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The whistle


Gravels bump, trees scroll, the car climbs, and takes off. I accelerate. The whistle approaches. I do not have much time. Night is falling, moistures floats above the hills. I brake suddenly, slam the door…a deafening din makes vibrate my body, the ground trembles. A shiver runs through my pulpit.The creaking of its steel wheels screams, pierces my eardrums. I brake my neck to admire it.

Calm returns quietly. Few squeaks still resound in the distance. The river continues its enless whisper. While the world has disappeared, I felt a presence behind my shoulders. There’s an other observer. I turn back to salute him. His hands in the pockets, head up and a broad smile tell a lot about him. His presence is not a coincidence. He finally regains consciousness. Raises his eyes on me. His hand hard as a rock comes to hit my knuckles.


We are on a national service road. I have the feeling of being entered in an unknown property. I allow me to ask him a few questions. I learn about him he was a hobo in early seventies. A friend taught him to catch freight trains. « the good old days » he said. He is not runing fast any more and security was reinforced.

This is probably his return from war, which led him to follow the railways. The need to escape. After experiencing hell nothing could frighten him now. This magic place, these trains vibration, this whistle recalls him that he is alive.


He indicates me to come and takes me in the woods behind his truck. I am away to be afraid, I am curious to discover what he wants to show me. I walk his steps. A wood fire perfum rushes into my nose. He shows me several redwood trunks and tell me that he could not live anywhere else.

It’s late. I ‘ll come back tomorrow. I can’t sleep. The night intoxicates me and fill my imagination. It is 3 am, whistles still resonate. Trains tears the night. They eventually disappear.

thewhistle014thewhistle003Photography and text: Alfred Cromback