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The Other Side of the Tracks


Ray L. Head






The One that started it All !


The Mesquite Belt name was conceived during lunch while riding EMS in Bellville, Texas for Austin County EMS.   An article called "On the Other Side of the Tracks" written by Ray L. Head grabbed my attention.   The article started telling of stories on the railroad.  The names had been changed not to protect the innocent, but keep those parties from getting in trouble with the real railroad.  For example, Houston was changed to Hotson, 'cause during the dogs days of summer, Houston with 100% humidity and 100 degree temps can make you think it is as hot as the sun!  In Sealy, where the Katy crosses the AT&SF, now the BNSF, there was a branch line that came off the Santa Fe called the Cane Belt that eventually ended in Matagorda, Texas.  In the article I was reading, the name of the Cane Belt had been changed to the Mesquite Belt, because of all the Mesquite trees down the line.  That name made perfect sense to me, just as the Cotton Belt represented a major crop on the land, so did the Mesquite Belt.   The Mesquite Belt was born!   

Notes in (parentheses) will expand information from authors notes.

The Mesquite Belt has permission from Doug Ratchford, agent for Ray L. Head to publish these stories for all to enjoy and laugh!
Check back often for more stories!



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The Other Side of the Tracks




A typical third shift began in the Brushclump terminal yard on the Brushclump, Stumpjump & Podunk Railroad.  (Bellville, Temple & Galveston)  Second shift had left post haste, leaving the switch engines in the middle of everything blocking the crosswalk from the parking lot to the yard office. 


After the cloud of dust had settled from their departure to the beer joint, the night shift took over.  Just as the harried residents of the posh Brush Oaks subdivision across the highway were settling back to sleep, the crazies on the #301 job coupled up the engines to a string of boxcars with an earthshaking crash.  “Yew got’em” Hillbilly drawled.  “Back up!”

Rachet yanked open the throttle on a pair of ancient GM locomotives in accompaniment to hissing of compressed air and screeching of wheels as lights came on in houses across the road. 


The 301’s first duty each night was to drag the Mesquite Belt branch line night local freight #5227 out to the main line.  As they made this maneuver, that train’s engines came out of the roundhouse. The Mesquite Belt (GC&SF's Cane Belt out of Sealy) was an out of the way line servicing the Weevils’ Service Mesquite and Cotton Seed Oil Mill; who had bought Dr. Ahmadi’s mesquite oil refining process patent after his private facility was blown into next week by an explosion.   Since this train traveled through pretty desolate area on a little used line, its crew led a more relaxed work life than their fellow railroaders on the mainline.


It had been a good season for quail in the area.  Doves were plentiful too.  Most of the regulars who worked the two trains a day on the Belt were good ol’ boys from the country who were skilled in cooking wild game. Since cabooses had a big iron oil burning stove, train crews with a good shot and a good chef ate pretty well on the road for little or no cost.


Down in the mesquite brush, the doves were stirring with the dawn.  Nervell Ord had had an easy trip and had only consumed about a six pack in the last couple of hours.  With the conductor riding the engine to help with switching, he had ridden the caboose to himself.


Planning the morning’s  shooting to bag lunch while the rest of the crew performed switching at the Mudbug Bayou siding (New Gulf Siding), Nervell came to the conclusion that he would have a better vantage point to shoot from if he sat on the top of the caboose cupola.  Being an eager sort, he wasn’t  one to pass up a good shot.  Sitting on the jolting caboose roof, he faced the rear to have a shot at the birds on both sides.


Suddenly several doves flushed from the right of way to Nervell’s left.  Nervell swung his his 36” barreled Long Tom in their direction just as the caboose jolted hard the opposite direction.  He nose dived straight over the side ad rolled down the embankment through the dewberry vines.


A mile down the tracks, Lewis Dorrell, the conductor became aware that Nervell was missing.  Walking back to the caboose, he found it empty.  Since there would not be another train on the line from that direction for another 18 hours, he backed the train up using hand signals.  A few minutes later, Lewis spotted Nervell limping down the track, shotgun broken open over his shoulder, skinned up and bloody looking like he had been through a paper shredder.


When queried about his thoughts at the moment he fell off, Nervell replied  All I could think about was that sucker being loaded and cocked!  I hugged it that much tighter every time I bounced!” 


At a later date, he was being kidded about it in the presence of two officials.  The senior of the two men asked him how he managed to fall off the roof of the caboose.  “Aw, I was drunk” was the reply.  This official, who could not condone drinking on the job, still appreciated a good joke on one of his men, turned away to hide a huge grin.  The other official, an assistant trainmaster; read shave-tail with little authority and great feeling of importance, was appalled at this open admission of blatant operating rules violation.


Later, that same official asked Nervell in private why he came right out and admitted to such a serious offense.  Nervell immediately answered, “Well I sure didn’t want him to think I could fall off a caboose sober!”

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A Mesquite Belt Transportation Company

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