Featured Review on this writing by C.S. Gainey

WAITING FOR A TRAIN

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: DOWN-HOME
Texas youth of humble upbringing decides to relocate in New York City to seek his fortune. He lands a job that guides him in that direction, and becomes a fashion tycoon. However, the Wall Street Crash of '29 devastates his business, sending him on the streets. Penniless, he travels the rails as a hobo, but in time realizes his life must change. Waiting for a train on one particular day sets in motion his recovery, and an unexpected future.

Submitted: November 26, 2019

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Submitted: November 26, 2019

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WAITING FOR A TRAIN

Painting and Story by Virgil Dube’ - Copyright 2019

 

Honoring Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music and His Great Song,

And My Mother Hardie Who Sang Jimmie’s Songs to Me as a Boy.

 

PETE’S FAREWELL - JULY 1919

Outside Greenville, a small town east of Dallas, Texas, nineteen-year-old Pete Axon Bell strolled barefoot across a neighbor’s weedy front yard, dodging sand spur patches and tolerating hot sandy soil. Wearing a flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up, and wrinkled overalls in need of a washing, each pants’ cuff rolled mid-calf, he approached the Hanes resident front porch. The wood frame house was much like his meager home and likewise unpainted.

Pete’s off and on girlfriend Polly-Ann Hanes stood behind the patched screen door wearing a flowery homemade dress, a mixture of flour sack fabrics she had sewn on her mother’s old Singer sewing machine. Polly-Ann opened, stepped out, then released the rickety door that slammed shut behind her. She said with minimal sentiment before he emitted a word, “Well, Pete, what brings you here? Haven’t seen you since school graduation last month.”

Pete stopped several feet from the porch steps. He realized instantly the futility of his visit, yet he stood unmovable and joined his hands at his backside. Looking up he uttered lamely, “Sorry, Polly-Ann, dear, I’ve been busy helpin’ Uncle George around our house.”

Polly-Ann frowned, and replied, “Well, dear Pete, join the crowd, same treatment here.”

“My drunk uncle can’t stay sober. He guzzles booze and allows the house, farm, and animals to go to hell and relies on me to do everything, recently even the cookin’. I’m fed up and needed to tell you I’ve decided to leave Greenville pronto ... taking a train to New York City.”

“Really, Pete that’s quite surprisin’; never thought you a country-reared farm boy would become a big city gentleman.”

“Yes, it does seem kinda drastic. But, Polly-Ann, I’ve been thinkin’ about a change for a while.”

“Land-sakes, why let that old geezer get the best of you, drivin’ you from your home that’s just as much yours as it’s his’in?”

Pete shrugged, “Polly-Ann, he’s gettin’ scary showin’ meaner behavior. I’m concerned we’ll have a fallout and hostile clash ... really bad. It’s got me thinkin’ there’s something better than livin’ like a slave to a heartless sot, George not the same feller since he took me under his wings nine years ago when mama and daddy were killed in that horrible train wreck in my home town, Middletown, Ohio.”

Polly-Ann’s shoulders slumped, the sad story she had heard over and over that in part had drawn her years ago to this homely good-natured boy. She drew in a deep breath and released it with an obliging response, “I’m truly sympathetic, Pete, sorry what happened, but glad you came to Texas from Ohio and lived with your Uncle George … and that we became friends. Perhaps his sister dyin’ in the train wreck changed George ... what else can I say.”

Since she had helped Pete recover from the tragedy, he expected more than a remark of sympathy and reference to his history, more of a plea to stay, something to show she somewhat loved him, that old times shared hadn’t been a total waste between them. In his mind they could marry, even tomorrow, and together buy a home to start anew, raise a passel of kids down that path toward a grander life. But instead of warmth in that direction, like a rush off the porch to him with a passionate kiss, or a begging not to go, she stepped slowly down three steps and hugged him loosely, pecked him lightly on his cheek, then stepped back, far from a loving embrace. As they lingered several feet apart, he glanced over her shoulder through the screened front window, where inside he spotted Niles Steinhart, the son of the town welder rumored to be Polly-Ann’s new boyfriend, a thing he had disbelieved until seeing him with his own eyes cowering inside the Hanes’ home.

Pete stepped back, and abruptly said, “Polly-Ann, goodbye, I’ll write, let you know how I’m doin’.” The promise Pete knew he wouldn’t keep, doubted Polly-Ann believed also, but it was something to say at the moment to expedite his departure.

Polly-Ann had noticed his eyes shift from hers to the window screen. She turned to see Niles’ faint silhouette in the darkish interior. She twisted around to meet Pete’s grave expression and knowing eyes. Regretfully, she explained truthfully, “Yes, the rumors are real, Pete. Niles and I love each other, and he will be a good provider. He and I wish you well in New York, and, please do write Mama, Daddy, and us.”

‘Be a good provider’, and ‘Write us’ instead of ‘write me’, said it all. Pete nodded, said nothing further. He turned sharply and walked out of Polly-Ann Hane’s life, forever, as far as he was concerned.

The next day dressed the best he could gather: white shirt, fedora hat, trousers he had freshly washed and pressed, brogan shoes he had worn five years, Pete carrying his uncles’ suitcase, trudged toward the train station and the eastbound out of Dallas. His ticket paid with money from small jobs he had performed around Greenville over the past year, aware all along the meager earnings would benefit him once he graduated from high school, he boarded with no sendoff from friend or family, and found a window seat where he quickly settled for the long haul. The train long in motion down the tracks, he felt with each passing mile and the rhythmic clickety-clack of train wheels mesmerizing him that he was doing the right thing, sensing he would start a business and make a successful future for himself in the Big Apple. But how, he questioned, for he had just a few bucks in his pockets and no definite goal. Not to worry unduly, the Big Apple was where money flowed like spirits consumed nightly. The big difference, his drunken uncle wouldn’t be hassling him 24-7.

PETE AND THE GREAT TIMES - LATE 1919 TO 1929

Pete arrived October 23, 1919 in New York City. Carrying the aged suitcase Uncle George had given him loaded with the barest of necessities, especially his wool coat taken out and on his back with the chilly air intensifying, he walked the city. The towering skyscrapers above hustling crowds of people amazed him. What struck him strongly was the hyped-up atmosphere, people from every walk of life seemingly focused on some indiscernible destination. 

First hearing of subways as a young boy from many sources, and seeing pictures of the great American city, Pete had always wished to ride the underground trains through tunnels. Down to a few bucks earned doing odd jobs to pay for his next train ride north that took him several months, he purchased a subway ticket. People crunched together on the crowded train-car; seemingly all bumping into him, each time that supposedly rude person apologized, which drew a smile from him and also an apology. 

When Pete departed the train near Central Park, he realized his trouser pockets were distended, his coat pockets also. Reaching a hand into a pocket, he felt crumpled papers. Pulling a handful out he was amazed to see they were dollar bills, lots of them. 

The supposedly rude people bumping into him were in fact compassionate and stuffing his pockets. It seemed the entire crowd had acknowledged him a loner. Observing him wearing battered clothes and in dire need, plus his kind character, they had shifted intentionally to bump him and place unnoticed money in his pockets.

Teary-eyed, Pete walked across the street and sat on the nearest park bench where he counted $75, enough to stake him a few days, maybe enough to rent a cheap apartment. He breathed a sigh of relief; much of his anxiety abated. Not thugs as he might have supposed from prior hearsay, merciful strangers as busy as they were, had been willingly kind to him. A feeling of comfort swept over him, for suddenly he had discovered that lots of good people occupied New York City. “Being a stranger to them will soon change,” he swore on the spot. And for the first time since his arrival Pete felt he had at least a meager chance to succeed, but at what enterprise he had no idea at that moment.

The first four days after renting a two-room apartment on the Upper East Side, Pete set out and was successful doing temporary menial jobs for restaurants, and some night clubs after hours, filling in for emergency disruptions or regular employees out with work leave or sick or injured. Thus, his services were limited in each instance, his likable Deep South accent and kindly manner an asset for being hired.

The fifth day Pete set out early and strolled up and down fashionable Fifth Avenue, fascinated by the collection of elite businesses and upper class people frequenting them. He watched the wealthy closely and was enthralled by their clothes worthy of royalty to wear, happy-go-lucky people after the big war spending money lavishly on fineries.

Pete continued onward at a leisure pace, stopping often to absorb this strange new world so apart from Greenville. Midmorning he stood before an enchanting large showcase window of a handsome brick building. He adored the displayed items sold inside the department store. Of special interest were manikins of a man and woman dressed in designer clothes that a couple of status might wear to the opera. He could hardly imagine he or a future wife wearing such elegant outfits, no matter the wealth they might accrue.

To Pete’s left a middle age man appeared from the huge bronze ornate double doors. A broom in hand, he swept trekked-in dirt across the sidewalk and into the street. He wore a cream color shirt tied at the collar with long parallel stripes, the long sleeves fitted with a black band around each upper arm. Below blue-gray wool slacks, he wore shinny ox-blood-color wingtip shoes. Balding slightly atop, his black hair obviously oiled was slicked back at the sides and neatly trimmed. Though tall and slim-built, his middle riff pouched somewhat. The man’s entire manner struck Pete as an affluent person. 

A pleasant expression on his lean face with close-set eyes and long nose, the man pulled the cigar from his mouth and blew upward into the mornings’ chilly air. He seemed to linger and savor the elements, a manner that signified he might have just received the best news in his entire life.

It was then the man sensed someone staring at him from close by. His head spun around to meet the gaze of a total stranger, a young man about his same height wearing shabby clothes that quickly identified himself as a wanderer. For several spellbound moments he studied the inquisitive lad, appreciating that he smiled rather than scowled disrespectfully or dashed away. 

“Is there anything I can help you with?” 

“No, sir. I’m just admirin’ the items in the store window.”

“I gather you’re not from here by your accent. Mind if I ask where you’re from, my friend.”

Pete surprised by the man taking time and warmed by his addressing him as ‘my friend’, answered forthright, “Greenville, Texas, east of Dallas … originally from Middletown, Ohio.”

“Ah, I’ve been to Greenville; have a soldier buddy living in Dallas. Last visit there Foster Cahill drove me into the countryside on a local tour in his Model T Ford, part of it through Greenville. Foster and I fought the Germans in French trenches in 1918. We’ve stayed in touch after the war, me visiting him periodically, he coming to New York, too.”

“Nice you and Mr. Foster are still friends. Must have been horrible what you two underwent in the big war.”

The man grimaced, hesitated, then replied, “Yes, awful. Don’t want to go there, lad. However, I got a question.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You looking for work ... I mean a steady job?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve been here five days workin’ odd jobs, makin’ enough to pay rent plus leftover for food. Not much extra to buy decent new clothes, though.”

The man stepped close and extended his hand, which Pete responsively accepted in his outstretched hand. “My name is Douglas Baldwin. I’m owner of Baldwin’s Department Store you are looking into, and, I have another store in New Rochelle, just opened.”

“Wow, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Baldwin. I’m Pete Axon Bell, nineteen years old right out of high school.”

“A high school graduate, nice, good footing to start making a living.”

“Thank you, sir.”

 “Pete, if you can stand the indoors apart from your free lifestyle in Texas, and you wish to work around both nice and sometimes ugly customers we all must tolerate, I can start you with menial jobs at first for fifty cents an hour, routine low-level tasks such as maintenance, cleanup, delivery if you drive a vehicle such as our panel truck, so forth. From there we’ll see how you work out ... how about it?”

Pete gasped fleetingly, then responded gleefully, “Yes … yes, thank you, sir, that would be grand. Mr. Baldwin, I can drive the panel truck, been driving trucks and tractors since I was ten years old, my Uncle George my teacher on our farm. When do I return to start?”

Douglas Baldwin handed the broom to Pete, stiff-arm. “Right now. But first, you must look spiffy in my store. Let’s go immediately and get you into a new outfit, classy shirt and pants, and a pair of sharp shoes ... how about it?”

Pete’s broad grin and vigorous head nodding said all. Decked out in new clothes Douglas Baldwin helped him pick out items he would pay from wages he earned initially, Pete began working. A quick learner devoted to even the smallest detail in cleanliness and efficiency, he set out like a man possessed, eager to please his new boss, and the people he associated, plus customers nice and obnoxious shopping floor to floor in the five story department store. He worked hard to alter his dialect, better to fit in with people different in speech than those of his heritage.

From the outset Pete was attracted to the Clothing Department on the ground floor. Mr. Baldwin noticing his interest in garment fineries worn predominantly by upper crust customers frequenting his store felt the lad might be ready to move up a level. 

One day six weeks into his employment, Mr. Baldwin approached Pete as he exited the side door with an armload of trash for the dumpster in the adjacent alley. “Pete, I’m pleased with your dedication and performance since you took on this job, a very difficult one I might add for any entry employee. I’ve noticed you taking interest in the Clothing Department. Would you like to transfer there? Dale Baughman is retiring and we’ll need a replacement soon. Dale agrees with me you have the stuff to sell garments, your interaction with customers catching our eye soon after you began here.”

Grinning, Pete replied, “Yes, sir ... I’ll do my best, make you and Mr. Baughman proud giving me this chance.”

Douglas nodded, patted Pete on his shoulder. He took a puff from his cigar, then turned and started back inside leaving a trail of smoke, stating over a shoulder, “Pete, look sharp when you start Monday promptly at 9:00 a.m.”

Pete had worked in the Clothes Department three months when an elderly short man of modest bulk wearing a fancy gray-stripped three-piece suit approached him. “Say, young man, I’m Claude Howell, heavy into real estate from here to Timbuktu.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Howell. I’m Pete Axon Bell.”

The gentleman offered his hand, and as they shook, he said, “Pete, please, on a first name basis call me Claude ... okay.”

“Sure, Claude ... but it’s just a given we address our customers properly.”

“Yes, I know, been shopping here since Douglas Baldwin opened his store in 1912. I know your name from Douglas … he’s an old friend of mine before he opened this establishment.”

“He’s sure made it into a prosperous business.”

“He certainly has. Look, Pete, I mentioned to Douglas I’ve been watching you since you arrived in the store, first as janitor, then here in the garment department as its manager. He was pleased to hear I’m impressed with your get-up-and-go, compassion and helping customers, knowledge you’ve learned quickly of many clothing items ... men and women, and how to address their importance, fitting, their look and sensing how people match garment with personality. It’s a special gift, I might add. He also knows I’m about to ask you something I actually asked him in 1911 when he worked like a man possessed in a hardware store, that caught my eye and spring-boarded his rise to success. And, Douglas wholeheartedly approves what I believe, that you might have a bright future in the clothes and fashion business, an opportunity I’m willing to offer you.” 

Pete smiled nervously, and shrugged, “It’s quite an offer, and surprise, Claude, worthy me to consider once I get over the shock.”

Claude chuckled, then handed Pete a card, “When you get your head together and have time, please call me at the number on this card and we’ll set a meeting to discuss what I just inferred, something to benefit both of us like it has Douglas.”

Since Pete was a young boy he fancied nice clothes he watched people of standing wear in Dallas, and lately the upper crust frequenting Baldwin’s Department Store. During their first meeting at Cordon’s Diner just down the street, Pete knew he was on the right track to future success when Claude offered to set him up with a generous loan and reasonable payback, even to send workers of his own employ to help Pete establish a small clothiers on one of Claude’s prime properties in uptown Manhattan. 

Once opened May 12, 1921, Pete Bell Clothiers rocketed to success. His loan paid off in eighteen months, Pete was escalating toward wealth, and, had become rapidly a benefactor to Claude Howell’s big hungry pockets as part of the deal.

Four years into Pete’s big-time career as a businessman, at age twenty-three he opened an additional store in New York City, then another in 1926 in San Francisco, and was planning yet another in 1930 in New Orleans. Barely six years into his enterprise and still a vivacious young man, Pete Axon Bell had become a mega-millionaire, prospering and enjoying a lavish lifestyle during the roaring twenties. The company headquartered in New York City he had created, was soon to expand internationally, Pete’s business associates along with him anxious to enlarge to France. His multi-national fashion business was destined to unlimited international market and heights. However, fate would not allow that budding prospect to happen.

First, Claude Howell died suddenly in 1928 from a heart attack. No family, no heirs, nobody he trusted within his tight financial sphere to continue his mammoth empire, he bequeathed his properties jointly to Douglas Baldwin and Pete Bell, the former to the CEO position, the latter to the President in charge of Operation Management. But before the transactions were finalized the following year to make the two on par with the worlds wealthiest, the international economic structure tumbled upon almost everybody.

THE CRASH OF 1929 - PETE AND DOUGLAS DEVASTATED

When the Stock Market crashed between October 24 and 29, 1929 that decimated the financial world amidst Pete’s final phases of the San Francisco expansion, money suddenly disappeared supporting the mainstream population. Pete’s clientele dropped like a lead sinker into a bottomless abyss. Everything under him and his close friend Douglas sudden ground to a halt, operating responsibilities no longer possible to maintain. With no safeguards set in place to prevent it, overnight Pete’s commercial empire ceased to exist as a viable income source. The domino effect had taken effect with no boundaries to halt it. 

January 1930 Pete Bell Clothiers and Baldwin’s Department Stores were dissolved, all employees cast away and many sent to the streets. The two owners’ former lavish lifestyles vanished. Now, they were supported by dwindling cash flow that could only hold out so long. Within four months the former financial wizards were rendered homeless and on the streets, surviving perilously with financial resources nose-diving. Surviving on their own in close proximity, but compassionate helping other hopeless people, swiftly, their joint monies evaporated. However, Douglas had clung to enough pocket change to say goodbye and good luck to his friend. He set out afoot for Alaska, where he planned to settle and claw out a meager living working shrimp boats. 

The decline in stock prices had driven Pete’s own corporation into bankruptcy with severe macroeconomic difficulties that included contraction of credit, and widespread business closures where his clothes were marketed. Having to fire workers, and banks failing with decline of money supply to recoup business, he was forced like thousands of other once thriving corporations hit blindside to accept complete failure. Hence, he was driven into economic depression, rendering all he had worked for to a man without a penny to his name. Pete, his associates, and workers soon on parity, were rendered homeless, and struggling, seeking shelter from harsh elements and food and drink to survive from any available quarter of handout. Mostly, they got sustenance from soup kitchens and bread lines, and ultimately sparse handouts and shelter in hobo camps where the destitute assembled to comfort each other.

At peril in dark alleyways at night sleeping under layers of cardboard and drifting the streets by day, Pete fully acknowledged every minute of every day that he had not planned properly, wouldn’t have since he had lived mostly during the roaring twenties in New York City as a lavish-spending happy-go-lucky tycoon. He had partied. He had swooned numerous gorgeous women. Perhaps he had fathered children he had no idea existed. He had owned a clothing empire growing by leaps and bounds. And he had purchased along with Claude Howell properties in upper Manhattan, San Francisco, New Orleans, even an island in the Caribbean he frequented the summers of ’26 and ’27 on Claude’s swanky yacht.

Blunt reality ... the crash had devastated Pete as it had multitudes of others in his elite world of seemingly inexhaustible wealth. The physical loss and emotional upheaval found him downtrodden on the streets virtually nameless and unidentifiable from fellow homeless, and set him into constant and confusing emotion swings and endless wandering, soon driving him to bolt from Big Apple’s proud city as Douglas had by seeking travel on train boxcars.

Polly-Ann, Polly-Ann, Polly-Ann Hanes, the name had eluded Pete for years. No wonder; he was immersed in distractions of grandeur that hadn’t included thought of that special girl back home … Greenville, Texas, 1700 miles away from where now the latest train had dropped him off in San Francisco, California.

PETE’S DISAPPOINTMENT BACK HOME

Arriving in San Francisco, California, Pete wavered to make contact with former business associates. He was too embarrassed to face people that had depended on him, the effort undoubtedly unrealistic anyway. He did learn they had disbanded quickly on their own and had vanished into the four winds or blended into local muddled society. No shoulder to lean on he drifted, and lived briefly in Oakland with fellow hobos sheltering in drainage pipe sections yet to be placed underground, deserted in random piles since construction projects lost funding and were cancelled.

The crash of ’29 and his financial losses thereafter paid heavy on Pete’s physical and emotional condition. He came to the point he didn’t care about anything, just to eat, sleep, and trudge onward to wherever fate carried him each successive day. His appearance withered. He became a shabby beleaguered man ten years older than his actual age of thirty-two in 1932. He battled dismal thoughts he was at his roads’ end and death imminent, even impulse of suicide one bleak day when he was consumed by starvation and absolute hopelessness.

But Pete rebounded and set afoot south. He worked two years in the fields of California’s San Joaquin Valley alongside migrant workers, making enough money to keep his head barely above water. The physical labor keeping him relatively fit and less hungry, nurtured instinctive willpower for him to change his course in life. 

Some money set aside, Pete returned to San Francisco, worked piecemeal jobs to meagerly survive. Many nights he lay either in a darkened concrete pipe or dark alley cold and shivering, cardboard wrapped around him to conceal any smidgen of body heat. Hauntingly he visualized his dire condition and began to covet thoughts of ultimate departure from California. The compulsion strong, he garnished courage to abandon his bleak existence and flee, was finally ready for new scenery and head south to Dixieland.

The declaration kept bouncing around in his head - ‘Nobody seems to want me, or lend me a helping hand. I’m on my way from Frisco; I’m going back to Dixieland. Though my pocket book is empty and my heart is full of pain, I’m a thousand miles away from home just waiting for a train’.

One particular day for which he had absolutely no idea, this beat up man of former grandeur stood beside the railroad tracks waiting to jump a train, a feral cat wandering up to keep him company. Smoking a cigarette the brakeman had given him, head down and lost, wearing only the clothes he owned on his back and those essentials in an old beat-up suitcase he had clung to his Uncle George had given him, Pete delved on home and his destination. He was sickened with heartache for that small cabin he was reared mostly by a drunken sot, eager to leave behind constant wandering from one ill-fated town to another, first across the country and then recently, California.

Yes, the day had arrived for Pete to flee the Bay Area. It was a day storm clouds hovered overhead and found him near the railroad track after sleeping in the rain over a thousand miles from his home in Greenville, waiting around the water tank eager to jump a southbound train. He would begin his journey back to his roots - Dixieland, there to tolerate Uncle George his last resort for refuge. He clung to hope that maybe, just maybe he would rekindle his friendship with beautiful Polly-Ann Hanes, if she had forsaken Niles Steinhart and would have him back. 

The brakeman roving the tracks and holding a signal lantern whistled, signaling him out of pity to catch his attention. He approached Pete a second time for he finally recognized Pete Bell the former New York clothes tycoon and instinctively knew he was down and out and wanted to reach his destination where maybe he would put his despondent life back together.

“Look, Mr. Bell, if you got money I’ll see that you don’t walk to wherever you are headed.”

“Mr. Brakeman, I haven’t got a nickel, not a penny can I shill.”

The brakeman in recognition sadly nodded. He looked around making sure nobody was watching. Then he a hefty man, crouched, interwove his hands and fingers together as a step and helped hoist Pete into the boxcar open door space, mumbling, “Get off, get off you railroad bum,” then he slammed the boxcar door, lastly saying aloud as he stepped back, “Good luck to you down Texas way, Pete Bell.”

After days and many stops on April 9, 1934, the train put Pete off around midnight in Texas, a state he dearly loved, the wide-open spaces all around him, the moon and stars up above.

Arriving home Pete found Polly-Ann, but she wasn’t his Polly-Ann Hanes anymore, she had become Polly-Ann Steinhart. Married to Niles, she was now with child, in addition, he noticed two youngsters playing about the Hanes’ yard where at the outskirts he stood and dared not venture into. Dejected, he drifted down the dirt road to discover Uncle George had abandoned the old farm place, the property grown over with weed and buildings crumpling from years of neglect. No one to tell him where the old man had gone, he walked back to the train station with no destination in mind, seeking nothing further in life to sustain him, his dreams of late shattered, heartache still piling on and haunting him.

Unchallenged by a brakeman, Pete climbed wearily into a boxcar with no sense the train’s destination. He rolled over onto his backside and wept the first time in many a year. 

‘I believe we’re headed to Florida’, commented a black hobo who climbed aboard to join him minutes later. 

Tranquil Jones, now sharing the boxcar with Pete proved lively uplifting companionship, especially that he was a gifted harmonica player. Listening to old-time ballads Tranquil played and becoming increasingly heartened, Pete envisioned that perhaps Florida would bring some form of success and happiness and he would no longer await trains, in addition, put his former life behind him.

“I understand why your mama named you Tranquil. A pleasure listening to those sweet melodies,” Pete said between songs and prior to falling into a sleep he hadn’t experienced in months. In darkness of night that crucial day in his life on the plank boxcar floor Pete found peaceful bliss amidst sweet music and rhythm of steel wheels on tracks.

PETE BATTLES BACK, A HOBO FRIEND BESIDE HIM

Tranquil Jones had been a spark plug to energize Pete. Working in Tampa under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiated to make America recover the Great Depression, Pete with Tranquil at his side set most every earned penny aside for necessities to survive. Gradually, he acquired a foothold on his finances. He hired on with a commercial trucking company benefiting from government support, Tranquil helping and never leaving his side.

After putting extra money aside apart from necessities, Pete was approached with a novel idea by his former hobo buddy, “Hey Pete, did ya ever think about truckin’ independently.” 

Pete mulled a while but ultimately took Tranquil’s advise and quit the job to venture on his own, purchasing a panel truck, and alongside Tranquil who helped shift driving and load and unload, transported goods three years up and down the east coast for a company he named Bell-Jones Carriers. With revenue accrued, he and Tranquil his established partner, especially his moral and physical support, expanded in 1939 buying three additional trucks.After six years in the mid-1940’s Pete and Tranquil had a small fleet of semi tractor-trailers with hired drivers. Pete, his buddy Tranquil fully invested with him, had prospered with a booming business, ultimately the pair and Bell-Jones Carriers became one of the most prolific transporters of goods in the 1950s with routes servicing clients coast to coast.

Pete at age forty found his true love in his secretary Alicia Grayson, she thirty-five when they married. The couple had three children in five years and lived outside Ocala, Florida, where in 1956 Pete and Tranquil also newly married bought a horse farm to raise and breed thoroughbreds, several showing promise in the forthcoming horse racing circuit.

Though recent times had been hard for both Pete and Tranquil, their experiences were remembered as a learning process. Leisure talk about the irony of unlimited wealth, then the fall and riding train boxcars, then transporting goods, then raising fleet-footed thoroughbred stallions and mares, always prompted laughter between Pete, Alicia, and Tranquil his devoted business partner. “What a life”, Pete Axon Bell muttered often publicly and in private, appreciative he lived in America where everybody with resilience and get-up-and-go to overcome misfortune had a chance to make the big times, no matter he was once a down and out hobo, the same spoken for his cherished colleague, Tranquil Jones.

 

THE END


© Copyright 2020 Virgil Dube. All rights reserved.

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