Bul­let: The New Steam En­gine

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Harold Wal­ters Book Re­marks Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville. He thinks it’s cool to live in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. He does not think it cool to live in a prov­ince that taxes books. Reach him at gh­wal­ters663

Bul­let the Steam En­gine never stared into the bar­rels of Bill Miner’s six-shoot­ers.

Bill Miner?

On Septem­ber 10th, 1904, Bill Miner, an Amer­i­can out­law who’d crossed the US/Cana­dian bor­der, robbed the Sil­verdale train in Bri­tish Columbia. It was def­i­nitely Bri­tish Columbia’s first train rob­bery and, most likely, Canada’s first train rob­bery.

Bill Miner — aka the Grey Fox; the Gen­tle­man Ban­dit

— is cred­ited with be­ing the hom­bre who coined the holdup direc­tive, “Hands up!”

Bul­let the Steam En­gine never met Bill.

Chances are Bul­let never heard any of the hun­dreds — p’raps thou­sands — of great train songs. Jim­mie Rodgers, the Singing Brake­man, sang train songs. Johnny Cash sang train songs. Fred Ea­gle­smith sang fa­mously, and sim­ply, “I like trains.” Bul­let never heard a note. What odds, eh b’ys? Bul­let The New Steam En­gine [Pen­ny­well Books] is a chil­dren’s book de­signed to fa­mil­iar­ize post-Roads for Rails young­sters with the leg­endary, the iconic, New­fie Bul­let, sym­bol of this prov­ince’s de­funct rail­way.

Lis­ten — to go back a para­graph — Bul­let the Steam En­gine may not have heard any of the great train songs, but bet your choo-choo, he — yes, he. Frig in­de­ter­mi­nate gen­der — heard plenty of songs.

Sure, even I, as a bay-boy at Mammy’s knee, heard songs aboard the New­fie Bul­let. Once in par­tic­u­lar, while rid­ing the Bul­let from St. John’s to Clarenvill­e, I heard a ro­bust lady whose eyes glis­tened crazily, screech [!] “The Star of Logy Bay” all the way from Kel­li­grews to Deep Bight.

Kneel­ing on my seat, I lis­tened and watched in bay-boy won­der un­til Mammy said, “Harry, sit down and be­have your­self. That woman might be sick.”

Sick? Not likely, eh b’ys?

Some­thing else. I’m al­ways tick­led when I make a cameo ap­pear­ance in a book, es­pe­cially a book writ­ten and il­lus­trated for chil­dren.

Smack in the mid­dle of this book there’s a pic­ture of the Clarenvill­e sta­tion plat­form. Mammy and me are among the pas­sen­gers wait­ing for the Bul­let. What?

Yes, it’s me. I rec­og­nize my bibbed over­alls. My mouth is in gear and I’m point­ing at some­thing, prob’ly the queer red shoes on Mis­sus across the plat­form. I might be mak­ing a holy show of Mammy in the process.

But be­fore that…

Bul­let the Steam En­gine meets Con­duc­tor Robert be­fore they be­gin Bul­let’s maiden click­ity- clack across the prov­ince.

“Bul­let at your ser­vice,” says the en­gine, all beaver-ea­ger de­spite the gull perched on his back — a frig­gin’ gull that ought to be shooed away be­fore it splat­ters Bul­let with a de­posit worse than one of it cousins left on the shin­gles of our house.

Frig­gin’ gulls!

Any­way…

… click­ity- clack, click­ity-clack… Bul­let en­coun­ters a cari­bou herd cross­ing the tracks and is in­tro­duced to — get this — fog.

“Wow! It’s like clouds on land! That’s amaz­ing!”

… click­ity-clack, click­ity-clack… While cross­ing a bridge, Bul­let — along with Fire­man David and Brake­man Johnny — is obliged to stop and help a cou­ple of men re­trieve their boat be­fore it is washed away down­stream. … click­ity-clack, click­ity-clack … Re­mem­ber what might be the most fa­mous chil­dren’s train story — The Lit­tle En­gine That Could? That op­ti­mistic lit­tle en­gine strains his pis­tons — or what­ever — to climb a moun­tain and de­liver toys to chil­dren on the other side.

(Not an epic pur­pose, I s’pose, but more pur­pose than the bear had.)

Fond mem­o­ries of the Lit­tle En­gine flooded my nog­gin as I watched Bul­let coura­geously scoat his guts out to haul his … well, train of cars, 1554 ft. to the Sum­mit, his chuff-chuff­ing fright­en­ing the but­tons out of a bunny in the process.

… click­ety-clack, click­ety-clack … Com­ing on duck­ish, Bul­let is re­quired to shine his head­light at its bright­est and blow his whis­tle to help a trio of goneastray berry pick­ers find their way to the track.

See them? Two women — their heads ban­danna-bound — stand­ing be­side two over­flow­ing buck­ets of blue­ber­ries and, sev­eral steps away, a man wav­ing one hand, the other in his pocket.

Won­der who’s lug­ging the load in this group?

… click­ety-clack, click­ety-clack …

Bul­let off-loads a cou­ple of pas­sen­gers at Robin­sons and gets a drink of wa­ter. … click­ety-clack, click­ety-clack … Bul­let care­fully crosses the Wreck­house and — af­ter shuff­ing some logs off the track — makes his way to the end of the line.

“Here’s our New­fie Bul­let!” cheers the wait­ing crowd.

Pleased by the greet­ing, Bul­let says, “I think I’m go­ing to like this pace.” Why wouldn’t he?

Thank you for read­ing.

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