Railroad Day here, as you would know if you ever drove in our little town. The RR bisects the town lengthways and causes several traffic delays each day. In 1981 a locomotive derailed right downtown and blocked the main intersection for several days, making a one-mile trip to the Post Office into a five-mile trip. A couple of years ago, we got a traffic roundabout and an underpass, so it's better now with two ways across the tracks.

Anyway, we went to the Railroad Days, mainly to hear our friends, "The Saddle Rash Bluegrass Band." My wife was roommates with Bev, the fiddler, in college 40 years ago and they're still friends, and nearly neighbors, as Bev lives just a few miles away at Lake Tahoe. The band is Bluegrass-based, but hardly traditional. They play Grateful Dead, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and others' songs, along with original tunes. One of my favorites is "Copenhagen":

"She gave me a big wet kiss,
Surprised me with her tongue.
But her surprise was waitin'
Twixt my cheek an' gum!"

I don't know the name of this one:

"Suck it up an' get a job,
Drag a comb across your head.
We're way beyond the sixties now,
And Jerry Garcia's dead!"

They did two sets. In between, a local historian gave a recital of the town's railroad history, talking mostly about the fires which consumed two or three roundhouses in the nineteenth century and conveniently leaving out the part about the exploitation of Chinese labor in the construction of the RR in the 1860's and the racial discrimination thereafter.

We've got a Western reenactment troupe here called "The Railroad Regulators 601." The "601" refers to a vigilante group here way back when that ran miscreants, of which there were many, out of town on a rail. They include prominent citizens and wear period clothes and have gunfights. They had one of their gunfights during the history talk. The historian was cool. At the first shot, he just paused, and after the last shot he picked up again. We could actually hear the gunfights from my house the previous day.

They had a "chili cook-off" between two of the local restaurants. The Mayor of Truckee, in his "Railroad Regulators" costume, handed me some tickets for free chili. He was heavily armed, so I accepted them. Let's see Bloomberg do that.

There was some rolling stock on display, including a giant rotary snowplow which is used to keep the tracks open across the Sierra Nevada. If you ever got caught by this thing, you'd be just a red stain on the snow. Impressive.

It was pretty fun, except my wife stepped in a hole and sprained her ankle. She's still limping.

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