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Football, Autumm Leaves and Cinders (standard:humor, 1013 words)
Author: Dennis KnightAdded: Sep 16 2000Views/Reads: 4308/2039Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Memories of Laramie, Wyoming, about 1953, when I was ten years old. Evokes many sights, sounds, smells and nostalgia of an afternoon in a college town. Do you like sloppy joes?

Football, Autumn Leaves and Cinders Memories of Laramie, 1953 

In writing of growing up in Laramie, I think of autumn, and an
incredible mix of aromas and other sensations flood my memory and bring 
me back to a time that will never be again, and perhaps shouldn't, and 
should perhaps never be missed, but will be. 

Walk home with me today. It's a Saturday in early October, 1953. We're
ten years old, you and I, and we've spent the morning at the big red 
library at 4th and Grand. It's an old building, and a kingdom of magic 
lurks in its dusty stacks, amidst an aroma of steam pipes, leather 
bindings and mildew. I met Robin Hood there, and I'm satisfied to this 
day that Sherwood Forest smells like the Carnegie Public Library. 

Feel the wind, not quite cold but requiring a light jacket, swirling
through the business district. Downtown bustled this morning with a 
thousand shoppers, but it's deserted now on a Saturday afternoon. 
There’s a football game today at the university, and the stores, all of 
them, closed at noon. 

You can hear the sounds of the big game all over town: a cannon booms,
the marching band plays “Cowboy Joe”, and a crowd larger than the whole 
population of Laramie roars so loud you can hear it even over the Union 
Pacific locomotives chugging a few blocks away. 

Crossing the street West from the library, we walk first past our
church, St. Lawrence O'Toole's, and our conversation lapses as we nod 
our heads briefly to acknowledge God’s presence, like Monsignor  taught 
us. But, I wonder, why do we always quicken our pace when we walk by? 

We amble down Grand to Second, then South to Gamble's store, where we
admire the bicycles in the window. Schwinn "Roadmasters" they are, and 
they're all built like Buicks--a modern fifties version of 
streamlining, with a tank in the cross bars, a horn button on the tank, 
fat tires, bullet shaped headlights, coaster brakes, and chain guards. 
They're beauties of many colors, some boys’, some girls', but they have 
one thing in common–they're all 1-speed bikes. 

We're getting close to the tracks, now, as we turn West again on
Garfield towards the foot bridge. The sound of the trains is getting to 
be so loud, you nearly have to plug your ears. Man! 

Can you smell the soot? There must be something about the altitude
around here that makes a train put out black smoke. Does the reduced 
oxygen mess up the combustion? (Heavy science for ten-year-olds, but 
we've just left the library, and our brains are still working pretty 
good.)  Soot smells, and it sticks. All of  downtown has it, but the 
closer you get to the tracks, the dirtier the architecture. 

The "Treagle Train" is in town for the game today. That's a train that's
sponsored by the Cheyenne Tribune and Eagle newspapers (get it? 
"Treagle"?). All the politicians and the other codgers over in the 
state capital ride it, and by the time the train gets to Laramie, 
they're fall-down drunk. It would be fun to hang around this afternoon 
and watch them get poured back onto the cars, but we gotta get on home. 

The foot bridge is of steel girder construction with a concrete deck
rising about thirty feet above the tracks, on somewhat spindly legs 
spaced way too far apart, and it can really get to shaking with all the 
activity down below. Did you notice how the grownups only walk in the 
middle of the bridge? They don't like to get too close to the edge, I 
guess. Weird. 

From the top at the East end of the bridge we can see miles down the
main line to the North where a single bright head lamp looms larger 
than the engine it leads, putting the dot on the exclamation point 
formed by black smoke rising from her fire box. 

I feel the pin-prick pain of a cinder in my eye from one of the big
locomotives idling down below us, spewing dirty, oily smoke that could 
choke a steel worker. You can't cry a cinder out with your tears; it 
has to be carefully and gently removed by your mom or maybe your sister 
if she's in a good mood. Don't ever, ever let your brother do it! 

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