Want to go on a train ride? I'll be glad to take you along. But I promise you the most liver-shaking ride in these United States. The only good thing to be said about it was the send-off. Cousin Anna gave me strict orders not to write about her in the Press. So I will just say that a certain person related to Knox by marriage treated me like a sister. That is the warmest compliment I can pay her as a hostess. That kind of hospitality stays with you through the years. Her daughter, Helen - oh, I'm not allowed to write about her, either. Too bad that these relatives cramp your style so. You live in someone's house for six weeks, and thus have a chance to write a wonderful character sketch. Ethics won't permit you to write up a horrid person; and if the person is fine and good and talented, she won't let you. So there you are - muzzled. Dr. Knox, who has removed himself into a kind of mental and spiritual safety zone, doesn't mind what the traffic carries. So I just want to say, in passing, that he helped me in every way. To answer the many kind inquiries, there is no real heart trouble. Just a run down battery - that can be recharged by rest. That - and a thousand pleasant memories - ought to do wonders. Is there anything more heartwarming than to have folks see you off on an early morning train? Especially if they have to drive ten or twelve miles (one way) to do so? My brother-cousins were all at the Los Angeles depot, and Helen and Katherine, Blaine's wife. I still feel the glow of that send-off.
The Southern Pacific! To think about it reminds me of the old reprobate back home (before my day). When he died, the neighbors said that the minister, who was given to eulogizing, certainly couldn't say anything good about that wicked man. But the charitable pastor dived deep, and brought up this pearl, "He was a mighty hunter." I'll dig deep, and say that the train got us to our destination. No impulsive little boy, with his first choo-choo train, could have yanked his cars with greater spontaneity than did that engineer. The coaches had been resurrected from the graveyard. The repair men put on some old wheels that had been rejected in the last war - faulty dies - the hubs were off center. The red-cap had well-meaningly secured a seat for me near the women's lavatory. But in that sheltered nook opposite the lavatory men and boys going away to war drowned their heartaches and their self-esteem in that cursed thing called liquor. I wouldn't have believed that any public vehicle would permit such excessive drinking. Or such promiscuous love-making. It got so sickening on the train between El Paso and San Antonio that I marched the whole length of the tawdry train, looking for an M.P. When I finally found him, he was not interested. He said that was up to the conductor. A conductor's wife, who was my seatmate part of the way, said it was the M.P.'s job. I almost took the law in my own hands. The most ardent couple - a good-looking CB and a hussy - were seated right by the drinking fountain. It would have been so easy to throw a cup of water on them. I wish I had. I compromised by warning the young man that I would get the M.P. The bluff worked - for awhile. But that young woman proved to be Potiphar's wife; and innocent Potiphar met her at the depot in San Antonio, oblivious of her infamy. If there is such a thing as a pen cleaning up a pen, I would like to use mine to help clean up a pig pen on wheels.
California is a state of contrasts. It has its snow-capped peaks, and its deserts. You leave the verdure of the Pacific Coast, and land suddenly in the dry sagebrush, the tumbleweed, and barren ground. Palm Springs - at the railroad station - is an utter disappointment. No palms, to speak of, and no springs. Dust and desolation. Just east of Indio (which is just east of Palm Springs) a real dust storm swirled about us. A barren strip, about 500 yards wide, lay along, or blew along, the railroad tracks to the south. Rising abruptly from this level strip were snow-capped mountains. "From Greenland's icy mountains to Indio's dusty strand."
In Arizona, the Navajo Indian women, leather-skinned and shapeless, sit in the hot sun on the ground in front of the railway stations, with their wares spread out, to tempt the tourist. Beads, baskets, pottery, rugs, etc. Nothing cheap, believe you me. Now it is closing time Sunday afternoon. Next week I'll take you with me into sunny New Mexico. Until then, good-bye.
Florence B. Taylor.
P.S. Oh, I have wanted for weeks to send a greeting to Mary Postorelo Coscia. I lost my address book last January. I looked in vain for her name in the Los Angeles telephone book. Then, after I left L.A., the Press carried the message that her husband had been ill since Christmas. I am sorry; and sorry to have missed seeing her. We trust better days have come to her and her husband.
Next - 5/11/44 - Las Cruces
BY-WAYS Table of Contents