Never Cross Over Train Tracks Into The Desert

Text: You should never cross over train tracks into the desert, especially at night.

Context: My roommate X, a current USC student, grew up in Arizona and recounted to me that when they were 12 they first learned this saying from other kids. They were playing with friends one night and a Nerf bullet was shot too far, landing on the other side of the nearby train tracks. X went to get the bullet and the other kids stopped them with the warning that they should never cross over the tracks into the desert. The kids said “it’s gone now” and explained that X would be “gone” too if they crossed. X heard the saying multiple times while living in Arizona, highlighting first hand accounts of others hearing the voices of loved ones who aren’t present or seeing glowing eyes in the dark. Each account of what was or could be on the other side was different but the message was consistently that you should not cross train tracks into the wilderness.

Interpretation: Upon hearing this, I immediately thought that this saying seems like a warning for children about the dangers of the Arizona wilderness or potentially just train safety. X’s story supported this because they mentioned it was common for children in the area to play near train tracks and the desert so it would make sense for parents to make up a reason as to why their children shouldn’t be near the train tracks. However, as we continued discussing, X made it clear that they heard the accounts of voices and glowing eyes at a much older age from adults who wholeheartedly believed what they saw. As seemingly a memorate, I think this saying could stem from the Native communities of Arizona because the reports of voices reminds me of Skinwalkers or spirits. The train tracks could represent the barrier between the danger/supernatural and safety/civilization.