A look at
Minonk's past

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Whistle memories

By Barth Weistart

I've been away from Minonk for 46 years; but, I still remember it. It's been burned in my memory since the first time I heard it. In my grade school years, it would lull me to sleep at night. As a teenager, I would occasionally get home early just so I wouldn't miss it.

On a hot summers evening or a cold crisp winters night, it would start as a far off wail and you knew it was coming. It was coming from some far distant place and would pass through our town. But, it would leave a sound that would last a lifetime.

It's wail slowly came closer and then you would hear a clicking sound as cars passed over tracks whose ends weren't exactly aligned.. Click Click! Click Click!

Recalling the sounds of the approaching whistle and clacking wheels was the catalyst that would later bring back memories of a time without the burdens of a maturing life. The memories would bring on the soothing sleep so desperately sought.

Sleep was upon us by the time the Illinois Central freight crossed the Santa Fe track. Clickety Clack! Clickety Clack! The sounds were always in twos. You were hardly ever awake to hear what happened once the train cleared the crossing. After it left our town, it became that far off sound to someone in El Paso, and then Hudson, and then Bloomington.

The train is gone; the tracks are gone; the crossing is gone; but, the memories aren't. They'll only be gone when we are.

Recently, I was privileged to talk with my childhood neighbor June Jochums who was in town to attend her 50th reunion. She said she had purchased a tape of train whistles to retain that past memory. (I must confess that I have a similar tape). Other people have mentioned the train sounds. I've come to realize that what I had considered part of my private world was also the private world of most people who heard the trains. We just don't talk a lot about those long ago sounds but, we remember.