SEASONING WITH SALT AND PEPPER
My first encounter with the men my grandma called the hobos was from a branch on a lone pine tree that loomed over our garage like a giant octopus stretching in all directions. I wasn't allowed to climb the pine tree, as it had sticky sap oozing from every branch. My grandma would yell at me whenever I attempted to climb the tree.
"Tonia Kay, I better not catch you up in that pine tree."
But my grandpa finally gave in to my persistence and nailed an old piece of pinewood between two branches as my perch. I would sit on my perch with the sparrows and blackbirds and listen to them sing. What I really enjoyed, though, was waiting for the afternoon freight train. The railroad tracks were so close to the pine tree that the ground beneath it would start to rumble and shake before I could even catch a glimpse of the train. Then I would sit very still and wait for the whistle. Once I heard the train whistle, I knew that at any second the clanking of the steel wheels would roll by on those skinny rails, squeaking and hissing, and then I would...