Saved By An Angel …

What was the secret of Lonnie Glosson's longevity? The legendary White County harmonica player, who died at 93 on March 2, 2001, was convinced that he had a guardian angel. He frequently told this story about "riding the rails" in the 1920s:

Lonnie Glosson

"I was in Little Rock and was catching #8, a fast mail train, out to go home to Kensett. #8 did not carry anybody, only mail, back in those days… There was a two-inch snow on the ground and I was in North Little Rock. #8 did not stop in North Little Rock. I knew it didn’t. But it slowed down to about 15 miles an hour. I got back under a viaduct where it was dry to catch the train. I caught it – but where I caught there was no steps – only a straight rod running up the corner of the car – and as I was hanging on my hands started slipping down all the time I was swinging back and forth in between the cars. My knees almost to the ground. And as I swung out the last time there was a switchstand that was going to hit me square in the stomach. So I lost my memory and when I come to myself I was sitting up in the blinds on the other car. I was really scared and shaking like I had a hard chill. I do not know how I got up in that blind. After the train got to Kensett I got down and I tried to get up in the blind while the train was stopped. But there was no way to get up there.

"There just had to be a Higher Power just pick me up and set me up there. That is why I believe in guardian angels.

"An angel was with me once when I started out for St. Louis and changed my mind. I was going to catch #18 at Newport at 11 o’clock at night. It only made four stops from there to St. Louis, 300 miles. As I waited at the depot for it to arrive, I felt something was telling me not to go. But I got on board anyway and the train started to pull out. Still, something told me to get off. It was going about 15 miles an hour when I jumped off and went back home. Believe it or not, that train only got 12 miles out – as far as Tuckerman – and it derailed and killed the engineer, fireman and two mail clerks. There was a boy who caught it the same time I did who stayed on and he was killed, too. I sure was lucky. That had to be my guardian angel helping me.

"So I waited a few more days and caught a fast mail train, about 3 in the afternoon. It was a stormy day, I mean really bad weather. The train got on up the line and was running fast.

"It dawned on me that the train was going really fast. I was in the first blind, back of the engine and could see out both sides of the blinds. I looked out the left side and there was a tornado about a quarter of a mile coming toward the train. I saw it blow a barn and a house completely away and when the train got on up to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, which was not very far on the line, the train stopped to change crew and engine. Poplar Bluff was a division for the crew and engine. The same storm that we outran just a few miles back had already got there. There was a big hotel just up the steps from the train station. I started to go up there to get out of the storm, but the wind was blowing so hard I ran on down the track to an overpass. The train highballed out and I caught it as it passed me. I got in the same blind that I rode out of Newport. The wind was so strong I thought it was going to blow me out. But I made it to St. Louis. When we got there, the paper was full of pictures about Poplar Bluff being blown away. The hotel that I started to go up to was completely gone, the railroad crew that pulled the train in there was killed, the engineer, fireman, conductor and brakeman plus about 40 other people were killed. I would have died, too, had I gone up to that hotel. I have had a guardian angel over me all of my life. That is why I have lived to be 92 years old. These things actually happened – the honest truth and facts."

Read Lonnie Glosson's remarkable life story in the 2001 edition of White County Heritage, $10 postage paid from WCHS, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72145.