As a conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad, my father had a somewhat unpredictable schedule. Sometimes his work took him north to St. Louis or Chicago. Other times it took him south to Memphis or Little Rock. Sometimes he’d be gone for a week at a time, other times he was able to come home in the evenings to be with us.
When my father got to come home, my mother got to cooking. Because he had to be at the depot in Poplar Bluff early, he rose around 5 to shower, dress and play his keyboards for a while. My mother, meanwhile, set to cooking elaborate breakfasts.
Biscuits and gravy. Bacon and eggs. Potato hash. Omelets. The meals she made when my father was home were an exciting departure from the cold cereals my sisters and I ate most mornings.
As we sat around the kitchen table, my mother would stand behind my father, spatulaing sausage links onto his plate as quickly as he could eat him and refilling his cup with more coffee.
What a pretty picture we must have been: the perfect nuclear family enjoying a home-cooked breakfast together.
But trouble — or maybe something else — was brewing.
“Have you gotten enough to eat?” my mother would ask.
My father would nod his assent.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like some more sausage?” she would say.
My father, whose appetite was the stuff of family legend, always said yes.
“How are you feeling?” my mother would ask.
“Oh, fine,” my father would say.
“Do you think you’re going to make a poop?”
My father would stop chewing. She’d gotten him again.
Knowing that the toilets on the train are especially nasty, my mother cooked hearty but greasy fare to ensure he would have to pay them a visit.
Some say that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I suppose it’s also true that this route also is the quickest way to a man’s fart.