The secret message

by Philip Wilson


When I was two years old, my Dad gave me a toy train for Christmas . It made sparks and caused me to cry. But when I was three or four, my mother took me on a train trip from McAlester to Oklahoma City. We rode on the Rock Island Lines.

It was a one car silver train and ran by its own power. Everyone called it a doodle bug! We left late in the night and arrived in Okla City just at sunup. I don't remember much about the trip except as the first light of day appeared, I was glued to the window looking down on the tops of the rails running along side of us. The dawn's first light only lit the top of the silver rails. I did not know what they were, but I could not take my eyes off of them as we sped passed. Silver ribbons running along side then darting in and under us, disappearing then soon reappearing, and darting away over and over again. I can still see it as a video today in my mind.

My grandfather said he took me up on a steam engine once, but I don't ever remember seeing one back when they were in service. When I was maybe seven, I went with my grandfather down to the railroad station. A passenger train arrived as I stood near the track. The locomotive shook the earth and was loud like thunder. Air blew out its air tanks and sounded like a mad bull ready to charge. I pulled back in fear!

My grandfather had worked for Conoco Oil Company in the 1930s, and he traveled all over the western U.S. Back then, if you wanted video you used film in a small camera called eight millimeter. It was a small reel of eight millimeter film, good for maybe ten minutes . When you used it you only took shots for 10 to 30 seconds at a time so as not to use up all of your film. Their was no sound.
My grandfather went all kinds of places and took quick shots of where he went. Custer's Last Stand, Yellowstone, Redwood Forest and the Golden Gate Bridge. Later, we spliced all of the small reels into one larger one that would run about 30 minutes. Often growing up we would get the projector out and watch this old film, rough and quickly spliced together. It had spots and one five-second place that was only a black blur.

In the 1990s we had VHS tape, so one afternoon I decided to transfer the old film to tape . I set up the projector and screen with the video camera on and recorded the film. As I watched the new tape I that I had just recorded, the black portion flashed by! My VHS player was a good one with edit mode, and I wondered, "!
What is that black blob?"

So I stopped the tape and reran it back one frame at a time. Click, black, click, black, click and I stopped.

What? No way! I was at a loss for words! 

The black blob filmed 60 years ago was a hidden message. A message only to me and I was the only one who could understand its meaning -- a message from God only unlocked by me! Had anyone else seen this message, its meaning just would have been lost.

In the center of the blob were two words "Union Pacific." The black blob was a passing tender to a Union Pacific steam engine!

Today I'm a Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer! This year is the Union Pacific's 150th anniversary -- and 40 of those years belong to me!

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Working at UP
Fort Worth, TX
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