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Riding on The Rock Island Rocket

By John I. Blair

In 1948 my mother took me on the train
To visit my aunt Madge in Oklahoma.
I'd been on trains before . . .
One endless night I'd ridden
The Frisco mail from Wichita to Joplin
And toddled to my grandpa's arms
In the Missouri moonlight.

But this morning we climbed aboard
The legendary Rocket, gleaming in the sun,
Premier streamliner of the southern plains,
Its sleek cars and rumbling engine
Marshaled on the Union Station track,
Waiting for me to brave the steps
And sink into a soft, luxurious seat
Beside a glossy picture window.

We started out so gently
I didn't know we were in motion
Until I saw the platform sliding past,
Then city streets, then open countryside
Dotted with white-faced cows,
Green wheat fields, drilling rigs,

And nothing now just sliding;
Everything flying fast
At seventy miles an hour or more!
We paced the cars on highway 81
And it seemed like they were crawling,
Not racing like the Rocket we were on,
Rushing toward the hope-filled
Second half of the century,
New as tomorrow, modern
When modern was the way to be.

When finally we pulled into the Enid depot
And I stepped proudly from the train;
Somehow I had grown up just a bit
From where I was when I started
On that trip to Oklahoma;
And today, though few recall the Rocket,
And Rock Island's merged with Burlington,
Some memories don't dim;
And "Rock Island" and the "Rocket"
Still hang together in my mind
Like NASA and Cape Kennedy for my son.

(c)2003 John I. Blair


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