It is an unsettling feeling to look back at life and ponder the passage of time. It is unsettling to wonder how or why things worked as they did. It has been said that life is a mist, here and then gone. Perhaps the key is to live in such a way that every day is made to count, that every day is meaningful in some way?
In the grasslands of Central Montana, in a small town named Roundup, the mist of the Milwaukee Road's life is slowly dispersing out across the curve of time. The grasses sway and the trees rustle in a warm summer breeze, but the sounds of America's Resourceful Railroad have been gone for many many years. Like the cattle drives that preceded the railroad, lending Roundup its name, quiet is here and life is moving on.
In the tall grasses an old signal stand sits alone with the remnants of a few electrical wires at its base. The insulation is cracked and crusty and their connection to a national lifeline has long been severed. Like other tombstones spread out across the Milwaukee's West, these that remain in Roundup are the fading mists of a line and people who have moved on. A few still stop and take notice of them, but how many? Off the beaten paths, places like Roundup and the Milwaukee Road are where we've been, but somehow, no longer wish to go.
Undeniably, however, these fading signatures of different times still make a difference. I can't explain it, nor even understand it, but I know days I've spent along the route of the Columbian were meaningful and counted for something. I wonder if we would live life differently if we asked ourselves at the end of the day, "what counted today?" It is ironic that even in its life after death, the Milwaukee Road still counts and makes a difference. It fulfills no purpose ever envisioned by those who sent it west, but it remains a difference maker for a few of us nonetheless. On that warm summer day in Roundup, on that day, it made a difference to someone. Now, many years and many miles away, it still does. I guess that's a day that counts for the old girl.