Monkey Business on a Train

Monkey Business on a Train

By Roger Heid


It was on a warm summer afternoon, sometime in the mid-1950s. I was on my way home from school, riding in my favorite Thunder Box car. There was absolutely nothing unusual about this. I was lucky to get my favorite seat. Opposite me sat a lady who looked somewhat familiar. I knew I had seen her before. On the seat next to her was some bulky item, some kind of small blanket draped over it. At first, I thought nothing of it. People carry all kinds of items on trains. A few minutes later, I heard some indefinable sounds coming from under the blanket.

A closer look at this contraption made me think it was a cage with an animal in it. Then it hit me. Now I remembered where I had seen this lady before. She was a biology teacher at the girls’ High School, on the other side of town. Sometimes she filled in at our school, whenever the need arose. I knew she lived in a rustic setting near a small town close by. However, I had never seen her ride the train. I concluded she must have a car, currently out of service, for some reason.

I could not help myself to ask what was in the cage.

“Madam, is that some bird you got in the cage?” I asked politely.

“No, it’s not a bird. It is Bobo, my capuchin monkey. I had to take him to the vet today, but my car is out of commission for a few days; so I had to take the train.”

“Can I see him, please?”

“Uh, I will briefly lift up the blanket so you can take a quick look. You see, he can be very skitterish with too many people around. He is not used to that. He can also be very playful and nosy, and he is quick and agile. He can also become angry if things don’t go his way.”

She lifted a portion of the blanket and I took a quick peek. Uh oh! That’s when the trouble started.


Well, it did not start until I noticed that the blanket was bulging out, away from the cage. A moment later, Bobo was sitting on my lap. He looked at me just as if we had known each other for a life time. I swear he grinned at me. A very long arm reached up and his small soft hands squeezed my nose, and then pulled my ear. The chittering noise he made sounded like a good laugh.

My sunglasses were in my shirt pocket, until now. He tried them on. But they proved to be too big for his small head; so he simply handed them to the lady, his mom. Then he sat perched on top of my head, re-styling my hairdo. All this took place in no time flat. I cannot type it fast enough, nor can you read it fast enough, you dig?

“Please, close all the windows, now, please”, the lady yelled. The people complied as fast as they could.

Now the conductor came through, asking to see the tickets. When he spotted Bobo, he sternly asked:

“What is this animal doing in here?”

Bobo’s facial expression spoke for itself.

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The conductor’s hat wound up in his mom’s lap. Some man’s straw hat wound up on the conductor’s head. Some girl’s small purse wound up in my shirt pocket. A package of something was transferred from the luggage rack to a spot below a seat on the opposite end of the car. A man’s lit cigarette found a new place in some lady’s open hand bag. Another small piece of luggage wound up in the lap of some man whose hat immediately was handed to a small child. All this took place within a few milliseconds, I swear. The child’s toy he kept, curiously ogling at it, obviously trying to figure out what its purpose was and what could possibly be done with it.

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He finally decided to return this seemingly useless item to its rightful owner. He gingerly placed into the child’s lap who promptly returned it to him, or shall we say tried to return it to Bobo. He chittered and leaped to the opposite end of the car, bounced off the floor and then dangled from the emergency brake pull handle. Fortunately, he did not weigh enough to activate the emergency brake.

“Does anyone have a banana or an apple?” the lady asked. “If you do, please, bring it to me. I cannot get up and get it. If I do, he may get upset. Then we are really in trouble.”

Some young girl delivered a banana. Just in a flash of a moment later, Bobo was back in his cage, unable to resist the unexpected delicacy. The lady now firmly secured the cage door latch.

This was one of those train rides I will never forget.

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