Busted Axle Road
Chapter 71

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

With two-a-days now under way, it was getting harder for Josh to fit work in around football practice. The practices where held in the mornings and evenings, to get around the peak of the August heat. Even so, it could get awfully uncomfortable in the mornings.

When Coach Hekkinan finally called, "Showers!" Josh was glad to have the practice over with. He hurried to the shower; he was going to have to hustle to make it over to the C&SL office on time. He knew that Bruce was bringing a load down from Pit, and Bud had promised to wait for him to take it on to Camden. Still, if Josh were late, it would cut into the time available for maintaining the diesels scheduled for after their return.

Even so, the shower felt cool and refreshing this morning. Out of the shower, Josh got dressed next to Danny, but for some reason, there wasn't much to say. As Josh pulled his shoes on, he said to Danny, "You got a run today?"

"Night run, after practice, with Diane," Danny said. "Going to go home and try to get some sleep. See you later."

Josh finished up dressing, and walked out to the Chevette. What with practice, and work, he had only seen Amy a couple of times this week, although one of the dates was pretty good. He'd managed to arrange a cab ride for Amy up to Warsaw and back, when he'd made a run up there with his dad. Amy had seemed to like riding in the engine, but she'd said it was awfully noisy. Afterwards, they'd gone together down to Albany River, so he'd finally actually had a solo date with Amy, not that anything else had happened except for a rather chaste goodnight kiss, nothing like the passion of their night at the lake a couple weeks before. Still, it had been all right, without quite the unstated tension of the recent double dates.

Things had indeed changed.

Josh parked his car at the C&SL office. He was walking toward the door when Bud came out. "You ready to go, Josh?" he called.

"Am I late?" Josh asked, picking up his lunch bucket.

"Just in time," Bud said. "I was just getting ready to go."

The train was out on the passing track beyond the wye. Josh drove Bud and himself out to where the engines waited, with no one around. He parked the car again, and the two climbed aboard the lead GP-9, one of a pair that Bud had leased for the summer from a company in Illinois.

It was not going to be a day that Josh worked hard. There'd be a little switching to do at Camden, but that might take fifteen minutes. With a maximum load for the two Geeps, there was no way Bud was going to have him running the motors on the way down, but he might get a little throttle time on the way back.

With a full load, it took Bud a long time to get the train up to speed. They were passing California cut, halfway to Albany River, when Bud finally throttled back a notch, to see if the speed would hold. It seemed like it would, and Bud visibly relaxed. Josh took the opportunity to thank Bud for allowing Amy to take the cab ride earlier in the week.

"No problem," Bud replied. "I know how it is when you're young. Anything you can do to impressed the ladies. Hope it was worth it."

"She seemed to enjoy it," Josh replied.

"Well, good," Bud said. "I know your dad gave her a good ride. You've been running with him a lot lately, haven't you? It seems like a week since we've made a run together."

Josh counted days. "More than that, I guess," he said.

"It always gets crazy, this time of year," Bud said. "With only five engineers and three road engine sets, it seems like we're either running 'em or working on 'em. Thank God Bill Lee can help us out over in Kremmling, or we'd really be in trouble."

Bill Lee, Diane Page's father, owned part of the Lordston Northern Scenic railroad -- the C&SL owned the other part -- which ran from Lordston up to Kremmling. Ever since the bridge over the river in Camden went out, traffic on and off of the C&SL came over the Lordston Northern and through Kremmling. Sometimes, the C&SL ran clear to Lordston, but usually they swapped loads with Lee at Kremmling.

"They ever going to get that bridge fixed?" Josh asked, making conversation.

"Six years ago, they promised me they'd have it done in a week or ten days," Bud said. "I'm still waiting, and I expect I'll still be waiting six years from now. Anyway, I'm glad you've been willing to work as much as you have. The brakeman situation is as bad as the engineer situation. I've even had to call on Frank Matson to brake for me a couple of times.

"Well, I'm willing to help where I can," Josh said. "Did you ever get a chance to talk to Coach Hekkinan?"

"I talked to him over breakfast, one day last week," Bud said. "He said he'd let you go if I really needed you some time, but he'd really rather you didn't miss practice."

Typical coach, Josh thought. Nothing's as important as football. "Well, let me know," he said. "I don't mind."

"Hey, it's not bad news," Bud said. "I got the impression he wants you at practice since he wants to play you."

"I sure haven't been picking up on that," Josh said.

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