TB Excerpt 1

This section begins at the start of chapter two – page 20. This is where the brothers first try out the handcar on the train tracks. (It’s not as easy as it looks!)

Benjamin and Jackson Trachsel stood on the platform of the old handcar, each on their own side. They faced one another with their hands resting upon the smooth, wooden handles. Since the handle on Jam’s side was in the up position, about mid-chest height, he started the process by pushing downward. This sent the handle down to around his knees. The handcar rolled a few inches, in the opposite direction to where they had anticipated. “Oh,” said Jackson. “Do you see a reverse direction lever or anything?”

Looking around, Jam replied, “Nope. All I see is the brake and that locked box. I guess we have it facing the wrong direction. Or, maybe it’s fate telling us to investigate the map? Huh?” Jam wiggled his eyebrows and smiled his toothiest smile.

Jumping off, Jackson said, “Um, no. Nice try, though.” They picked up the vehicle and slowly rotated it to face the other direction. Between the heaviness of

the device, and the awkwardness of moving it over the top of the rails, it took them several minutes. “Okay,” Jackson said, breathing heavily, “let’s try this again.”

This time, the pumping propelled them in a southerly direction, with Jackson facing forward while Jam’s back was toward the direction they traveled. The ease at which the mechanisms moved astounded the brothers. “Wow!” Jackson exclaimed. “Obviously Uncle kept this beast well maintained and oiled. I wonder why?”

“Isn’t it obvious? He had a map, for chud sake! He must’ve rolled along these tracks many times.” Jam decided to give Jackson another verbal push, as his curiosity of what lie north continued to prod him. “We really should check out what the map’s about.”

Jackson ignored him, focusing his concen- tration on the up and down motion of the handle. “My chud, is this hard work!” Sweat began to bead on his forehead. The pumping motion, starting chest-high, felt natural enough. However, at the end of the cycle, the brothers had to bend their back and knees slightly to reach the bottom of the arc. Though the pumping mechanism was in top-notch condition and the gears glided smoothly, the repetitive motion put a lot of pressure on their bodies.

After fifteen minutes of brisk pumping, the brothers had the handcar swiftly traveling. “I have to say I’m impressed,” said Jackson. “I’d say we’re moving at 25, maybe 30 miles per hour. Not blistering, sure, but I thought these devices could only go a few miles per hour. I’ll bet we could get 40 outta this beast if we put our backs into it.”

“Let’s give it a try,” Jam said, sporting a widening grin. “At this speed, we won’t be home before dark.”

“I’m game,” he responded as he pushed down on the handle even harder.

The brothers pumped with all of their might for several minutes, rolling miles away from the farm-

house. Jam said breathlessly, “Whew, this is quite … the workout, huh?”

“I … I think … we could …” Jackson stam- mered, trying to get the words out while breathing heavily, “perhaps … take a … break. Gads!”

“Oh? Getting winded … are you? Haven’t been … working out … like you … usually do … huh, Jax?”

“I … haven’t … had … much … time … with … school … and …” Letting go of the handle on the upswing, he added breathlessly, “Holy … chud … I’m … wiped!”

Without Jackson’s hands on the handle, it shot rapidly down and back up. The quick motion threw Jam off balance. The downswing nearly tossed him off the car, while the next upswing narrowly avoiding clipping Jackson on the jaw. Regaining his balance, but still fighting the overly fast up and down motion of the handle, Jam jammed his foot onto the brake. This decelerated the car rapidly enough that Jackson tumbled forward, the handle slamming into his chest. He then fell backward off the handcar and onto the tracks with a solid, painful thud. Jam lost his fight with the fast handle movement as well. Letting go, he also tumbled off the car, onto the tall grass on the side of the tracks.

Both brothers lay sprawled on the ground, breathing heavily for a couple of minutes. Jam looked over at the handcar, which had traveled a few dozen feet up the track after they fell off. Finally, Jam sat up and said, “Okay, so what did we learn there?”

“Ow! Don’t let go of the handle. That seems like a big rule #1.”

“Right. And hitting the brake so hard like that, also a big no-no.”

“True story. Hold on tight and slow down slowly.”

Jackson rolled over and gingerly sat up. “Mother of chud, do I hurt.”

Sitting up as well, Jam looked over at his brother. “Did the handle cause much damage?”

Touching the spot on his chest where the handle impacted him, he replied, “No, not really. It’ll bruise, but that’s probably it. It’s my arms and back that are killing me right now! That’s a lot of work pumping that thing over and over.”

Jam brought his arms up over his head and stretched. “Ow! Yeah, I agree.” After another minute of sitting, Jackson said what he figured his brother was also thinking. “There’s no way we can pump this handcar all the way home right now. It’s just too much work for us.”

Nodding his head slowly, Jam replied, “Yeah, I suppose. I mean, it’s not all that hard, really. Our muscles just aren’t used to it is all. I know we would be able to do it given time. You’re just in awful shape.”

Fire flared in Jackson’s eyes. “I’m not in awful shape! I’ve just had to cut back on my workouts lately. I didn’t play baseball this year, but I still have the muscle mass. I just don’t have all day to lift weights, ride a bike, and kayak around like you do.”

Smiling, Jam replied, “I don’t do it all day. I do sleep from time to time.” After a momentary pause to squeeze one of his sore biceps, he added, “But regardless, this is not something either of us can pick up and continue to do right now.”

Jackson nodded his agreement. Staring ahead at the handcar off in the distance, he said, “So what do we do? It’s getting dark.”

The elder Trachsel tossed a thumb back toward the farmhouse. “I don’t see an alternative, really. We push the car back to Uncle’s house and spend the night there.”

Wincing at the thought, Jackson said, “I highly doubt I can do any more pumping. I can’t even lift my arms.” Illustrating his point, the younger brother raised his arms up, but could only get them to chest height before they started trembling.

“Well … we can’t leave it on the tracks. Let’s just try pushing it.”

The brothers trudged over to the handcar. They both placed their hands on the same side of the wooden frame, and slowly ambled back toward the farmhouse. They moved a lot slower of course, but the handcar rolled smoothly along the tracks in front of them. Their legs felt fine, so after a while they started jogging, gradually increasing their speed.

After a while of running and pushing, they saw the farmhouse up in the distance. “Finally!” shouted Jam with a heavy exhale.

“A not-so-triumphant return,” said Jackson.

Off in the distance, they heard a sound that made them both wince – a train whistle. “Oh chud!”