Out and About – Week of August 3rd

Where have all the cabooses gone? Trains don’t have them anymore. Why did they have them in the first place? Other than the locomotive itself, the caboose was the most interesting part of the train. As a kid, it was fun to watch the train as it passed by and wave to the man sitting by the window of the caboose.

How did the caboose come to be? This question bothered me enough to make me do a bit of research. Evidently a man named Nat Williams of the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad came up with the idea. Mr. Williams was a conductor and in the 1840s he converted a small boxcar by cutting a hole in its roof and perching himself upon crates so that he could watch the train ahead of him. He outfitted this boxcar with emergency supplies, tools, chains, flags, and lanterns, plus a few comfort options such as a desk and a few chairs. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, “cabooses” were standardized, having three or four crew bunks and a stove.

The most distinctive feature of a caboose is the cupola or observation tower. There were seats in the cupola so that crew members could see in all directions. This was important in olden days, because wheels could heat up and smoke, and where there is smoke, there’s a good chance of fire. The caboose served as a mobile office, living quarters, and kitchen for the “running crew”, which consisted of the conductor and four or five brakemen. The word “caboose” comes from the Dutch word “kombias”, meaning a ship’s galley. A caboose was usually painted red so that the engineer in the locomotive could tell where the end of the train was located.

Today’s train crews consist of only two or three people and they all ride in the cab of the engine. If you want to see a real caboose up close, they can usually be found attached to a restaurant. We are fortunate to have just that here in Three Rivers, right next to the railroad tracks north of town. Like so many other things, the age of the caboose is a thing of the past.

Yesterday was election day here in St. Joe County. We all had the opportunity to vote for the County Sheriff, State Representative, State Treasurer, plus many others including County Dog Catcher. I can’t think of a valid reason for not voting, except for the fact that there are many citizens who would rather complain about the results, rather than getting up off their duff and casting their vote. If you didn’t vote, you have no right to complain.

I congratulate those candidates who won and thank the ones who at least put forth the effort to make a change. We have less than three months before the BIG election. Please take this time to look over the candidates closely, then do your civic duty and cast your vote.

We’ve all experienced hiccups at one time or another. We have no warning or idea as to when they will happen, they just do. Hiccups occur when your diaphragm involuntarily contracts. This muscle separates the abdomen from the chest and is very important when it comes to breathing. Your vocal cords are suddenly closed after each contracting, and this is what makes the hiccup sound.

Hiccups can be caused by sudden excitement, a large meal, carbonated beverages, or alcohol. Hiccups usually only last a few minutes.

There are many ways to cure hiccups. Drinking a full glass of water, or having a friend sneak up and scare you are a couple of cures. My seventh grade teacher had a cure that worked for me. Mrs. Lasko had me follow her out into the hallway to the drinking fountain. She turned on the faucet while I plugged my ears, bent over the fountain and drank until I couldn’t drink anymore. Of course the hiccups went away.

Stay safe and I’ll see you Out and About!

Submitted by Norm Stutesman

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