I know a girl. She's a good kid who grew up in Eastern Washington and has spent most of her years somewhere in the eastern region of the state. She can be silly or serious, engaged or wandering, rooted on the ground or have a head in the clouds. She knows Jesus and follows him even when things tells her not to. She's a good kid.
She's listened patiently to my ramblings about the disgraces of The Milwaukee's abandonment; how I perceive the management to have acted inappropriately and in the face of obvious facts. She's listened to me pine for a better alternative than driving across the state of Washington on I90, or hopping on a passenger train in Spokane at 2 in the morning. She's listened and been fascinated by my recounting of the tale when I stepped into a darkened tunnel #45 in the Saddle Mountains and found myself to be in the presence of something far bigger than myself. All of these things she's listened to and internalized, but she'd never been to the graveside itself.
Then, on a cool spring day, we were there at a place called Pandora. The grasses of the Palouse had yet to awaken from their winter slumber, and a harsh wind cut across the prairie toward the Bitterroot Mountains. Old telegraphy poles stood near the bottom of the fill and a hawk circled far away on the powerful currents of the wind. The feelings of solitude and loneliness were strong as we walked the grade. She said, "I feel anxious."
I felt it too, as I had many times before. There's a sadness here and among the ruins of other places where time has long past them by. A friend of mine described the feeling as a "quiet reverence" that seems to cry out from these lonely places of old. The girl I know had found the real Milwaukee Road and witnessed what's left of it. To me, it represents a truth far larger than we like to admit. We try hard to convince ourselves that we're in control, to cover up the obviousness of our smallness with noise, lights, and technology. But we can't escape forever. The quiet solitude and cutting winds of the places we've forgotten quickly point out our folly. We're constantly reminded that, "Lord, your sea is so great, and my boat is so small."
I know a girl and she's a good kid.
Fred Neil Plays A Leadbelly Work Song
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