Our neighbor Richard Riley died yesterday. Since they were both railroad men, I asked my dad how Richard lost his leg.

“In 1940, halfway between New Lisbon and Necedah, on the Valley line to Wausau, a steam locomotive’s boiler exploded and killed the engineer, the fireman, and the brakeman. The explosion hurled boiler and engine parts hundreds of feet ahead of the blast and blew the shoes off their feet. Inspectors determined that the train crew had been drinking and forgot about the boiler. But the boiler didn’t forget. She blew.

“Richard, the switchman, had been riding in the caboose.”


–Jim Krotzman is a retired English teacher at Watertown (WI) High School. He is a struggling haiku poet and fisherman.