Old Sam And Christmas Trees Train
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The town of Christmas Tree was holding its breath.
No one was talking and not one smile could be seen on any face in the crowd.
The old folks sat on the chairs or benches and the kids just lay around on the ground and said nothing.
Not even a bird could be heard singing in the tree tops that surrounded this small town on top of the mountain. This was serious business and everyone was hoping for the best, for if it didn't work out as planned, what would happen to the town was any ones guess.
Everyone knew that they had a problem when the news came in over the wire that the train that brought all Christmas Trees from the valley below to the town would not make its run this year.
It seems that something had gone wrong with the big diesel engine that pulled the heavy cars up Christmas Tree Mountain. It had a bug and couldn't make the grade tonight.
The town relied heavily on the sale of the Christmas Trees for, well, everything that the town needed and if they had no trees to sell then the town would just cease to be.
The big out of town buyers that were waiting to buy the trees wouldn't be very happy if there were no trees to buy. They had been coming to the town for the past 100 years and buying up all the trees that the train could bring up the mountain side and then they would be off to sell the trees to the folks in the towns and villages around the countryside.
No trees meant no sale and this could mark the end of the road for the town of Christmas tree.
The Mayor had called a meeting this morning to tell the people the bad news and to see if anyone had any ideas that might work.
The only one that was brought up didn't meet with cheers and smiles.
Old man Hanks had said why not send Big Sam down to the valley and let him bring the cars filled with trees back up.
There were a few mouths open and some giggles bouncing off the walls when everyone realized that the "Big Sam" that was being thrown about was an 85 year old steam engine that had trouble sometimes pulling a wagon filled with children at the park.
He hadn't pulled anything as heavy as the Christmas Tree cars over a mountain grade in over 70 years and no one figured he could do it now.
That is except for old man Hanks.
After a debate that lasted nearly two hours and it came to light that no one had any other idea at all, Big Sam got the call to steam up and get at it
Now, when the call came in at the children's park for Big Sam he was busy pulling his forth wagon full of children that morning around the wild animal park and thought that the message he was getting was a joke.
Why in the world would the Mayor be calling for him to get ready and go someplace and bring something back? Didn't make any sense to the old engine and so he just kept pulling his wagon and chuckled to himself as he did so.
But once he arrived at the platform he saw a group of people gathering there and the Mayor was right up front waiting for him to stop and couldn't wait to start telling him about this important trip that he had to make in order to save the town of Christmas Tree.
"I can't do this Mayor," Old Sam said as he heard the story. "I haven't pulled anything that heavy in a long time".
"But you've got to at least try Sam," the mayor explained. "You're our only hope and without those trees, there is no Christmas Tree Town."
Sam looked around and saw that the eyes of the town were watching him.
They were waiting for an answer that might solve their problem, waiting for him to agree to do it, for him to say, yes!
He just couldn't let them down.
"Okay, I'll give it a try." Sam said with a big smile. "But no promises"
The whole town burst out cheering and laughing and dancing around him chanting his name.
For the first time in a long time, Sam felt good about himself.
He was proud to be able to help the town that had given him a home and a job when no one else had wanted him.
They hadn't told him he was all washed up and couldn't do anything worthwhile anymore, the way the railroad had.
The big diesel engines that could move mountains it had pushed old Sam and others like him off the tracks and taken over.
This town had taken him in and now he had the chance to repay them and he would not let them down!
What in the world was he thinking?
He had stopped to fill up with coal and wood for his firebox and to take water on to create the steam that was needed for him to move, what he was doing started to sink in.
"I can't pull those cars up that mountain," he said out loud, "they must weight some 10,000 pounds and I just can't do that kind of stuff, I'm only good enough for the wagon pull at the park and even then I break down sometimes. What in the world was I thinking about?"
He was just about ready to call it quits when his mind went back to that little girl that had hugged him at the rally and those big eyes so full of trust....he just couldn't let her down.
Sam had been gone for almost three hours now and the people were starting to get restless.
They knew it wasn't going to be easy for him to pull those cars back up that mountain, but getting those trees back to town was the only choice they had.
Wondering how old Sam was doing now was the big question on their minds.
Old Sam was having a little trouble.
After hooking up to the cars in the yard and seeing all the people stare at him, and hearing all the laughter as he started out of the yard with the cars filled with trees, he was more determined than ever to finish this job.
But, this job was a BIG JOB!
Try, as he would, pulling those cars back up that mountain wasn't going to be easy.
He would hit a good stretch of straight track and his wheels would almost hum a song as he sped along the rail and then, a slight incline would make him change his tune to one that reminded him how steep that mountain grade up ahead was going to be.
His stack was blowing black smoke and he blew his whistle long and loud as he passed through village after village on his way to the top.
The noise he was making seemed to be drawing a crowd of people that now were lining up along the track. Many had never seen a steam engine before and this was a special viewing for the folks, and they loved it.
They clapped their hands together and pumped the air with their fists and urged Sam on.
The grade was getting steeper now as he made his way out of the foothills and began the climb that would take him to the top of the mountain pass and to the town of Christmas tree.
The land on either side started to close in a little more toward the tracks and the rolling pasture land began to fade with each mile.
His wheels felt like they might be slipping some as he entered the part of the track that had some snow still resting on the rails.
He couldn't get good traction and was slowing down and there was nothing he could do about it
Sam switched to low gear and hoped that it would be enough to make the grade.
He was crawling along the track now but at least he was still moving upward.
Looking behind him he made sure that the three cars were still there.
The smoke that he was throwing out now seemed to disappear into the thick canopy of trees and the mist and fog that were starting to roll in from the river.
He judged that the day was almost gone and the night would soon have them covered in blackness.
He never did like to travel after dark, too many things could go wrong through the forest.
Tree limbs heavy with snow could block the track or elk and deer that like to run back and forth across the road and can be a big problem.
Slow was the word for this trip it would seem.
He just couldn't get a grip on the rail and make up any time at all.
A slight downgrade was welcomed with a cheer from old Sam as he pushed himself to his limits.
He was growing very tired now and was only halfway up the mountain.
Maybe he should just stop for a while on this side track and, NO! he couldn't do that to the little girl or the other townsfolk that were waiting and counting on him to finish this trip.
Must go on...
The night was black, the only lights were from a distant house or the sparks from Sam's own wheels as they made contact with the steel rails.
His headlight cut a beam of light through the darkness in front of him and other than that, it was just plain dark.
Sam remembered the days gone by.
He used to be a shiny jet black color that you could see yourself in, in his day, he was king of the tracks. Helping to lay track all the way through the western part of the country and telephone poles so many he couldn't remember the count anymore.
People would ride in his passenger cars all dressed up and his attendants were so proud to work with him; those were good times indeed.
Where did all the time go?
Now, a good day was filling up the wagon with kids as he hauled them around the park.
Their laughter and bright eyes didn't seem to keep him feeling young now.
Maybe he should be more grateful for what he has, instead of what he did have.
He remembered how rejected he had felt when the big diesels had started moving in.
They could pull more load than two of him and didn't make as much noise doing it.
Come to think of it, that was also a good thing, because it allowed the railroad to grow at a speed faster than it would have.
He still got jobs inside the yard, moving cars or even a short trip to towns that the diesel didn't want or were too small to handle.
Thinking about it now, he's had a pretty good life, and with a little care he could enjoy the rest of his career if he'd just stop complaining so much.
That would be something he would take care of just as soon as he finished this job.
He was thinking he might not finish this job at all when his eyes saw some sky out in front of him.
The top of this pass was getting nearer all the time...could he make it?
As the miles crept by he saw more and more of the outline of the mountains and sky up above.
He just might be able to do this thing, how much further was it?
The townsfolk were watching the night sky for the smoke that could signal the arrival of Old Sam.
He had to be close now or he wasn't going to get it done at all.
They wanted to believe, but that mountain grade was a rough trip to make and old Sam was now 4 hours behind schedule.
Soon it would be daylight and the buyers would be there waiting for the trees.
They wouldn't wait long, business was business.
The first sign was seen by someone looking out her bedroom window.
Smoke pouring up through the trees where the pass started to flatten out.
The unmistakable sound of a train whistle from days gone by.
She had hugged him before he'd left and knew he'd be back, she had believed in old Sam and here he came.
Sam cleared the pass and seeing the town in the distance, started blowing his whistle and ringing his bell.
He had made it!
People poured out of their houses from both sides of the track and were running beside old Sam, cheering and laughing and waving their arms in the air.
Old Sam slowed down as the platform came into view, the Mayor was standing there waving his hat and cheering right along with everyone else.
Sam wasn't looking for the Mayor though.
There she was, standing right in front of the steps with a smile as big as the whole train yard, and waving those little arms at him.
As he stopped, the little girl ran up and hugged old Sam so tight that he just had to blow his whistle, almost scaring everyone to death.
He had a smile that was big and proud and he sure was glad to have that trip over with.
The Mayor named that day 'Old Sam Day' and said that forever people would call Sam, "Christmas Tree's Train."
Nowadays, Old Sam spends his time pulling wagons around the animal park filled with children and he loves it.
If you're wondering about that little girl at the station, she's all grown up now with children of her own and still brings them to ride on the wagons that Sam pulls.
If you ask him, one of his favorite memories is of the time when he proved something to himself and became,
'Christmas Tree's Train.'
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