Memories of Old

Memories of Old 103

By Roger Heid


On this fine Sunday afternoon, I went to the Matinee Movie Show at 3pm. This certainly was not the first, nor the last time; this you can be sure of. On that day, a war flick was featured. At the tender age of 13-14, I understood little of the realities and morals of warfare. All I knew was that adults at large occasionally engage in such a stupid activity. Somehow or other, us kids took this for granted.

On my way home, a collage of ideas started to condense in my head. There should be a possibility to conduct some sort of warfare on my railroad system. Why not? However, this would require some hardcore tactical and strategic planning. I definitely had to increase my repertoire of ideas.

This could take some time. I need to mention that, in the meantime, my railroad had been moved into my room. An aunt had sent me more tracks. The newly gained vast distances would no longer fit into the living room without causing some traffic problems. After completely rearranging the furniture, a new track layout was in place. It presented me with a whole new dimension of railroading.

For a starter, I needed to assess the status of my general logistics and ordinance. Most likely, I would also need to establish at least one more cardboard box in order to organize all this equipment.

For a starter, I had an inexpensive air pistol that would serve nicely as artillery. But there I ran into a nagging problem. Just exactly what would I shoot at? Who or what was the enemy? Shooting at my precious train was totally out of the question. After some creative thinking, it came to me that my main strategic goal was to prevent the attacker from obliterating my railroad system. This meant I had to generate enemy hardware, subject to total destruction.



From a cardboard box labeled ‘Old Stuff’ I recovered an old windup toy, a tank with a broken spring and a bent cannon barrel which was quickly straightened out. There was also an old tinplate toy truck with a wheel missing. Perfect! A couple of old mothballs I dismissed and finally tossed them. Somehow I had known that this old junk would come in handy some day, after all. I also found an old farmhouse building stemming from an earlier game I used to play.

Never mind that one! This old and damaged structure would serve as an enemy encampment of sorts. A complex battle plan started to take shape on my strategic battle map.


I also located a few small expendable items I could place on my low side gondolas. This way I could shoot at the train from the other side of the layout, namely from the enemy side, thus faking that my train got hit, which would then call for retaliation. Splendid! I pinned sergeant stripes, a gift from a GI, on my shirt sleeves. I was convinced I had earned a promotion. My Mom’s facial expression, when she saw my new stripes, was beyond any description.

Now I had to do something about special effects, like noise and smoke using pyrotechnical items. This would prove to be more difficult as I definitely needed to keep my Mom from going into an uproar. This would only open up another front which I certainly had no chance to defeat.

The only metal box I had was labeled ‘Rare Items and Sacred Cows’. There I found a sufficient number of lady crackers left over from an earlier outdoors event, conducted by a bunch of neighborhood kids, from which I had emerged victoriously by virtue of superior firepower. Aha! The strong odor of burnt cordite could be eliminated by opening the window plus burning some incense. My Mom always kept plenty of that around, for some reason. Outstanding! She would think nothing of smelling incense in my room.


In my nightstand drawer I stored some of my rare possessions. They included a few expended .30 cal US Carbine cartridge casings, a gift from a GI, some years back. One of those was quickly mounted on a piece of lead I had. A simple rubber band did the trick. I stuck a lady cracker into it, a length of the fuse sticking out of the muzzle end of my cannon. Superb it was, indeed!


After a few minutes of covert reconnaissance, I proceeded to establish various enemy positions. An old ironing board and box full of old magazines were strategically placed to serve as backstops for the air pistol pellets to prevent damage to the general ecology, namely wall paper and furniture and such. I need to inform you that I was trained in gun safety by some DNR guy, immediately after I was given this air pistol, the year before. Anyway, now I was ready to wage war.

I donned my steel pot, a gift from a GI, and assumed my battle stations, switching sides as it became necessary. After the first few freight loads became destroyed, I commenced a counter attack. I must say, this war really started to come along very well, beyond my initial expectations. After just a few skirmishes, there were a lot of holes in the enemy garrison building and a number of dents in the tank and truck which, as a result of enemy action, lost another wheel. It became apparent that eventually I would win this war. Only occasionally did one of my car loads get blown up, only to trigger an increased barrage of my own.

While the enemy was busy blowing my car freight to kingdom come, an unfortunate tactical blunder occurred. While redirecting the artillery, my cat jumped on my back, hereby misdirecting the aim. Never in my life had I expected my beloved cat to contribute to the war effort, on the wrong side. His action resulted in a visible dent on one side of my box car. This was done by partisan activity, of course. As the war raged on, I had no choice but to deal with this later.

Running out of cannon ammo initiated a temporary cease fire. The war would have to be postponed until further notice. It would not be very easy to procure another supply of ordinance. This complicated task would have to be delegated to the Diplomatic Corps, in due time.

During the next mutual railroad session, my Mom suddenly commanded I stop the train. She lifted my box car off the track. After a brief inspection, an ominous look took hold of her face. My very heart sank way below the deepest spot in the ocean. I knew she had seen dents like this before and was fully aware of their nature and origin. I had been subjected to related lectures a few times, you know.

Before storming out of the room, she loudly announced that, if I ever did that again, she would confiscate my air pistol and would never ever buy me anything for my railroad.

For some time, I sat in my room, silently. I was dazed, but certainly not confused. The message was quite clear. I called in a session of the International War Council. They assembled in my passenger coach, parked near Versailles. I had just learned about this, in school.  After only a brief dissertation, the conditions of a lasting International Peace Treaty were arrived at and instantly ratified. I also made peace with my cat. He thanked me with a loud purr and a cooing meow.

I was very happy and content with my philosophy. I just wished this philosophy would be universally applied, by all peoples.

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