Wednesday, March 9, 2016

“My heart is warm with the friends I make, And better friends I'll not be knowing, Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, No matter where it's going.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Selected Poetry

Good morning and welcome. It's already Wednesday, and this one happens to be labeled March 9, 2016. The other day someone brought up the subject of train travel. That, as many of you know, was an important part of my growing up days. When I was younger I rode passenger trains fairly often. That was because our dad had worked for the Kansas City Southern, (KCS), railroad and when he died they gave our family a rail pass on their line. I was a teenager the last time I tried to use that rail pass. Mrs. Poston who ran the rail office in our little town looked at the pass and sadly informed me that it was no longer in force. The man who signed it had passed away. So much for a lifetime rail pass. When we were in England many years ago we rode a train and had lunch on the train. It was more of a novelty than a real train ride. It ran on a closed loop long enough to serve the meal and then return us to our original location. There's just something about train travel. While I don't remember too much of my years before my dad passed away when I was seven, I do remember us taking a trip from Port Arthur, Texas to Fort Benning, Georgia to visit relatives. We had to sleep in a Pullman car. We actually traveled over Lake Pontchartrain at night. There are times when I can still feel that train rocking and making those unique noises. It might only be my imagination but my memory preserved that as the best sleep ever. I've looked at all the train travel brochures online dozens of times. I still look at them occasionally. Maybe. Someday. Several years ago we had an older fellow here at work that decided he and his wife would travel across the Southwest on Amtrak. His experience was not so great. The train they rode was plagued with mechanical issues and delays. They finally got out to Arizona but decided to fly back home. I hope I hadn't influenced him with all of my train stories. They are still good memories. Especially when I think about them when I sleep.

I remember one particular chartered train I was able to ride when I was 14 and soon to be 15 years old. My uncle had arranged for me to travel with a huge bunch of kids to Kansas City to see the Athletics play the New York Yankees. I rode the regular route from our little town to Shreveport. I didn't really know that much about the trip but when I arrived I discovered a huge disconnect of a problem. The chartered train was for little league kids and I was a Dixie Youth ball player. My slot was to go as one of those kids. Awkward! Depending on your perspective, the bad news good news was the fact that the chaperons assigned to watch over divided groups were teenagers, girls and boys. Well, how do you like that? I'm traveling on a little league scholarship but I'm old enough to date my chaperon. It reminds me of that Jerry Clower story about the boy who stayed so long in the 4th grade. It was because he was dating the teacher. At any rate, it was an interesting adventure. I got to see President Harry Truman. The year was 1961 and I got to see Roger Maris hit a home run and that was the year he broke Babe Ruth's record. I also remember the train ride, especially up through the Ozarks. I also remember my assigned chaperons. The girls. Not the boys. One particular evening I ventured out onto the porch/platform between cars. The train had stopped. I remember the sign. We were in Mena, Arkansas. In my minds eye I can still feel that brisk air along with hearing the hissing of the train and the taking in of those wonderful train smells. That's what we call a train ride story and on this particular journey you do not get to pass go or collect two hundred dollars.

I suppose my grandfather was a sort of a prophet in some ways. He used to tell me that I reminded him of a crawfish. He said crawfish travel backwards because they are not as much interested in where they are going as in observing where they have been. You know. Life through the rear-view mirror, so to speak. I am blessed with a reasonably good recollection. While I try not to live in the past I do enjoy my strolls down memory lane. Just think what I could come up with if I could unlock all the stuff I've recorded but can't get to because when my dad died suddenly it blocked most of my memories prior to that event. I am 100% convinced they are all there, just not accessible. Believe me I have tried. I get vague glimpses of this, that, or the other from time to time but that wall is formidable. I even considered hypnosis but decided against it. I didn't feel comfortable being put into an altered state of consciousness. You thought what? You thought I actually mostly lived in an altered state of consciousness? Well, thank you very much. I'll take that as a compliment. Whatever it is I will say it does make for some good remembering. I'm thankful for that. I really am. I'm also thankful that God knows me through and through and He is my help in the here and now, in the present tense, if you will. I say Amen to that. Amen. ....More later.

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