May 12, 2012 6:05:07 PM
As a child, I was terrified of trains. I cried if our car stopped near a train track or crossing. Many songs have been written about the romantic sound of a distant whistle. I cannot relate to lyrics about the allure of a train whistle's screech. That sound pierces chills and panic into my body. To me, it is the soundtrack of horror movies.
My mother said this was because, when I was a baby, I was frightened by a small train in a street parade in Brownsville, Texas. Evidently, just as it was passing in front of us, the train's driver blew the shrill signal, and I cried inconsolably.
She also said that I saw Dwight Eisenhower in the same parade. I do not remember either one.
From our Southside home we hear the trains as they circle around Columbus. They blow those whistles nine times, as they travel from East to West, eventually heading toward Starkville and points beyond.
But the trains do not stop in Columbus. Perhaps that is a good thing. They would just be another way to leave town.
Recently it seems that every conversation I have involves someone telling me they are planning to go somewhere else, somewhere that offers more opportunity, a place where they are appreciated.
My friends, Bryan Roberts and Leslie Crunkilton, are talking about moving to Austin, Texas. He is a musician, and she is an art student at The W. Austin, of course, is a Mecca for musicians. They can earn a good living there without a "day job".
I ran into photographer Tom Brown as he was buying food and a flea collar for a kitten who adopted him.
"Do you know who might give a home to a sweet cat?" he asked me. "I am thinking of moving out west. I am becoming attached to the little cat, but can't really take him. Since my photos sell very well at art galleries in other cities, I will probably move on."
"Tom," I thought, "when you start buying cat food and flea collars, you are already hooked." But I didn't say it.
In the last few months we have lost Adrian and Amy Bohannon to the greener pastures of Norfolk, Va.
We were all disappointed when W ceramic professor Al Holen moved away. She was an amazing potter, turning lumps of clay into sculptures. Her work consisted of pieces that were both utilitarian, and fanciful objects that looked like a collaboration between Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton. You may remember her as the driving force behind the "Empty Bowls" project, in which hundreds of bowls created by her, her students, and members of the community raised money to feed the hungry. Now, she is gone.
There is a pattern to these exits. Every one of these people is talented, creative, educated. They are exactly the sort we should be fighting to keep in this area. With such a brain drain is there any hope that The Golden Triangle will attract artists, creative people, and intelligentsia of all sorts, those who add to the richness of life?
These days I don't cry when I hear a train's whistle. But that sound still makes me very sad, knowing trains are a symbol of moving away.
Next week: a small light at the end of the tunnel.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at [email protected]
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.