Chapter 28

This entry is part 29 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Twenty-Eight — The Train Ride

We hurried back to our camping ground by the railroad tracks. I took off my bloody clothes, had a shower and felt better. The cut under my chin had quit bleeding, and I leaned back on the bunk. Chuck came over and looked at it.

“You’d better have that sewed up,” he said.

“I wouldn’t trust any doctor around here, not after what happened down the street. You’ll have to be the doctor.” He boiled some water and cleaned the cut, pulled the skin together the best he could and put some gauze and tape on it.

“You’re going to carry a scar there for the rest of your life,” he informed me, “and every time you shave you’ll remember this day.”

That clumsy guy had put enough gauze and tape on my lower jaw to bandage an entire broken arm. Trying to assume a professional manner he surveyed his work with great dignity and admiration, then said, “You’ll have to be quiet now, and I’m sure you’ll be all right.”

The following day we drove up to the filling station and inquired about the roads.

“The rain has caused many landslides. It will be many days before the roads are cleared,” the fellow said.

We sure wanted to get out of this town. “Isn’t there any other way?” I asked. “How about the railroad. Can’t we ship the Palace by rail?”

“I do not know,” he said, but I can find out for you.”

We drove him down to the depot. A fellow came out with a yardstick, measured the truck very carefully and nodded.

“We can haul you as far as Tapachula. That is as far as we go,” he said.

That would be almost to the border of Guatemala. We paid him fifty dollars in American money for our railroad tickets. There was also another charge. One hundred pesos for loading and unloading the truck. We must pay that here, so I gave him the one hundred pesos.

The guy from the station said, “Park your camper by the loading ramp. They will load you at six o’clock in the morning.” That was fine. Tomorrow we would be on our way. I had a feeling that we weren’t too popular in this locality and it made me nervous.

At six o’clock the next morning a switch engine brought in a flat car. The Palace was loaded on and tied down. We stayed with it. The engine pulled us down the track a bit and went on switching. We were told that the train would hook onto us about ten o’clock. We looked around and found ourselves on that flat car beside a dead cow that had probably been hit by a train and left for the buzzards to feast on. At ten o’clock right on schedule, the train came whistling by, but it kept right on going in spite of our shouting and frantic waving.

For three days we were stalled with the Palace on that flat car. We had nothing to do but watch the buzzards pull that dead cow to pieces! It was gruesome.

Chuck said, “I’ll bet that stake-holder works for the railroad.”

Maybe he was right, but we will never know.

On the afternoon of the third day a young fellow came walking down the track. As he approached he called, “Hello you guys! Who are you. Where are you going. Where do you come from?”

An American!

“Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?” I asked as we shook hands.

“I’m Frank Weaver from Seattle, Washington,” he said, “and I’m representing the World’s Fair in Seattle. It’s my job to call on the Central American countries to try to get them to put up a display.”

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“Sure,” and he rattled off a flow of words for us. We invited him into the Palace.

I asked him how long he had been here and he told us he had come in on the last bus. That was about a week ago.

“Now, I can’t get out,” he said, “I’ve been staying up at the hotel and getting so sick of the food I can hardly eat it. In fact, for the last two days, I’ve eaten nothing but bananas. That stew,” he took a deep breath, “sure smells good.”

Chuck dished him up a big bowl of it. When he had finished it, he assured us it was the finest stew he had ever eaten. Chuck was all smiles.

“We’re going to Managua, Nicaragua,” I told him, “and you might as well go with us. We have an extra bed, plenty to eat, and it will cost you nothing. Besides that, you speak the language and you’d be a great help to us.”

“The pleasure will be all mine. When do we start?”

“Your first job is to go up to that depot, raise some hell, and get us out of here!”

Frank left and was soon back with his suitcases.

“We’ll leave in the morning at ten o’clock.” He wore a puzzled look. “They told me they forgot to tell the train crew to pick you up. That’s damned peculiar.”

“Probably the depot agent was a relative of the stake-holder,” I thought.

The Palace swayed and bounced as we clanked along on the narrow-gauge railroad. The coal-burner puffed and snorted, and the engineer kept blowing the whistle like hell. We went over covered bridges with roofs so low I thought the top of the Palace would be torn off. It seemed to clear only by inches. Every time we saw a low bridge ahead we held our breath. Chuck let part of the air out of the tires to lower the body. It was a nerve-shattering ride.

We finally arrived in Tapachula. Before they would unload us, the agent said we must pay one hundred pesos for loading and unloading.

“I paid that on the other end!” I exclaimed.

“No,” the agent said. “You pay on this end. If you paid on other end, they have robbed you.”

I agreed with him there all right. So, I paid the hundred pesos once more. These people get you going and coming.

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