Walking The Old Railroad

Rusty train wheels on rusty rails. Photo by Gabriel Tompkins.
Rusty train wheels on rusty rails. Photo by Gabriel Tompkins.

Walking The Old Railroad

Words and music by: Tim Tompkins.


Walking the old railroad,
night of an impossible love’s demise …
Making decisions,
dropping the great weight of dying ties …

Letting the moon be my guide,
seeing my shadow,
hearing my footsteps like a friend beside me,
taking my distress in stride,
nothing to hide…

A big bullfrog in the quagmire ran a bad mouth,
a treetop mockingbird sang.
This primate straightened his sad spine aligned with
forces from the Big Bang,

Down-bound on the dark side of an overgrown stone
where nights are too long
and plans can go wrong
and you’re almost alone.

Jogging now and feeling
frisky fingers of wind about my brow …
Listening for the whistle of the old ghost train
and the coyote’s howl …

Setting my eye on the sky …
Orion’s rising
while Venus slips down in the vast expanse.
Space Sister give me one more chance
to find a not so blind romance,
one that works with and without shirts and shoes,
nothing to lose.

A pair of bright iron lines runs from
one horizon to the other.
Arms out, I high-wire down a rail,
and see how much ground I cover.

Then jumping from the constraining straight and narrow,
I’m free! to sprint or rock throw,
track dance the tie bars,
forgive and let go,
hop a phantom box car.
Hot new love is not far.


A study in sentences without subjects, even dangling participles, in the heavy lift of shoring up a deceptive certainty. Fictionalized and crafted into verse from journal entries dated in the decades before I solved the girl problem by marrying Frances. [Tim]

Performance Credits:

Jason McGriff: Voice.
Tim Tompkins: Rhythm guitars.
Scott Sorkin: Lead guitars.
Nelson Braxton: Bass.
Chris Miller: Drums.

Production Credits:

Instruments recorded at Bay Recording Studio, Berkeley, CA, where the session began with just drums and bass playing the chorus, suggesting the busy mechanical rhythm of an old locomotive.
Vocals recorded at the GallopAway Music studio in San Juan Bautista, CA.
Second verse coyote howls by Danny Valdez while trying not to laugh.
Ride-out train wheel and track sounds recorded by Tim in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 2008, in the seconds before the sky opened up and unleashed a down-pour that terminated the on-location session.
Ride-out coyote howls (real) recorded by Tim on Sheep Mountain in The Badlands, South Dakota, where he and Frances were camping in 1988.

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