It could be said that men my age have fleeting, and sometimes inaccurate, memories of themselves at those ages.
But I remember with complete clarity the nights in those homes when a haunting, mournful, yet beautifully rich sound issued across the dark night skies of Oklahoma City. The one I remember most clearly occurred at about 4:30 in the morning. It woke me, to be sure, but the sound passed quickly, and sleep once again dominated my mind. In the morning, I would get up and, while showering or shaving, remember that mournful sound with great affection.
It was, of course, the sound of a train’s whistle as it passed various crossings ranging from downtown to the northern limits of the metroplex.
I loved that sound, and still do. So I read, with some regret, that a movement was under way to eradicate that sound (News, Tim Farley, “Quiet, please,” June 5, Oklahoma Gazette). I knew that the movement would succeed, and that another minor, yet subtly pleasant, aspect of growing up and living in Oklahoma City would disappear.
I knew that after that sound disappeared, we would be one step closer to hearing nothing more than the sad and empty silence of a population that lived for nothing more than the real estate deal, the stock exchange transaction, the mineral lease rights agreement, the monthly board meeting, the weekly golf game ... and all the other silences that define the myopic and ultimately dull lives of the monetarily obsessed.
In the moments that this sound softly permeated the room in which I slept, I fantasized about traveling on that train to distant places and altogether unique spaces that existed where those rail lines led. And I fell asleep again to dream the dreams of voyagers to far, distant lands.
Go ahead; create a “quiet zone.” All you will truly be creating is a hole in the fabric of life.
—John Smelser, Oklahoma City