Josiah Bell was a switchman like his Pappy before him. He had a gimpy leg from an accident he had when he was six so he walked the tracks carrying his lantern in one hand and a long pole in the other. On top of the pole, he hung a red kerchief on a nail which he liked to wave at the engineers as they drove their enormous machines along the tracks.
He was working the yards in Chicago and it was damn early in the morning and cold. He done heard on the radio what those Hitler and Mussolini fellas was doing and how them Germans sent their army into peaceful Denmark and Norway. Josiah was a peaceful man and a simple one but he didn’t take to no bullies. He’d been bullied plenty as a child because of his bum leg. A lot of folks wanted America to stay out of that mess in Europe and maybe they were right, but then who was gonna take care of those bullies?
The 3:10 from Omaha was just coming up to his switch. Josiah set down his pole and grasped the metal bar and with a practiced hand and steely sinews, pulled, switching the course of the train from the main line to the freight yards. Then he stood, putting most of weight on his good leg and waved his lantern. No use waving the kerchief on the pole, too dark to see it.