Alongside the tracks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Franklin Street is a ragged, broken ribbon that runs through downtown, an intermittent companion to the railroad tracks that cut through the city like a scar.

It wasn&8217;t that long ago that Franklin Street was a vital part of the local industry &8212; a one-way street that allowed business owners to bring in merchandise transported by train to the rear of their buildings.

The trains still come through. Every morning before 6:30 a.m., a train rumbles along the tracks and the lonesome whistle pierces the early morning quiet. Another train rolls through at midmorning, and then another hits town near sundown.

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Standing on the porch in front of her weathered single-wide trailer, Mack looks across the street. This is a neighborhood of the poor but proud &8212; where young men work, shirtless, on their trucks in the afternoon sun, where a little grease under a man&8217;s fingernails is accepted and understood.

Life is hard here. But Mack understands &8230; for her, life has always been that way.

Mack&8217;s daughter, Martisa, said that the train passes so close the family often feels it roll by.

Living on Franklin Street is often an adventure, the Mack family says. If the children don&8217;t get up on time, the train may slow them down and make them late for school.

Jeremy Mack said that it&8217;s tough to sleep when the train comes through.

Engineers give long blasts on the whistle while going through the crowded warren of downtown streets, giving motorists and pedestrians fair warning that a train is coming down the tracks.

The Mack family has lived on Franklin for about three years &8212; and they plan to move, but stay in the neighborhood. The street &8212; and the passing trains &8212; will remain nearby.