I was listing to a sermon by Father Chris this past Sunday and he talked about his grandfather picking up coal that fell off the train during the great depression. He and his brother would sell the coal to make a little money for the family. So, my memories were triggered about my Grandfather. He was born in 1893 or so. He grew up an only child as his father had an unfortunate meeting with a falling brick. It was many years before his mother remarried. One of his daily chores was to walk the tracks picking up coal. How much he was able to get determined how well dinner got cooked and how late their shack had heat that night. He and his friends discovered that if they threw rocks at the train, the fireman might get angry and throw coal back at them. He was poor white trash In Nachez Mississippi, and he had to drop out of school in 6th grade because he didn’t have shoes. Went to work in a sock factory where the lint on the floor was knee deep at the end of the day.
Years went by and grandpa got a job working for the railroad after he got out of the Navy at the end of “the Great War.” He started out as a fireman and finally as a train engineer. He had a reputation of being short tempered, especially with kids throwing rocks at his engine, often throwing whole shovel full of coal at them. To his dying day he said that someone had to teach those little bastards a thing or two. No one ever questioned him, and I was pretty young when I realized he taught them and me some pretty valuable stuff.