Illinois Central #402 5/8/2018

Illinois Central, Monday morning rail. There are fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors, and twenty-five sacks of mail.
The City of New Orleans   1972    Arlo Guthrie

Welcome to Drivel Over Coffee. The Drivel rambles through this thing called life, stopping here and there for reflection, an enlightenment, some storytelling, and a touch of humor perhaps. All the while my brain reverberates with the best music in the world – The ‘60’s and early 70’s. Yep – Lost in The Sixties.

Good morning earthlings. How are ya? Had a wonderful weekend here in eastern Iowa and boy did people take advantage of it. Everywhere I looked people were outside doing this and that. I however was not outside so much. Trapped, for the most part, behind a computer trying to catch up on all of million pieces of minutia that seem to get dumped in my lamp plus trying to cope with the total lack of energy and ambition.

Like a Roman gladiator, Charles (not his real name), came to my rescue on Saturday, snatched me up in his Toyota Tacoma and abducted me to the Quad Cities. I was forced to attend of all things a Train show. Can you believe it? Little trains, HO, N, O gauges. Not the full sizes. Here we are in this HUGE exhibition hall at the Scott County Fair Grounds, packed with tables and vendors. Charles allows that it would be best if we divide to conquer seeing everything. Off I go one way, Charles the other, not to be seen until the designated hour.

Armed with my trusty walking sticking, I begin shuffling from table to table looking at each offering closely. I listen to the banter going on all around me also it become apparent quickly, that most of the customers and vendors seem to know each other. So, they are really just telling one tale after another, in fact, the customer told the vendor that not long ago he heard an engineer calls the dispatcher and asks him for the time. The dispatcher responds by asking him what road he works for… The engineer is a little upset and snaps “What difference does that make?” “Well”, the dispatcher drawls, “if you work for the BN it’s 2 pm; if you work for the UP it is 1400; if you work for the NFS the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 2; and if you work for Amtrak it’s Tuesday!”

There were customers of all sizes and shapes; dads with their boys getting valuable life lessons and bonding. Adults accompanying Grandpa one last time. Then there were a slew of the middle age decrepit looking to build their rolling stock empire. The hosts of the event had conveniently placed 6 round tables with chairs next to the concessions for people to eat, drink and rest. Bathrooms were near at hand also. I mention this only because the tables became an issue later.

My particular interest is not so much in trains but in farming scenes from my childhood based on the 1/64 scale buildings and equipment available. With as much of it workable as possible. In train lingo that would be “S” scale. Train drives don’t do much with “S” gauge. Most popular is “HO” gauge which is somewhat smaller. I shuffled through the first half of the building dripping in sweat as it was very warm in this place. I rested a moment, looked over the scene and realized the virtually every vendor was selling exactly the same HO rolling stock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I headed for concessions for a water to rehydrate. I found a chair at one of the tables, sat, drank, and rest what was now my weary bones. Here I began studying the people sitting at the tables. People in groups of 2 or 3 chatting and so forth. People sitting next to me were discussing a man who had spent his whole life in the desert visited a friend. He’d never seen a train or the tracks they run on. While standing in the middle of the RR tracks, he heard a whistle, but didn’t know what it was. Predictably, he’s hit and is thrown to the side of the tracks, with some minor internal injuries, a few broken bones, and some bruises.

After weeks in the hospital recovering, he was at his friend’s house attending a party. While in the kitchen, he suddenly hears the tea kettle whistling. He grabs a baseball bat from the nearby closet and proceeds to batter and bash the tea kettle into an unrecognizable lump of metal. His friend, hearing the ruckus, rushes into the kitchen, sees what’s happened and asks the desert man, “Why’d you ruin my good tea kettle?” The desert man replies, “Man, you gotta kill these things when they’re small.” I got a good chuckle from that story. Ten minutes later I am up off to see the other half show.
I meet Charles at the designated hour at the Concessions. Our intent was to have our lunch there before heading out. Every seat was taken. I told Charles that many of those people were still there from my previous rest break an hour ago. They have been camping there virtually all morning. We took our lunch money elsewhere. Charles rewarded my patience at the train emporium with a long anticipate visit to Meatheads Meat Market in Milan, Il.

Meatheads is not fancy. No not by any means. It has one claim to fame as far as I know, it is the only place I know where I can get Alligator Brats. Yes, that’s right – Alligator. That is just one of the 70 types of brats they feature in their store. They make other smoked meats as well. It appears to be a very popular place because locals were streaming in a steady stream. Charles has seen how I shop for food items in the past especially cheese. I kind of go on a frenzy so he knows that he needs to just stand back and not get in my way. Same applied here. He took me to the center of the room after I assured him I needed a cart. He pointed out the fresh brats, frozen etc. Off I go, my list, which consisted of orders from the girls and others, and my current wife and myself amounted to 12 different varieties of brats. We checkout and head for home, a successful day for both. I had not been there for about 5 years. I think it is time to move on to another favorite place – Walmart.


Another tale from the book of tales of Walmartians. Yesterday, I wore my Vietnam Veteran cap to Wal-Mart. There was nothing in particular that I needed at the world’s largest retailer; but, since I retired, trips to “Wally World” to look at the Walmartians is always good for some comic relief. Besides, I always feel pretty normal after seeing some of the people that frequent the establishment. But, I digress, enough of my psychological fixations.

While standing in line to check out, the guy in front of me, probably in his early thirties, asked, “Are you a Viet Nam Vet?” “No,” I replied. “Then why are you wearing that cap?” “Because I couldn’t find the one from the War of 1812.” I thought it was a snappy retort. “The War of 1812, huh?” the Walmartian queried, “When was that?” God forgive me, but I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. “1946”, I answered, as straight-faced as possible. He pondered my response for a moment and responded, “Why do they call it the War of 1812 if it was in 1946?” “It was a Black Op. No one is supposed to know about it.” This was beginning to become fun! “Dude! Really?” He exclaimed. “How did you get to do something that COOOOL?” I glanced furtively around me for effect, leaned toward the guy and in a low voice said, “I’m not sure. I was the only Caucasian on the mission.”
“Dude,” he was really getting excited about what he was hearing, “that is seriously awesome! But, didn’t you kind of stand out?” “Not really. The other guys were wearing white camouflage.” The moron nodded knowingly. “Listen man,” I said in a very serious tone, “You can’t tell anyone about this. It’s still ‘top secret’ and I shouldn’t have said anything.” “Oh yeah?” he gave me the ‘don’t threaten me look.’ “Like, what’s gonna happen if I do?” With a really hard look I said, “You have a family don’t you? We wouldn’t want anything to happen to them, would we?” The guy gulped, left his basket where it was and fled through the door. The lady behind me started laughing so hard I thought she was about to have a heart attack. I just grinned at her.

After checking out and going to the parking lot, I saw dimwit leaning in a car window talking to a young woman. Upon catching sight of me he started pointing excitedly in my direction. Giving him another ‘deadly’ serious look, I made the ‘I see you’ gesture. He turned kind of pale, jumped in the car and sped out of the parking lot. What a great time! Tomorrow I’m going back, wearing my Homeland Security cap. Then the next day I will go to the driver’s license bureau wearing my Border Patrol hat and see how long it takes to empty the place. Whoever said retirement is boring? You just need to wear the right kind of cap!
See you guys at Walmart!!

Boeing 777

Let’s soar in the sky a bit now, what do you say? A Boeing 777 wide-body jetliner was lumbering along at 800km/hour at 33,000 feet when a cocky F-17 fighter jet flashed by at Mach 2. The F17 pilot decided to show off. On his state of the art radio (that is part of his state of the art 3D & million-dollar headset), the F17 youngster told the 777 pilot, “Hey Captain, watch this!”

He promptly went into a barrel roll, followed by a steep, unimaginable vertical climb. He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier, as the F17 screamed down at impossible G’s before levelling off at almost sea level.

The F-17 pilot asked the 777-pilot what he thought of that? The 777-pilot said, “That was truly impressive, but watch this!” The 777 chugged along for about 5 minutes at the steady 800km/hour, and then the 777-pilot came back on and said, “What did you think of that?” Puzzled, the cocky F-17 pilot asked, “So WHAT did you do?” The 777-pilot chuckled and said, “I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, went to the can to take a whiz, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll and secured a date for the next 3 nights in a five-star hotel with the lead flight attendant paid for by the company !!”

When you are young and foolish, speed and flash may seem like a good thing!
When you get older and smarter, comfort and dullness is not such a bad thing!
It’s called S.O.S. (Slower, Older and Smarter!)

As we go along our way, I wish you only the best. To those of you who only know me a little be aware that I have been diagnosed with many ailments amongst them is C.R.S. (Can’t Remember Shit).

…….. Well my friends, there you have it as told by yours truly to you’all. Thanks for allowing me back into your day, if only for a brief time. It is always an honor. If I can make at least one-person smile, laugh till they leak, or maybe spit out a drink, my day was not wasted. Until we meet again -TA!”

Drivel Over Coffee is available on the internet at or if you prefer to receive it via email, send an email to