Monday, April 30, 2007


There really was a Casey Jones who was immortalized in legend and song. Even Walt Disney gave him a great tribute in animation in the motion picture "Melody Time" in 1947 with the late great Jerry Colonna singing and narrating the story. But the real story was one of ultimate bravery and courage.John Luther "Casey" Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. In the year 1900 on this date he alone was killed when his locomotive collided with a stopped freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi, on a foggy and rainy night. His dramatic death trying to stop his train and save lives made him that folksong hero beginning with a song sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, who was a black engine wiper for the IC ."Casey" Jones was born March 14, 1863 in southeast Missouri. While he was still a small child, his family moved to C aycee Kentucky, which is how he got his nickname. As a boy, he developed a growing obsession with trains. In 1878, at the age of 15, he went to work for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as an apprentice telegrapher. By 1890, "Casey" had reached the pinnacle of the railroad profession as a crack locomotive engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad. The railroad sent him to Jackson, Tennessee, where he met and married Janie Brady, bought a house, and set about raising a family. Railroading was a natural talent, and Casey Jones was recognized by his peers as one of the best in the business.In 1899, Jones was given a regular passenger run on the Cannonball route which ran between Chicago and New Orleans. On April 29, 1900 Jones was in Memphis, Tennessee, from the northbound Cannonball when he agreed to take the southbound Cannonball because the scheduled engineer called in sick. He left Memphis at 12:50 am, 95 minutes behind schedule, but made up almost an hour between Memphis and Grenada, Mississippi, nearly 100 miles away. By Durant, 55 miles farther down, they were almost on time.At Durant, Jones received orders to "saw by" two freights that had taken the siding in Vaughan. The two freights were too large to fit into the siding, leaving one end on the main line. If the "sawing" maneuver had been done correctly, the freights would have allowed the approaching train to pass the first switch, and then the trains on the siding would move past the other switch. However, an air hose on one of the freight trains burst, applying the brakes on the freight cars behind the break, and left them immobile on the main line. Meanwhile, Jones was travelling excessively fast, possibly up to 70 miles per hour, and did not have enough time to brake. When collision seemed imminent, Casey told his fireman, Sim Webb, to jump for it, but Jones rode the engine into the cars and was killed. It is believed that because Jones stayed to slow the train, he saved the passengers from injury and possible death (Casey himself was the only fatality of the collision). Popular legend holds that when Jones' body was pulled from the wreckage of his train his hands were still firmly latched onto the whistle cord and the brake.The fireman, Simeon T. Webb, died in Memphis in 1957 at the age of 83. Jones' wife, Janie Brady Jones, died in 1958 at the age of 92. The Joneses had two sons and a daughter. Mrs. Jones hated the last line of one version of the ballad, which said "..go to bed children and hush your cryin', cause you got another papa on the Salt Lake Line." She said she never had any thought of remarrying. Today is also the 81st birthday of ClorisLeachman- a very funny lady. I remember her misadventures on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but also on her own show where she battled with her mother-in-law! Played so wonderfully by veteran character actress JudithLowryOh how I laughed at those encounters like "Mother Dexter, would you like to go shopping with me?" The answer came quickly and landed like a spear "I'd rather have a root canal!" Cloris won an Oscar for the "Last Picture Show" and has won moreEmmys than any other performer. Tim gets his final news on his house re-finance today-- so all fingers and toes crossed and a big prayer to the Lord who watches over us all. I had an important lesson taught to me this week. And now, more than ever, I know that God loves me in a very special way. Sometimes he tests us-- and rather unexpectedly-- He wants to know what we will do. Sometimes that test is very hard and scares us silly! But know that Jesus is Our Good Shepherd and that he will always be there to help us in crisis!