It was on one of those long sultry summer nights that I first became fascinated with Nathan. His distant moan cut through the rhythmic singing of katydids which typically ruled the night until the wee hours of the morning.
While hoping to catch a fleeting breeze at my open window, I detected Nathan’s voice crying like a spirit soaring through the darkness. His wail filled the night air as it scattered far and wide, similar to smoke billowing from a flue. I couldn’t pinpoint his location. It was the intense beam of light that gave away his position as he junketed across the countryside clinging to the roof of his invincible ride.
Surprisingly, few people seemed to notice the late night rumble and his sweeping blast of five-part harmony. Regrettably, not every visit would prove to go unnoticed; some we wish to forget.
Garret was someone Nathan preferred to forget. After working the graveyard shift at the stone quarry, Garret and Henry would faithfully head to the local tavern to satisfy their addiction. On that particular night an over- served Henry was too intoxicated to drive home, so Garret grabbed the keys and stumbled his way into the driver’s seat.
Nathan had no way of knowing the condition of the men in the truck ahead. He bellowed out a precautionary warning of the approaching danger. He fully expected the driver to take notice, but by this time Garret was finding it hard to keep his eyes open. He drifted into a drunken slumber as the truck rammed the freight train broadside. The two drunken men where pulled into the moving equipment and down the track. Nathan could do nothing more than watch.
The mirror would forever remind my grandfather of that incident. Running down his forehead and across his nose was the scar left behind by the injuries he suffered in that crash—the crash that also took the life of his companion Henry—the crash that Nathan is sure to experience again.
As fate would have it, at the age of twenty I met Nathan while employed by the Illinois Central Railroad. Assigned to inspect outbound locomotives, Nathan’s operation was part of that testing. While pulling the horn valve I couldn’t help but remember the night I first heard his voice. I remained captivated by the nocturnal moan of his five chime symphony.
I have retired from the railroad after forty years of service—but the Nathan P5 AirChime labors on—warning those for miles around of the unstoppable force that approaches.