Railroad tracks crossed the highway and a diesel freight chugged along southbound. At the crossing was a grey cinder hut with a back-up generator for powering the signal, a tarmac pad to park a truck. Sand hills rolled out for miles, higher peaks hitched up further west and south. The long cross arms lowered. We stopped and stretched outside. Sweat broke out on my neck and back and forehead. Over a hundred degrees, maybe one-ten, one-twelve. Red lights flashed and the crossing bell clanged, the big diesel blasting its alto horn and the engine pounding behind its creased steel maw, all black and orange.
Diesel fumes and grease, I guess you could call that the smell of progress. A dusty coyote stood alone on the opposite side in the heat, black eyes locked on mine, hind legs lean and tense.
Groaning freight cars heaved up the slope grade of track, rusted train wheels singing steel on steel. We stood for five minutes drinking water, watching black tanker cars, double decked carriers chained with red and black Ram pickups, white Chevy vans and a few flatbeds moving green and yellow tractors and farm equipment. Graffiti-covered cars hailed from Chattanooga, St. Louis, Duluth MN, Southern Pacific and Burlington Northern, hoppers and coal cars. I wondered how long that coyote would stand there. He had the entire desert to roam. We had no choice but to wait.