Belle Glade, Florida
I’ve already passed LaBelle, then Clewiston. Final destination: West Palm Beach. The music is loud (U2’s Rattle and Hum) – way too loud, probably, since I know I should pay attention on two-lane roads in rural Florida. Especially at dusk.
Still, there are canals or sugar cane fields on both sides of State Road 80. What can happen? I turn the volume even higher, tempt fate.
I’ve lived almost 50 years, and in that time, it has been my experience with oncoming trains that:
1. You get a ton of loud warning.
2. This warning happens before you see the train.
BB King’s crooning about love coming to town and all of a sudden a skinny-wood-bar-thing comes down from sugarcane stalks in the upper right-hand side of my windshield and slams toward the asphalt in front of my hood. I brake hard and fishtail and quickly recognize a railroad track in front of me but don’t see anything but sugarcane and then BAM! – a yellow white locomotive (whistle blowing now) blasts past.
I am the only human on the road. Like I said, nothing but sugarcane. I open the driver’s side door, stand in the road, and scream “Holy ____!” as loud as I can. It takes me a few seconds to realize the open boxcars are carrying burnt stalks. I actually stare and think: What IS that? I grab my camera. This is the closest I’ve been to being killed by a train, and for some reason, I’m angry that I was almost taken by sugarcane. What would be a better choice? I don’t know.
My daughter served on a mission team a few summers ago and volunteered in a childcare center in Belle Glade for a week. She came home and silently pulled everything off her bulletin board and replaced it with crayon drawings from a four year-old named Esperanza. Julia recently told me, “Even when I go to college, never take her stuff down.”
She also attended a gospel-type church service in Belle Glade and has been begging me to take her to another gospel church, but I don’t know where to find one in our town. I promised, but I haven’t kept that promise. Why not?