Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Wire was snugly fastened to stakes along the sidewalks surrounding the little brown house and the pathways through a colorful flower garden of snapdragons, sweet peas, roses and gladiolas. An old man wearing tan pants, a flannel shirt, and darkened glasses carefully followed the wire with one hand and used a cane which he tapped in front of himself. He slowly made his way to a seat amidst the flowers, shaded by several peach trees.

It was a warm day in early summer, and we had traveled to Birmingham from the farm in Grandpaís old green Chevy to visit Grandmaís sister on her 70th birthday. Gabriella Gertrude Ratcliff was born in a log cabin south of Leando on June 7, 1874. On August 31, 1892 she had married Adam Rail. Aunt "Gay" and Uncle "Ad" lived in Birmingham. People said that Ad Rail had gone blind, yet the old man amazed me because he had learned to use his other senses to "see."

On his invitation, I had accompanied him outside. "See those butterflies over there?" he asked as he pointed in the direction of some flowers. "See the large Monarch Butterfly? Itís the one with the orange and black markings," he added. Among a myriad of yellow, white and red butterflies was in fact a huge monarch butterfly! I looked at him, then watched his favorite creature in amazement as he told me what it was doing, as though he actually had vision.

"Trainís cominí!" he said suddenly and looked up, pointing southward. I saw nothing, so I said, "How do you know?" "I can feel the ground shaking," he answered. "It will pass right by us," he added. "but youíll be safe here with me!"

Sure enough! Within a few moments a steam engine came huffing and puffing into Birmingham, spitting steam as it made its way right toward us! The tracks went at an angle through the yard not far from where the old man was sitting, and passed within a few feet of the house. As the contraption followed the tracks, it first crossed the highway, then turned as if it were attacking us, spitting steam from both sides.

Excitement gripped me as the roaring and hissing grew louder and louder, a light on the front of the engine grew larger and brighter, and bells clanged. As it entered the yard there was a sudden, deafening whistle. Frightened out of my wits, I split for the house as fast as my tiny legs could carry me, thrust open the screen door, and dove under a wooden straight chair!

Dishes rattled in the cupboard and the house shook as if there was an earthquake while the little train passed by. As the horrible sound subsided, I realized that I could hear my heart pounding, and the room rang with laughter. People were still laughing in amusement when the old man tottered in. "Scared the little fellow, didnít it?" And everyone (except me) laughed again.

I never saw a blind person after that but what I didnít think of Ad Rail in his flower garden "seeing" his butterflies and train without the convenience of eyesight.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick