Don't let it end like this

Location:  Mount Pleasant, Iowa

It was just a cold winter day in the early 2000s.  The ceiling above was unlimited and the blues were showing vivid on yesteryear's slide film.  Running east like a wind itself, the California Zephyr is seen streaking across the flat eastern Iowa landscape with its sights set on the Mississippi River crossing.  Once safely through the winding and narrow passages of Burlington, the small towns of Illinois will flit by the large windows, just for an instant, as the cars gently rock along the double-tracked transcon.  Then, a final run into Chicago on the Race Track.  All along the way, the stainless steel will glisten in the low winter sun.  Maybe - just maybe - I see a little of that old panache of America's famous trains showing through.  

So much has changed so quickly in the pandemic era.  The Zephyr and its long distance stablemates will retreat like many of us to a different way I wonder, will we ever have these daily runs again?  Will dining cars ever offer the aroma of cooking breakfast during a station stop early in the morning?  

These missing trains are just another painful reflection of the times themselves - too much hurt across the society in too many ways.  The nation quakes and convulses and reveals its hurt and brokenness.  My prayer:  Lord, don't let it end like this.  Please, I know we can do better and I'm sorry.


Fred M. Cain said…
“My prayer: Lord, don't let it end like this. Please, I know we can do better and I'm sorry.”

Your post for some reason jarred my memory of something. You know, I once had a vivid dream that for all my years I have never forgotten. I dreamt that I’d died and found myself falling into blackness. Faster and faster I fell into the abyss and into total darkness. Then, finally, I could make out a tiny pinpoint of light at the bottom. Or was the pinpoint of light actually up ahead? I couldn’t be sure.

The light grew closer and closer until it finally began blinding me. Then all of a sudden I burst out forth into bright, blinding daylight. As my eyes began to adjust I saw the most beautiful, breath-taking scene of a river, forest and mountains passing before my eyes. I became completely absorbed in it.

Then something else caught my attention. Something kept flitting by the front of my eyes. I tried to jerk my head fast to get a glimpse of it. Catenary poles? Huh? We came to a big sweeping curve and as I looked ahead I saw the powerful electric locomotive. Yes, I now realized that I was actually on a train and passing through a countryside that I had never before been in nor ever seen. But I had seen pictures of it!

Finally the train stopped somewhere and I just knew it was my stop. No one had to tell me; I just knew. I got off and walked into the small town I had entered but not until I first walked up to get a good look at the locomotive.
It was a lovely town with old buildings – the kind you see in old photographs taken around 1915. I knew there was no suffering there and was completely overtaken by the feeling that everything was going to be alright.

Why did I feel a need to share this? After all it was only a dream, right? Or was it more than that? A revelation? Maybe there is another world that lies ahead of us after all. Maybe we get so absorbed in our worldly lives that there really is a bigger picture that we cannot see. A new life where there is no suffering and, much to my surprise, the Milwaukee Road is STILL running!

In a perfect world, the Milwaukee Road would’ve never been abandoned. In a perfect world there would be no crooked managers nor ambivalent politicians who just plain didn't care. But we are not in a perfect world. But maybe, just maybe one lies ahead of us. Keep on praying!
Just my thought for the day, that's all.

Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, Indiana
Anonymous said…
Fred - what a dream and thank you for sharing it. I have often wondered if the things we love and can’t explain look forward to that place where everything will be all right. No more tears, no more goodbyes - and maybe a catenary or two?
LinesWest said…
Fred, so good to read your comment. I am either fortunate or unfortunate in that many of the dreams I have seem to drift away with the first waking moment. But I will hold out hope that there is a place where tears a wiped away, death is no more - and maybe there is a catenary or two.

Perhaps it is silliness on my own side, but I have wondered if the things we love for no apparent reason, reflect the heart of God who also, somehow cares about those things and loves them as we love them.

We'll keep praying, and trying to make things better here while we're here.
Joseph Toth, Jr. said…
Wow, I'm all covered with goosebumps! Wonderful prose, wonderful comment. Is there life beyond the death of The Milwaukee Road? I say yes, there is! It can be found just beyond the Big Rock Candy Mountains, where every railroader, railfan, and hobo goes, when his or her life's journey has reached the final bumping post here on earth.


Joseph Toth, Jr. said…
Hi leland, it has been awhile since I sent a comment to you but I have moved and it has been a strange year to say the least. I too have dreams involving railroads, mainly of small cities centered around the railroad serving it. I think for some of us, mainly oldsters, who grew up with railroads being very important aspects of ones life, have a deep emotional attachment to them which despite decades of other activities and events, emotionally railroads are still part of what makes us who we are. So much unknown ahead of us at this time and a future for our children/grandchildren we cannot imagine. I will continue to keep my emotional attachment to railroads until I am gone and that seems to be about all I can hope for now. I did my best to make things otherwise but it was just not to be. Glad you are still keeping the headlight burning.

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