Friday, July 27, 2007

On the Wrong Track

Last time I remember the Union Pacific railroad tracks that run between the suburban Houston enclaves of West University Place and Bellaire making news, it was because of serial killer Angel Maturino Reséndiz. In 1998, Reséndiz – better known as the “Railroad Killer” – raped and murdered a 39-year-old West University woman who lived near the tracks.

Today’s Houston Chronicle covers a much lighter track-related news story. Several railroad cars carrying wheat and corn derailed while traveling down the tracks earlier this month. West U residents allege the rail company did a lousy clean-up job and now they can’t use their yards because the rotting foodstuffs stink so bad.

“It smells like sewage just sitting there in the backyard," laments Alana Kirsch, adding that the smell has precluded her 5-year-old son, Texas, from using his backyard swing set.

I’m sorry, but what kind of 5-year-old boy can’t go outside to play because of an odor? Alana should thank her lucky stars that Texas wasn’t hanging around with me back in 1976.

I spent most of my childhood within a three block radius of those railroad tracks. Shortly after moving to Houston at age 7, I walked to the tracks with a brother and sister who lived down the street from us. We were there to pick blackberries, but the budding delinquent brother, who was about 12 or 13, showed me something much more interesting.

Several yards down the tracks from the blackberry bushes, there was a culvert with an old dryer in it. Inside the old dryer were scads of mottled hardcore porno mags. Apparently this was some sort of jack-off fort for derelicts. I didn’t know anything about that, but I knew pictures of naked girls were cool to show off to friends, so I grabbed one of the magazines to take home.

As we emerged from the brush surrounding the tracks, I saw my dad waiting there. He’d come to check on me. Knowing he would not cotton to my recent find, I casually dropped the magazine in the tall grass as I approached him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t casual enough to elude his watchful eye.

“What did you drop back there?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I lied.

“Greg, I saw you drop something. Now what was it?”

“An adult magazine,” I muttered.

“What magazine was it?” he asked, figuring we’d found an old Playboy or something.

“Um...Ball Buster.”

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine the sense of dread that might come with hearing your 7-year-old son tell you he’s been down at the railroad tracks ogling a porn mag called Ball Buster.

My dad quickly confiscated the penetration-happy publication. Years later, he told me it also contained photos of men putting out cigarettes on women. I guess I missed that part.

Later that afternoon, my dad dutifully returned to the tracks to dismantle the erstwhile self-love nook. He said there were hundreds of porn mags strewn around the culvert. He gathered them up into plastic garbage bags and took them back to his car. As he threw the magazines in the trunk, he worried the police might show up and think he was the pervert. Fortunately for all of us, that did not happen.

Over the years, the Ball Buster saga has become a beloved family story, retold countless times over holiday gatherings.

Thanks, Union Pacific!

1 comment:

Angel said...

Thanks for the great post! Not only did I grow up with a similar mottled cache but I encountered one recently behind my previous residence. It included a bonus of discarded Earthlink signup CDs from the nearby electronics store. Either the store dumped the CDs there or "derelict porno" has come some way since the 70s.

Thanks for mentioning my first name in the post. The day after Resendiz was caught, a woman checking my ID for a check asked if I was related... because we shared the same first name. BTW, who names their kid Texas... Possibly the same hopeful parents that would name their kid Angel.