Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Sun Rises

One of the oft remarked places of note on the Milwaukee's line through Eastern Washington was the large wooden trestle near Pandora. It was a hidden treasure for those who ventured the Pacific Extension beyond the bounds of the electrified districts. This was dark territory and history recounts the accident here when two freights met head-on. These were the final months before the resourceful railroad became part of lore and legend.

Today, the large trestle near Pandora is gone. It has left a large cut in the sweeping curves and large embankments of the Pacific Extension's travels through the Palouse. Fading are the memories of that fatal accident now many years in the past. Recollections of the last runs of orange and black across the rolling Palouse fields are fading as well. Only the abandoned right of way is left to hint that something larger was here before.

These last runs and old sights that now seem so faded point to a larger, disconcerting truth. The things that pass from this place into finality are at best given passing notice. In reality, the sun rises the next day, people get up and go about living their lives, and the world continues on without. Many people and places have passed since the Resourceful Railroad in the west became the quiet memorial that defines it today. In an uncaring forwarding of time, it slips further and further into the fogs of the past and the sun rises on still another day. It takes special effort to recall and put context to the events and people of times past. The stories are deep and meaningful. If you choose to pursue them and take note of them, however, they can lead to something far larger. This is a true call which beckons us to remember what has come before. It requires sacrifice and perseverance so that the rising sun of another day will not simply be an uncaring and insignificant forwarding of time. Instead it will be used to ask, to seek, and to knock.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Kingdom of Idols

In the shadows of the old U.S. 2 lane highway, a portion of the Milwaukee Road's Lines West sits basking in the hot summer sun. The nights are frigid here, but the days are hot and dry.

In many places, it seems one could simply relay the rails of America's final transcon. At Cyr, however, this bridge over the Clark Fork River is gone. One of the victims of the scrappers and the bankruptcy of days past.

The thoughtful quiet of Cyr pales in comparison to some of the remote sections of the Rocky Mountain division. Although US 10 has been relegated to a service road, its replacement is not far away. A few hundred feet to the south, just out of eyeshot but never out of earshot, lies the modern transcon: I-90. While in many ways a symbol of American success and personal freedom, it remains a reminder of the price of the Milwaukee's failure. The continuous noise of all season radials on concrete echo along the Clark Fork River while the best engineered railroad to the West sits as a historical marker.

The idols of the ages change from time to time, but it's not hard to determine what they are. We rest in one of entitlement and gratification, one that quickly moves beyond past accomplishments for which we have no personal use. Our current idols have plotted an interesting course that is just now coming into clearer focus. The destination does not always seem appetizing, but the howl of radials along the Clark Fork remind us of its coming.