Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Left Behind

William W. Fraker

The younger son watched out the kitchen window
As his father and older brother went out into the woods
On a cool windy winter’s day. Snow still hung near
The base of trees and bushes sheltered from sunlight.

They trekked past several sheds and across the field towards
The oak forest. Loaded with a couple of axes, steel wedges,
A planer and a two-handed cross-cut saw, the pair left no
Footprints on the frozen ground as they entered the tree line.

It took a few minutes for the duo to completely disappear
Amongst the barren limbs and grey tree trunks. The younger
Son continued to stare, knowing he was probably too young
To handle the tools for felling and splitting oak into railroad ties.

The workmanship involved in cutting these ties by hand
Developed gradually over years of suffering the scrupulous
Eye of the railroad purchaser. Each tie brought to the crossing
By horse drawn wagon earned either a dollar or rejection.

The younger son also suspected he had been left behind because
Of congenital calluses that made it difficult to walk long distances.
His sensitivity to this silent disability was more than physical.
It prevented him from joining scouts and later enlisting in WW II.

Tears slid down the face of the younger son as his breath fogged
The winter window. Over time he tried to pass whenever he could.
He chose a career as a bookkeeper. To an adult son, he once
Confided his heart’s wish: to have had a career as a Forest Ranger.


William W. (Bill) Fraker’s poetry has appeared Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology and in The Witness magazine. He graduated from Lynchburg College with a degree in English and obtained graduate degrees from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has taught at Duke University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a psychotherapist and manager for a company improving the quality of health care in the public sector. He currently resides near Richmond, Virginia.

© William Fraker

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012