This page of Carknocker.com is for listing more stories, sent in to us by Railway Carmen and other Railroad Men. Hopefully, more will come to us, to be shared with the world, and this page will be updated regularly. I invite anyone, who wants to tell one of their stories, to take the time to record their memories to the World Wide Web, right here on our site. The first story comes from Brother Carman Tim Gill, who is quite a character himself. He's a friendly easy going guy, and spins a great yarn. I really enjoyed the memories of Mr Blankenship, that this story brought to my mind, and i'm sure you will hear more about Old Blank.
This story happened sometime in the year of 1972, at the Inman Yard Rip track office, Carman D.J. Alexia and I were beginning our evening shift. We were told to report to the Office to get our orders for a road trip, to re-wheel a freight car on a siding near Dallas. While we were awaiting our instructions we were in the Train Yard Foreman's office. The Train Yard Foreman that day was Ted Lewis. He was concentrating on lining up his car inspectors for the start of the shift.
Alexia and I were just hanging out, and as usual. Alexia was prowling through items on top of a file cabinet of which he was leaning on. As luck was with him he found a brown bag which housed two hotdogs, which later was revealed to be Ted Lewis's lunch. Ole Alexia was leaned up on the filing cabinet and nonchalantly going down on the warm hot dog for a second bite, when the meandering eyes of Ted caught sight of the hungry carman. Just seconds before this car Foreman was in deep concentration of his line up, and was not aware that his Varsity Hot Dogs were about to be devoured. But like lightning striking hot and fast, he leaped from his seated position to collar Alexia and try to choke out the unswallowed bites he had just taken. yyyyy son --of- xxxx~~~~ that was my lunch you are eating. Very calmly ole Alexia began to ease the un-eaten part of the dog back into the little individual bag it was placed in before it was brown bagged. As the feeble attempt was made to put it back. Alexia was saying so courteously, "Oh I didn't know that was your lunch!" Needlessly to say, Ted wasn't shy in telling him once again just who it was that had previously owned the half eaten hot dog and also that any fool could have figured that out. Alexia escaped serious injury on this occasion, of course to know him you would agree, that this cat did have more than nine lives.
Speaking of food and railroad I could never figure out why so many well paid, good sensed rail road men could show up on the job without a bite to eat. If you ever began to eat something, many times it would be like sitting in among a pack of hungry hounds, as each bite you would take they would swallow for you. It was not uncommon for a carman to find his lunch either partly eaten or completely gone. Sometimes it was true that a hobo had eaten it, but sometimes a hungry carknocker was really the culprit even though the hobo was conveniently blamed.
This brings to mind how many of a good wife's cooking was known throughout the mechanical department. There was Jimmy Roberts always bringing large beautiful pieces of chocolate cake. You couldn't hardly help but sit around while Jimmy was eating, and hopefully hear him offer you his extra piece of cake Mrs. Roberts had packed in his lunch. Car inspector M.L. Harper always had beautifully brown fried chicken breast almost daily. J. W. Johnson's wife was known for her fresh, moist strawberry cakes. Jimmy Durham's wife was chef of many dishes but she will always be remembered for divinity candy she made for Christmas. However she always made big jars of cookies year round. And if you ever ate the good fixings of Harry Taylor and wife you would never forget the mouth watering tasties that they could cook up especially roasted chicken necks. You say a CHICKEN NECK! Yes that is what I said, I do not believe I've ever tasted anything any better.
There was a time that anyone who would volunteer to take a foreman's job was not refused. So I suppose that is how I ended up getting into this position. I did not want it but Johnny Edwards was a good natured, well liked fellow carman who had not given up on talking me into becoming a foreman. So you had to cub the job they called it. As I was in training there came the night that I had to work the forwarding yard foreman's job for the first time. What I didn't know was that as part of my duties it was expected of me to have a fresh pot of coffee ready between 4:30 and 5 A.M. in the morning. So the night was not a mild natured night nor was the rail traffic slow. As usual there was much business and I was really behind on all my log books and paper work and trains waiting to be inspected. The master Mechanic walked to the open door of the car foreman's office, and as he stood in the hallway and leaned on the door facings with both hands he roughly asked me, "GADDIS why is there no fresh coffee made this morning?" I responded that I was not aware that this was part of my duties. He let me know very clearly that it was and said you had better not let me come in here ever again and find that there is no fresh coffee made, if I do you will be fired, is that clear? I said yes sir.
So the next morning it had been another night of many problems, having many difficulties all night long. When I realized that it was time to make the dumb coffee. It so happened that there was no one there to teach me how to instruct me properly in the fine art of coffee making. So I rinsed out the 40 cup coffee maker, filled it with water and put the strainer basket in place. I got the gallon can of Maxwell House and just poured about half of it into the basket strainer. Plugged it in and went back to work. It wasn't long before I heard the master mechanic enter the hall door. I was really feeling proud of myself, I wouldn't get chewed out this morning I thought. Oh! Boy how wrong could I be? In just a few minutes I looked at the same doorway and there leaned on the door facings with both hands the same angry master mechanic that stood there yesterday morning and in a very strong voice demanded, "GADDIS, who made that D### Coffee?" I said I did sir? He looked over the top of his glasses and said very firmly, "GADDIS if you ever again make another pot of coffee here I will fire you, is that understood? I said yes sir. I could see fire in his eyes, but that ended my coffee making career. Sometimes a mistake in judgment can work in your favor, this one certainly did for me.
Let me tell you the story of the old knife. I worked with old man Blankenship in the Pig Yard, and he was the most country fellow I have ever known. Always had those bib overalls on, and had a slow country twang. Well I thought he was a hard worker (maybe too hard ), but not the sharpest tool in the shed. Well one day old Blank got into the truck we worked out of, and off we went. Before we got halfway to the Pig Yard, old Blank pulled out a plug of Brown's mule chew, and with a great flair pulled out a bright Yellow handle knife with an old steam engine on the handle in a cloud of smoke trailing behind, as if the engine were really moving. Well sir he cut a plug with great gusto, and waved that knife right under my nose. I knew then I had to have it, and knowing old Blank was a slow country boy, I guessed it would be kid stuff to get it. I said" Mister Blank I'll give you a crisp new dollar bill for that old knife". He gave me a look, like he had just died and gone to heaven, and got that knife halfway to my hand before he pulled it back, and told me he needed that knife to cut his apple for lunch. At lunch he cut that apple with me sitting on the edge of my chair just like a fish on a hook. The old man cleaned that knife as if it was the last on earth, and before I could stop myself I had offered two dollars and fifty cent for what, I now was sure was probably the best knife in the world. Old Blank held his ground though, and I could see that he was tempted by such a great offer of wealth. He told me that after his last cut of chew he would give it some thought. Well I couldn't stand it any more as I HAD to have that knife. I offered old Blank five dollars and the use of my new knife when the time came for him to cut a plug to chew. His eyes lit up and he handed me that knife and I took it like Grant took Lee's sword. The old man folded the five bucks and put it in his pocket, pulled out his plug of tobacco in one hand and another knife EXACTLY like mine in the other hand, and commenced to cut a plug to chew as if nothing at all had happened. I jumped up like I was shot, and when I tried to talk all I could do was point and stutter. Mister Blank said" This old knife Tim? I bought a box full at the flea market for two dollars". That knife is old now and Mister Blank is long gone, but I will always remember my lesson that day, and the old plastic handle dime-a-dozen pocket knife, is on my mantle, and about once a year I'll turn it over and just remember what Mister blank so kindly taught me.
This next little story, is by Tim Gill, and is a Sequel to his story about old Blank, (Mr. Blankenship), who aparently wasn't as slow witted as Tim originally thought, when he began working with him. I asked him for a sequel, to the saga of working, with Old Blank, and he sent us this. Tim neglected to add a title so I will.
You know Walt, that old Blank was a good railroader and a lot on the country side. Now being from the Elvis generation, I just had to try to break him from that country music, so one day I brought in a old radio, ( we did'nt have one in the truck ) and when we started for the Pig yard, I put the station on that new rock and roll. Of coarse, I told everyone in the Pig yard the low-down, and to listen up when we rolled into the yard.
I started out with a big smile on my face that said it all, as that crazy music screamed from the radio, but old Blank just drove right on as if he was in a cool summer breeze. About half way to the pig yard, I thought my ear drums were gonna rebel, and fall slap out. I mean I just could'nt stand that stuff any more, and I told old Blank this was a bad idea and went to change that crazy screaming. As I reached for the radio Mister Blank smiled at me and said " hold on there Tim that tune is a little catchey ( with a big smile ) Needless to say that when we pulled into the pig yard all that everyone heard was Old Blank just a laughing, and as for myself? Well I was the one hunkered down real low with the frown on his face. That old smarty-pants Mister Blank had got me again.