Saturday, June 26, 2010
Buster Brown Gets Busted
So, get this. Grandpa and Uncle Forest were driving their truck through a small town in Indiana when some sort of incident stopped traffic. They were sitting in a railroad crossing, waiting for the problem to be resolved, when they heard a train in the distance.
Uncle Forest (not known to be a tactful sort) jumped out and screamed at the driver of the truck behind him to back up. The driver, who must not have heard the train coming, took exception to Forest's language or his tone or his attitude. He backed up, but only a few feet. Forest backed the truck as far as he could, trying to maneuver around the other truck. When the other driver recognized what was happening, he leaped from his truck and ran for cover.
Forest was still trying to get his truck off the tracks when the train hit them. Grandpa, snoozing in the sleeper, was oblivious to the situation until the train hit the cab. After that, he was oblivious to everything for a while. Family legend has it that Grandpa's habit of sleeping with one pillow beneath his head and another over his face was the only thing that saved him. I have trouble seeing how a pillow protected him from a 150-ton locomotive, but maybe that's just me.
Anyway, Grandpa sustained a concussion and an impressive assortment of bumps and bruises. Shorty, Forest and Grandpa's guard, was not seriously injured. Forest was trapped in the burning truck. Good Samaritans finally managed to free him, but his body was broken and badly burned. After a week or so in a local hospital, he was transferred to a larger hospital in Indianapolis, where doctors amputated his leg to save him from the gangrene that set in.
Here's what I want you to picture: Grandpa and Forest were carrying a load of Buster Brown shoes. The train dragged the truck nearly three-quarters of a mile before it got stopped. The impact ripped the canvas cover off the back of the truck and scattered shoes for almost a mile. As darkness gathered, townspeople scuttled over the tracks and through the ditches, trying on shoes.
That just knocks me over. There, in middle America during the heart of the Depression, some of those people probably hadn't had new shoes for years. A shower of Buster Browns must have seemed like manna raining down from Heaven.
Can you see it? A crumpled truck. A derailed train. Flashlights dancing on the ground like fireflies as people searched for matching shoes amid the smoking wreckage.
Damn. Somebody ought to write a book.
photo: Jeremy Brooks on Flickr