Ode to a Line Pole (A Photographer's Lament)

by Glenn A. Gehlke

The weather was fine that morning
The sun was shining bright
And I knew that when my train rolled by
I'd have the perfect light

So I prepped my camera lovingly
Polished the lens with care
Loaded up my bag with film
And set off to wait somewhere

I drove for three whole hours
Crossed two rivers and a gorge
I hiked down through a canyon
Then searched a little more

At last I came upon the spot
Where trains I knew I'd see
I scoped out where the tracks were
And counted every rock and tree

At last upon my scanner
I heard what I'd waited for
It was the voice of the dispatcher
Giving warrants to the 904

Then suddenly I heard it
With its whistle blowing clear
I steadied up my camera
As that big stack train drew near

As it poked its nose around the bend
I began firing off my shots
In five seconds I had burned that roll
This photo would be hot

I raced back home excitedly
Stopping by the photo store
The clerk said she would have it done
In 40 minutes, less or more

When the film came back I grabbed those prints
And peeled them from their pack
The time at last had come to see
What I'd shot beside the track

I gazed upon the first print
Which sure looked mighty fine
But then suddenly I saw it...
A long, distracting LINE!

"Oh no!" I gasped and held my breath
This simply could not be
I'd mapped out every obstacle
And angle carefully

But sure enough I'd missed it
Now I saw it plain as day
A 30-foot-tall LINE POLE
Was standing in my way

Its wires stretched like tentacles
Into my every frame
Marring every perfect line
And detail of that train

Not one shot did I have
Where that pole was not in sight
It might as well have been a wall
It was such an awful blight

I tossed that roll into a box
I hide deep inside a drawer
And there it will find company
With several dozen more

That box is full of shattered dreams
I've captured through my lens
Poles and lines and motion blur
A photographer's mortal sins

Oh, line poles do have such a knack
For getting in a picture
And every railfan photographer
Has been burned by that little fixture

But thanks to the computer age
New hope has come about
And with a little high-tech know-how
Now we just Photoshop them out!

A line pole guards the shoreline view along the
Union Pacific's Cal-P Line at Gately.

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This page was last updated Wednesday, May 5, 1999 at 01:25 hrs.