This blog doesn’t have anything to do with the beef business—well, not directly anyway. I’m not going to comment on industry issues or take a stand on anything.
Instead, I’m going to pause and take a look back into an earlier time in our country and tip my hat to those who keep it alive.
What young child, especially little boys, didn’t play with trains? I don’t mean to exclude the ladies here, because that question is not gender specific. We attended a model train show this past weekend with our grandkids and there were lots of kids there, some posing as adults. I passed an older gentleman wearing a t-shirt that boldly proclaimed, “Still plays with trains.” And there were about as many girls as boys wandering the aisles, oohing and aahing over the wares on display.
My Dad was fascinated with trains, especially the steam engine variety. That’s likely because steam engines were a big part of his youth. The small mountain town he grew up in lies in a valley and you could hear the steam engine chugging its way up the canyon and into the valley from a long way off.
Dad was a child of the Depression and that train meant a whole lot more than just a connection to the larger world. When they heard the train coming up the valley, he and his brothers would grab gunny sacks and head for the tracks, picking up rocks along the way. As the train slowed to approach the station, the boys would start chunking rocks at the engine.
The men on the train, knowing full well what the game was about, returned fire with wood and chunks of coal. The boys filled their sacks, drug them home and the cook stove had fuel for another week.
I was reminded of that story this past weekend as we wandered through the many displays at the train show. Despite the burden of both his years, my grandson loves to play with trains. With a birthday approaching, it was largely for his benefit that we were there.
And it will be a fine birthday, as any grandpa worth the name will understand. But what fascinated all of us were the displays set up by the various model train clubs in the area. The detail and accuracy shown in those displays was simply amazing. One had a cattle car complete with mooing.
As I thought of Dad’s fascination with steam engines, it occurred to me that these folks are preserving a piece of our history for all to see. When I tell my grandson the story about his great-grandpa (he’ll hear it more than once, I suspect), maybe, just maybe, his fascination with trains will help him understand enough of its history to connect with a man he never knew and a time that gets dimmer as the generations go by.
The history that is being kept alive by alleged adults who still play with trains is our history. It tells of good times and hard times as America grew and prospered, as it stumbled and recovered.
We must always look to the future. But we must always remember that we are where we are today because of the men and women who came before us. Their stories are our stories and their history is our history. We must never forget them.