A hundred years ago, there was a legendary “tie yourself down” stretch of railroad along Beaver Canyon, one of the places my great grandmother, Sophia, worked as a cook for the railroad crews laying track. The road was so rough, several men were stationed there with the sole purpose of cleaning up the box cars that weren’t tied down and therefore tipped over and smashed on the rocks below. “Tie yourself down,” meaning prepare for a rough ride, is a phrase I whispered, to give myself courage, long before I knew the term probably originated with my family’s railroad background.
Stories are so powerful we don’t have to remember how or when we heard them only that they work. In this case, the family mantra for courage was just there, often repeated, not explained, until I asked.
What’s your “tie yourself down” story?
We are nobody without a story.
Ask the panhandler I passed this morning. He held a sign that said: “Iraqi Vet. Clean. Sober. Going home. Need bus fare.” He’d staged his story with a Santa hat and a backpack.
Also applies to things.
Often the only difference between an antique and a piece of junk is “provenance,” a fancy word for the same information the panhandler had on his sign—a story, a history. Besides hoping I’d open my wallet, I suspect the panhandler was making sure I didn’t mistake him for junk. He wanted me to believe that he’d fought and struggled and lived to tell the tale. Now he was going home, if I could spare a little change.
1955 Good Food/Better Stories
I wasn’t buying his story, but it did make me wonder what five lines I would put on a piece of cardboard if I wanted someone to help me go home?
I’m not going to make it this year. Won’t miss the food. Will miss the stories.