Sunday, August 02, 2015

I Committed a Federal Offense at the Age of Twelve

According to an online article from the MassLive news site, Amtrak has pressed charges against a Massachusetts couple who were “allegedly” caught having sex between several sets of railroad tracks one evening last month. Both members of the amorous duo were charged with trespassing and lewd, wanton, and lascivious behavior.

Well, I guess I could have been charged with one of those offenses when I was twelve. Guess which one?

Too old for dolls, too young for dates, I was bored during summer vacation. There was nothing for tweenagers to do in our small, rural town. I could spend only so much time reading every day. And I wasn’t interested in the insipid soap operas that dominated the afternoon programming on our one and only television channel.

I walked a lot, just to have something to do. Two of my friends lived at the edge of town, which was over a mile away. I sometimes walked to their house. More often, I walked along the railroad tracks that were located in a somewhat isolated area near the river.

Last year, a transit district officer in Vista, California, told me that trespassing on railroad property is a federal offense. Oops. I guess if anything was railroad property then, those tracks were.

I wasn’t the only one committing a federal offense back in the Early Jurassic Period. Fishermen and neighborhood kids trekked the tracks from the first warm day in spring until late autumn. The river, though shallow in most places, was our swimming hole during summer vacation.

Way before I was born, the area where I walked had been dubbed the Jungle. For years I thought that epithet had been inspired by the trees and bushes that bordered one side of the tracks. It wasn’t until I was twenty-something that I learned the Jungle was rumored to have been the site of a hobo camp during the depression.

I can’t recall hearing gossip about any strange goings-on in the Jungle during the depression—or at any other time. As far as I know, no one was ever maimed or murdered in the alleged hobo camp or anywhere else along the tracks. But whenever I reached a certain area in the Jungle, I got a creepy feeling that stopped me from continuing beyond that point.

In 1993, a coworker at SmartMart told me the Jungle was haunted.

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