Weatherford Democrat

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February 22, 2013

NOTES FROM THE JOURNEY: Sidetracked for love’s sake

By JOHN PAUL CARTER

One afternoon last winter I boarded an Amtrak train in Fort Worth to visit my friends, Bill and Molly, in Austin. Although I’ve always loved trains, it was my first ride on Amtrak. I was transfixed by the trackside scenery and the swaying of the coach.

A little after dark as we entered Austin along the tracks that divide the Mopac expressway, the train slowed to a stop. We were informed that we had to wait for the freight trains up ahead to clear the mainline before we could travel the remaining five miles to the station. Sidetracked, we were over an hour late. 

I learned about sidetracks during World War II on my very first train ride. Late one night my mother and I boarded an ancient passenger coach that was coupled to the rear of a slow freight headed from Beaumont to Dallas. Exhausted and smelling of smoke, we arrived at Union Station late the next afternoon, after having waited on every siding in East Texas while the speeding troop trains thundered by. What an adventure for a 6-year-old boy whose hero was Casey Jones!

But even when I’m not on a train, I manage to get sidetracked. It’s as frustrating to my wife as it was to my mother and teachers. All have asked, “Why can’t you stay on track?”

Whether it’s “being easily diverted” or “attention deficit,” I can’t deny my tendency to occasionally “chase rabbits.” I start to do one thing and, in the process, something else catches my eye. However, if you ask me, I usually can come up with a good reason for my diversion.

Of course, sometimes it’s just for fun. As I sit before my computer writing this piece, there’s the temptation to open another window and play “just one game” of Spider Solitaire. With a deadline looming, that kind of diversion is dangerous!

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