The end of the day arrives at last. As the last rays of natural light floods the Kanawha valley the day shift workers climb into their vehicles and head home. Along the way dinner is being prepared and sometimes the aroma wafts onto road. Children and pets rush out to greet the homecommers. The ties and work boots are abandoned with exuberance and those comfortable pants with the elastic band are picked up along with old tee shirt that feels like a welcoming hug. The say that the clothes make the man. If that’s true then taking your work clothes off is like taking off the person who you have to be and becoming who you are again. As I look at the feature image and see the parked train and the cars headed home it’s a great metaphor for the end of the workday and a little time for real life.
Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. Please also consider following Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook. If you don’t want to miss a post then you can sign up for email alerts on my website at the bottom of the Welcome Page.
Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Paused” and is available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website.
I am also available for portraits by appointment by using the Contact Form or Facebook Messenger.
As the evening sun hangs it’s sleepy head the well worn tracks light up and draw the soul into the West. He stops at home just long enough to shower and change clothes and pull that special envelope out from inside the stereo speakers. He doesn’t really own any fancy attire. A pair of pants that aren’t ripped or faded. One of two button up shirts and the boots that he only wears on Sunday morning to Church. The socks don’t really matter as long as they’re clean. The clock on the wall says that it’s fifteen minutes after six but it’s always about three minutes slow. He checks his pockets one last time before grabbing the keys off the chest of drawers and heading out of the door in a rush. The rusted old truck grinds and sputters. Laying his head on the steering wheel in frustration he mutters “Please Lord. Not tonight” and he turns the key again. The engine has three hundred thousand miles on it, but it roars to life. He drives parallel to the tracks and heads into the city. The parking lot is crowded but he finds a spot out on the edge and pulls in. A cinder block serves as a parking break. He pauses for moment at the door and checks to make sure that he has the envelop full of cash and that he didn’t get any dirt on his clothes while “setting the brake”. As soon as he steps inside the restaurant he spots her in the corner pretending to read the menu as she waits nervously hoping that he shows up. She’s in that little black dress. She spent hours making sure that she looked her best but all he notices is that special sparkle in her perfect eyes that lets him know how she feels. The envelope holds every penny that he could save up for two weeks but it’s money well spent. Their first date is going to be perfect.
Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. Please also consider following Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook. If you don’t want to miss a post then you can sign up for email alerts on the bottom of Welcome Page.
Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Heading West” and is available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website.
5X7 – $10.00
(Some cropping may be necessary )
A light breaks through the morning mists as if it is plowing a pathway for travel. The long mournful sound of horn in combination with the thunder of wheels proceeds the screeching of the brakes as the train pulls into the tipple. I ease my big blue truck into the wide spot near the berm. A mountain is waiting to be loaded onto the train and moved to the power plants and steel mills. If the miners are the men who pull light out of the darkness then the railroad workers are the men who move mountains.
One of local engines CSX 7979 was recently spotted in California by my fellow blogger Russel Ray. Russel is real train buff who was able to track CSX 7979 back to Huntington West Virginia. I never really expected that any of our trains would be found that far West!
I suppose that it shouldn’t surprise me. Our coal goes into the grid as electricity and into the iron that becomes steel. It’s almost as if there is a little piece of our mountains in almost everything that is either made from steel or uses electricity. Look around. You probably have a piece of Appalachia in your home too.
Today we have machinery that does most of the work. But there was a time when each spike was driven by hands of a worker. Each beam was placed on a platform that was also laid down by human hands. The heavy iron rails had to be moved into place and precisely positioned. The land wasn’t joined by steel as much as it was the blood, sweat and tears of men who placed it there. Today, I was reminded of one such person who’s very name brings to mind myth and legend. The real John Henry. I understand that some of my international friends may not be familiar with the story of John Henry, so here are the basics. John Henry was a railroad worker and possibly a former slave who was working on the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia. At the time when the industrial revolution was bringing about new technologies. Namely, the steam hammer. A machine that drives steel without rest. A machine that threatened the livelihood of every worker building the rail system. In an effort to save the jobs of himself and his coworkers John Henry challenged the steam hammer to a race and he won! The power and strength of a man who could out work a machine must have been an awesome sight. However, the story ends in tragedy. John Henry dies of exhaustion that very night. The steam hammer gets the contract to complete the railroad. Why would I write about such a sad story on my normally upbeat blog? Because, it’s happening again. Our world is changing. More and more I see and hear about automation. Robot cars are replacing Uber drivers, self checkout is replacing cashiers and software applications are set to take over other jobs. This not a race people can win by brute force. This is a thinking game. ( using the word game metaphorically). At the time of the steam hammer a man of John Henry’s strength and power could have done very well by shoveling coal that powered the machine instead of trying to out work it. He could have adapted to work with the technology and become an invaluable part of that team. As we move into the future of automaton I want to encourage you to think differently about how to adapt to the new work environments. The robot car can never be as romantic as a horse and buggy ride in the country. There will be those older folks who would rather pay someone to do their shopping for them rather than face the self check out. Jobs won’t go away completely. Instead, new niches will form and with them will be new opportunities.
I see the railway in the feature image and I see a man, a machine and the new opportunities that lay unseen just beyond the next bend in the tracks.
The rhythmic thunder of the the train pulsates through my body. I’m on a journey to a new and unknown place. My ticket is stamped with the words “Somewhere Else”. Just beyond the river a tunnel under the mountain comes into view. It stands there as a gateway out of here. Wherever here is. My spirit is longing for escape from the mundane. I want to see new faces and open skies. A mist hangs across the end of tunnel like a curtain ready to be drawn back to reveal the surprise of my life. What could possibly be on the other side of that mountain? A beautiful meadow? Yes, I think so. If I can dream it that way. In my imagination I can clearly see a field full of wildflowers. I can smell the sweetness of Bergamot as the train slowly rolls through. Ruby throated hummingbirds buzz across the field feeding on the sweet nectar from the bloom. The train whistle drones out and reverberates against the mountains that surround this special place. Steam erupts from the valves as we come to a stop and the brake is set. As the chugging of the engine ceases the air if filled with the buzzing of bees as they join the hummingbirds in working the flowers. The conductor walks by and announces “rest stop”. A gazebo stands in the middle of the field and I walk over to enjoy the scene. This is the perfect spot to be lost; until I am ready to move on.
Early mornings are a way of life in the Appalachian mountains. Many of us chose to live well away from where we work. I remember when I was a kid lying in bed and hearing the door close and then the car start before daylight. My dad was off to work. (My dad was a telephone lineman. He didn’t work with trains or coal.) I pass by this railyard every day and every time I do it looks like the morning crew had been at work for hours. I’ve never worked for railway but I know the kind of work that’s done there. It’s hot and grimey in the summer and bitter cold in the winter. I imagine that the coal dust gets into every little crevice of your skin as the coal comes off the beltline and pours into railcars. I have been told that one of the more dangerous tasks is keeping the chute clear of “clinkers”. Clinkers are large clumps of coal that clog up the chute and have to removed by hand. The work is hard and dangerous. The train here is a short one. It’s only about three quarters of a mile long. (A little more than 1200 meters) once it’s full it’s probably heading to a power plant where it will boil the water that drives the turbine that makes electricity that powers the servers that runs the internet that makes our lives so much easier. It all happens because someone got up before daylight and did the dirty work.
Most of us are familiar with The Little Engine That Could. However, it occurs to me that some of my international friends may not have been told the story as a child so here is a summery.
The little train engine was loaded heavy and faced a long stretch of tracks up a steep mountain. The climb was hard but he kept repeating “I think I can. I think I can.” Over and over until he was over the top. It’s a preschool classic tale about the power of positive thinking. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that the Heart’s thoughts forms us into what we are as a person. In other words, how we identify ourselves determines how we behave. Do we see ourselves as the happy one? The fun one? The smart one? Maybe we see ourselves as the one who has a good heart but is always being taken advantage of. Whatever it is it’s that self identity that influences what we will do in any given situation. Even if the choice is being made subconsciously we are still making a choice. What forms that self identity can be pretty complicated but as I understand it we get a lot of this from the opinions of others. I once witnessed one of the cruelest pranks known to mankind when working in a prefab housing factory. The short version is that multiple people who was in on the prank simply asked this person if he was feeling okay. No suggestion of what might have caused the question was to be made. After several inquiries the otherwise healthy young man left early claiming he felt ill. The opinions of the group had so much influence on his opinion of himself that he manifested symptoms of illness. The next day he was told by several people that he looked well and that his recovery was amazing and he had one the most productive days ever! It was all done by manipulating his opinion of himself. And that brings me back to The Little Engine That Could. By repeating to himself that positive thought over and over he brought out the best that was inside himself and overcame the obstacle before him.
I try to keep these two stories in mind when I’m feeling down. One of them I learned as a child and the other I witnessed first hand. The lesson I learned was that positive thoughts can improve my quality of life. Also, with the rise of social media we’re more likely to encounter people like the coworkers who made a person sick simply with the power of suggestion. Keep that in mind when listening to the negative opinions yourself and others that might be floating around out there and never hesitant to give a kind word to someone who might need it to get through the day.