As promised, this is the story of how Larry and I rode the rails on a yacht strapped to a freight car. It starts with our trying to hitchhike west from Montreal. We got a few hundred miles, but then no one was picking us up and it was starting to get late. We saw a slow moving freight, and Larry, who had worked in rail yards in his past, said we should hop on. We did, and son came to a freight yard. I waited while Larry poked around. He found a new cabin cruiser strapped to a freight car and surprisingly unlocked. It was something like this photo, only substitute a flatbed rail car for the truck bed. We hopped aboard and made ourselves comfortable. We were soon rolling. We had picked up some food and a bottle of wine at a little store and had an evening picnic on the deck, watching the woods roll by–an odd feeling from the deck of a boat. It got dark, and surprisingly cold for July.
We went into the cabin and made a bed from the two rows of seats along the bow–a board pulled out between them with extra cushions below to make a comfy mattress, and we had sleeping bags. During the night, we noticed our ride getting bumpier. In the morning we were awakened by a transit policeman. Our train had stopped, and he had come around to check on the cars. He rousted us and took us to the freight office, were we stood abashed, tousled, and (I’m sure to their eyes) very young. I was 19, Larry was 25. This photo is from that period. They tried to look stern as they reprimanded us and told us never to hop a freight again. We acted suitably contrite.
We learned then that we’d been heading due north into the Ontario woods, and that our bumpy ride was because the straps on the yacht were coming loose. That’s why they’d pulled off onto a siding. “You’re lucky we found you when we did,” was their message, hinting at dire consequences of our trespass. They gave us a ride to the bus station and watched while we bought tickets. By then, we’d used too much time, and had to ride the Greyhound the rest of the way.
I remember that we read Portnoy’s Complaint aloud to each other on the bus, rather juicy fare for those within earshot. Notwithstanding, the bus was a come down after our freight journey, and we arrived grumpy and disheveled in Regina. At this point, I’d only known Larry a few weeks, but it was a fair preview of what was to come.