Dateline: West of Elkhart

I’ve always loved trains, ever since I was a little boy watching the big freights pass the bottom of the field at my uncle’s house.  Something hard to express; it’s partly about the size, the vast power, the freedom to travel, to see every part of the country and say hi on the way by.

“Sorry; can’t stop. Got a schedule to keep. But I’ll whistle going by to say hi. See you again at twelve past six!”

I haven’t grown up so much as gotten bigger (and greyer).  And today I have the freedom to indulge my love for riding the rails.  So, having an unpleasant errand in Chicago, I figured I’d make it that much better by taking the Capitol Limited.

I love the ViewLiner trains. You can sit on the upper level and watch out these big wide windows, looking at the world as it passes by. Every little place is unique; every whistle-stop has its story.

Stories are important on the train. Unlike with air travel, most folks talk. I think it’s to do with having more space. In the flying steel sardine tin we restrain our personalities out of self-defense; here we acknowledge each other as people. We smile and chat and pass the time.

On the road west, we were going through that flat part of Indiana where all the little towns look alike. Only a true connoisseur can tell one from the next. The conversation had flagged, as sometimes happens, so I thought it an opportune moment to educate the car on a matter of fascinating trivia.

“Funny thing about that graveyard,” I said. “It’s truly strange.”

Polite interest from some of the passengers. The California couple seemed curious. The girl doing intricate mosaic drawings of ferns with eyes never looked up.

“This little town, none of the residents is allowed to use the cemetery. Not one person living here has permission to be buried here.”

More interest. I paused; Uncle Bill would call it “setting the hook”.

It was art girl who cracked first.  “But why not?!” She was indignant, but kept her focus on drawing microscopic lines.

“It’s against the law to bury the living. You have to be dead first.”

She couldn’t stop laughing and got the hiccups.

I love riding the train.

One comment

  1. You did love those E. Newport trains! That is probably why your sister in later years bought you a tea kettle that sounded like a train whistle.


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