Monday, July 20, 2009

From the Daylight to the Moonlight

This past Saturday, I had to chance to see something for the first time. The Southern Pacific 4449 Steam Locomotive, also known as the Daylight, rumbled through Trempealeau pulling a train of vintage passenger cars on its way to Chicago. It was here and gone in a few blinks of the eye, but it was wonderful to watch. I can remember watching trains all the time growing up, and it’s one of those very nostalgic memories. The rail line that ran behind our house, the Chicago-Northwestern, runs no more, and is now a State Bicycle Trail. But the memories remain, and believe it or not, every now and then I dream about those trains. Another memory of another first is also occurring today. I can remember huddling with my mother and brother in front of our tv set, well into the night, 40 years ago, watching Walter Cronkite and the very first lunar landing and moonwalk. At seven years old, you knew it was important if you were allowed to stay up past your bedtime. Looking at the re-broadcast tonight of that epic event, I realize that CBS had me believing at the time that their simulated model was actually the real shape ship. I do remember vividly, going to the screen door and looking out at the moon, every night while Apollo 11 was up there, squinting really hard, trying to see something that looked like the lunar module. I squinted so hard it made my eyes ache. I could never be sure if I saw anything or not.

Times change. Locomotives are now hulking diesels; boxy things without much character. Anchormen pass away, taking part of our past, but leaving the history. Computers are smaller and yet more powerful than those that launched the Apollo missions. But the moon is still there. Still beaming its brilliant moonlight. And tonight, I’m going to squint really hard when I look at it, just for old times’ sake.

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