Stop Time

This morning time slowed down.


As I washed the breakfast dishes I looked at the clock and the hands had not moved.  At least not much.  Surprised, I knew then that I would have time for all that I normally miss. All that I normally have to hustle and press to get to and then hustle and press to get through.   I would have time for my reading and prayer and time to write.   This sunny morning was giving me just what I imagined mornings could.  I straightened the kitchen, looked on it with a sense of accomplishment, completion, and pride and went outside to open my books, turn a new page in my journal and breathe the cool air.

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Voices XXI

It had already been a long day.


A case I thought I had settled blew up again.  My star witness gave a statement to the defense.  I don’t know why and everybody in the office seemed to blame me for that although I had no idea.  I don’t know what they want me to do to keep a lid on.  Threaten the guy.  I don’t know.  I thought this would make a good month for me and it was about time.  Now it’s just one more staff meeting where I’ll have to ask for patience; tell them it’s coming.

And then this call from the school.  I’ve done my best with Duane ; given him lots of time; lots of encouragement; lots of instruction.  I do remember school myself, what a bunch of idiots there were there.  How they worked to make life miserable for anybody that didn’t pay their dues.  Made life miserable for me.  Don’t want that for my kid.  Do about anything to keep that from happening.

Duane is a good kid and that’s not just me talking.  Anybody would tell you that – his teachers, his friends’ parents, anybody.  So that much is good.  The way it ought to be.  But I worry about other things.  Him being the one who gets picked on; always getting the short end of the stick.  He’d settle for that, just to keep the peace; I know him.

But I also know that in this world he’ll inhabit for the next four years settling to keep the peace will not keep the peace.  It will invite further abuse.  The more you give in this context, the more they’ll take.  Anybody who has been through it will tell you the same.

And now here I am in the waiting room outside the principal’s office.  Called in from my office.  A meeting about my son and no word at all from him.  I don’t know what this is about, but I have a strong hunch that he’s gotten into a fight and gotten whipped and is now in trouble with the school even though he was not the aggressor.  I want to blow up against the principal if I find this to be the case but I remind myself that that will be counterproductive in the long run and that I need to keep my cool.

As I sit I am already feeling terrible for Duane.  I don’t want him living in this rut that I lived through and I want to stop this sad music from repeating itself and I feel powerless.  I have done all I could do to prevent this.  Telling Duane that if he gets picked on he can let it all loose and it’s alright.  I’ll answer for any damage if that was the case.  But Duane, that’s not his impulse.  He’s not a big guy, either.

Now the secretary opens the door to the office.

“Mr. Davis, won’t you come in?”

I walk inside, doing my best to look calm.  To look like I do this every day.  Like I know what I am doing.  Like I am ready to defend my son.  The first thing I notice is that Duane is not in the room.  At first I am relieved.  Whatever this is should be easier for me outside of Duane’s presence.  But then it strikes me that he may not be here because he is hurt and somewhere in a dispensary or even hospital.

The principal, Hobart Bailey, is an older gentleman who many would say is so far past his prime that he can’t keep up with the goings on at the school.  He stands, then points to a chair before his desk and tells his secretary that he wants to speak to me alone.  She obviously knew this was coming and closes the door quietly on her way out.  I am almost sick to my stomach with apprehension; with fear.  We both sit down.

“I wanted you to get this straight from me, unfiltered.  And the reason for that is that I actually saw everything that happened. . .”

“Excuse me, sir,” I interrupt, “But I don’t have any idea why I am here.  Is my son okay?”

I am almost shocked at his response.  He smiles and chuckles.  “Oh, yes.  Duane is in fine shape.  He’s in the library right now and you’ll pick him up in just a minute.  But I want to explain to you a few things, man to man.”

“What happened?”
“Well, your son was getting picked on.  Just outside the door of the shop class.  I was inside a classroom just across the hall.  The light was off in that room and they could not see me, but I saw everything that happened.  You’ll be pleased to know that after the other guy – an upperclassman – slapped your son he grabbed the guy by the neck and had him on the floor in no time.  Duane held him in a stranglehold headlock and the guy was gasping for air.  I came out into the hallway, but I didn’t intervene immediately.  I’ve had trouble with that other guy time and again these past two years and I’ll tell you that something in me – this was not the most professional response, I know – but something in me just reveled in seeing this guy just his just desserts.  So I let it go until the other guy was gasping and just about to pass out and then I told Duane to let loose.  The other kid was completely disoriented and almost unconscious by then.  It was a thing of beauty, I’ll tell you.  I wish it had been my son that did it.  But here’s the thing, David.  I am stuck here.  There is a written policy here in place at the school that anyone who gets into a fight must be disciplined.    You know how these things work.  So, Duane is going to have a week of detention hall.  Half an hour after school for the next five days.  It was the other guy’s third offense, so he’s kicked out for two weeks.   I can’t stop that from happening, but I wanted you to know that Duane was in the right and that he acted bravely and that he has probably put one of my major disciplinary problems to rest for the year.  I don’t think Duane will be having any more problems like this for the rest of his time here.  I wasn’t the only one who saw it.  Word will get around.”

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The Lights of The Town

At night the town below was a constellation of yellow lights.

The tall streetlamps and the lit bedroom windows in the second floors of the frame houses.  At the bottom of the hill the light in the depot office shone white.  At four in the morning all the house lights were gone, but the depot light never went out.  He knew, he always knew, every time he looked out the window and east toward the rail line that there was someone at the depot desk, no matter the time of night, no matter the weather.  He had seen the man there once or twice, when he’d been coming home late at night in the back seat of his parents’ old Ford.  Once he saw the man leaving at shift change a six o’clock.  The man  was tall and straight and wore an overcoat and a brown fedora and looked every inch like a man who would never flinch or tire.

Years later, long after he and the railroad had left the town he remembered the white light that never went out and the comfort he felt then knowing that someone was always on the watch and that all that time and effort had put into motion and all that moved the work of one man or one town or factory from one place to another never stopped; that life, and man’s work to bring order, went on.

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On The Road to Damascus



On this mini-vacation we took advantage of every benefit that retirement offers.  That is, we left home on a Monday and avoided all the summertime, weekend traffic.   We drove east from our home in the Kanawha Valley in western West Virginia and almost 200 miles into the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and to the town of Abingdon, Virginia.

So many small mountain towns in Appalachia are has-beens nowadays.   A hundred or even fifty years ago they may have been prosperous, when mining and timbering were in full swing and those industries relied on lots of labor.  All of those miners and timbermen needed butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and thus the little  towns in the mountains thrived for generations.

Lots and lots of those once-prosperous places are nearly ghost towns now.  The storefronts on Main Streets empty or housing second-hand thrift stores.  Not Abingdon.  Even though this town is high in the Appalachians, it has escaped the economic bust that has affected the region all around.  This place is prosperous, well maintained and busy.  It boasts a live theater – the “Barter” – a four or five star resort hotel – once the “Martha Washington,” now “The Martha” – and lots of unique and upscale eateries.

But we come here in the first place for access to the Virginia Creeper Trail.  We are avid cyclists and this trail – all 33 miles of it – is just our speed, just perfect for our tastes.  It’s an abandoned railroad bed, now restored and surfaced with crushed gravel.  It’s railroad grade, of course, so that means the hills are gentle, gradual climbs or descents.  And the crushed gravel surface makes for easy riding.  We both ride so-called “fitness” bikes.  They are one step away from true road bikes in that they have tires that are just a bit wider and flat, instead of dropped handlebars.  Even with our narrow tires we have no trouble on the surface of this trail and we average about ten miles an hour when the two of us travel together.

The trail follows mountain streams and you are never far from a breathtaking view of some whitewater turn in a creek or river.  This time of year, moreover, you are almost always completely entunneled in the forest canopy.  It makes for cool and easy riding.

Image result for virginia creeper trail


This morning we were on the trail just after nine o’clock headed for the town of Damascus, some 16 miles east.   On this Monday morning, we had the trail almost to ourselves.  (Another advantage of retirement.)   There were a few walkers near some of the towns, but we travel at a modest speed and we were never passed one time today, either on our way to Damascus or our way back.

We really enjoyed our cool morning.  It had rained hard the night before and the streams were high and rushing.  We stopped in the little town of Alvarado, at about our halfway point, and watched some kind of bird of prey work the river there.

We knew we had all of that coming.  We expected the natural beauty and the accommodation of the well-maintained trail, but we did get a nice surprise in Damascus.

We’d planned to eat lunch there and rest before starting our return.  Sixteen miles through cool forest is enough to work up an appetite, even if the pavement is smooth and the grades gentle.  We’d heard of a coffee house there called Mojo’s Trailside Cafe and planned to make that our landing.  Damascus is a neat little town, too.  Built around the tourist trade.  It’s here that the Virginia Creeper Trail intersects with the continent-long Appalachian Trail and, in season, the town bustles with the comings and goings of hikers and bicyclists.

So Mojo’s sounded like a good place, but it was better than we expected.  We’re primal eaters, so I ordered a salad called the “Chop-Chop” and my wife had the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, without the bun.  Both were absolutely delicious!  This place serves good food!  Everything about my salad was just right.  The lettuce deep green and crisp, flavorful tomatoes, excellent bleu cheese dressing and no skimping on the bacon and crushed boiled eggs.

My wife’s platter was amazing, too.  Lots of thin slices of savory beef, not overcooked, and plenty of melted cheese covering it all up.

I was so impressed (and happy) that I asked to meet the chef.  The guy who made our stuff is Tom Hubbard and he works in the kitchen there with chef TJ Caudell.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood of the town of Damascus, Virginia, you’ll have to give Mojo’s coffee house a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Heading for Taos


Image result for rocky mountains



Long, long ago took my friend for a ride

With my heart in my hand said “Let’s leave it behind,”

The country is broader a thousand miles west

And we won’t know our strength til we’re put to the test


We drove out of the shade in the mountains we knew

And across field and forest where great cities grew

The highway was straight before us, you know

The valleys exalted, the hills were made low


And we watched the earth’s sky get more and more blue

And felt prairie winds toss the old Chevy II

Across the big river and across the divide

Our eyes were wide open, our hearts full inside


In days we saw on the far away view

Those Rockies we’d read all about in our school

We turned mud into bricks there and thus we were fed

And we sat in cool sunsets while the mountains turned red



copyright 2017

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Poem For the First of August


It is always August.

If time would stop, it would stand still

Under the dog star.

Winter lingers, but all of that season is labor

Boots, gloves, scarves and coats

Off and on, on and off

Snow shovels and firewood

What shivering creature stops to contemplate a grey sky?

We spend March and April longing for June

And in May we are ecstatic and the days pass

Almost without our knowing

July is full swing

Long-planned travel, hours in the car

Hurry up and rest, hurry up and enjoy


Spring is bursting birth

and fall, dramatic death

But August is stasis

and we sit in the warm evening

by the still-warm water

and think it will always be this way,

it should always be this way.

There is no rush into August

Nothing is planned there

We sleep late

And sit outside all night

Who works or worries then?

There is no rush away from August

No one wants to hear that first bell.

Stop time.

Stay here.




Copyright 2014

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The World’s Second-Oldest Faith



I don’t come to the scriptures as a sophisticate.


I’m a layman.  An interested, believing, and educated layman, yet I know that those learned in the scriptures might often smile as I recount my reactions to the words there on the page.  There is much to be learned about the contexts in which the words were spoken and written, and lots of that I just have no idea about.

Nonetheless, and knowing that my impulses and initial reactions are unlearned and might be corrected rather quickly by wiser heads than my own, I offer this about my reactions to the story of Eve and the serpent – the temptation and fall of man.

It’s as clear as can be that the fruit was forbidden and that Eve – knowingly and willfully, as we say in the criminal law – transgressed the command of God and the rest, as they say, is history.  We might just leave the matter there and consider the lesson learned.  But I always wondered this:  what is wrong with “the knowledge of good and evil?”   I mean, isn’t that kind of what religion is all about, anyway?  Is it not the case that we read the Bible to gain moral acuity and perspective?  That is, that we hope thereby to gain a knowledge of good and evil.  And in the New Testament, when the Apostles are taking about the Spirit-bestowed gift of “discernment,” are they not talking about the ability to distinguish good from evil?  Isn’t that kind of the point?

If so, then it seemed odd to me that the tree from which humanity was forbidden to eat was this one having to do with “the knowledge of good and evil.”  It seemed to me like that would have been – would be, actually – one of the first things God would want humanity to have.

It was somewhere in a book by Andy Crouch – Playing God, in fact – that I think I got a satisfactory answer to my long-pending question on this point.  I that book (I think it was that one) Crouch suggests or posits that the tree imparted not moral perspective or acuity, but rather filled the eater with the infecting idea that he or she was, in him or herself, an arbiter of good and evil.  That is, that man could decide the question of what is good and what is evil by himself, without reference to God.

I’m attracted to that very explanation, not only because it makes the story a little less contradictory-looking,  but because the story, understood this way, certainly seems to jive with the world I have lived in all my life.

That world is the world of the Twentieth Century, which is to say the century of revolution, pogrom, and war; the century of the holocaust and the Great Purge.

Right now I am reading a book that might fairly be considered a seminal commentary on the Twentieth Century and all of the unprecedented murder and oppression it contained.  The book is entitled Witness, and it is the autobiography of Whittaker Chambers who in the 1930s operated as a spy for the Soviet Union in the United States.  Chambers was a part of what the Soviets called an “apparatus.”  This one worked to obtain information and documents from government agencies, photocopy them and transmit them to Soviet operatives in New York City for future use in the revolution to come, whereby the democratic institutions of the Republic would be undermined and control of the nation would be vested in the Central Committee.

In 1937, after learning of Stalin’s “Great Purge” wherein thousands of Communists were slaughtered to make way for the coming utopia, Chambers rethought his allegiance and decided, at great risk to himself and his family, to desert the party.   At play in his decision to desert was the conviction that Stalin’s Great Purge was not an aberration, but was perfectly consistent with the logic of Communism.   Given that the Communist ideology allowed anything that would further the revolution and the march toward utopia, there would be no end to carnage and no end to oppression there.

What bound these Communists together, “in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, and honor,” wrote Chambers, is their own sort of faith:

It [Communism] is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: “Ye shall be as gods.” It is the great alternative faith of mankind. Like all great faiths, its force derives from a simple vision. Other ages have had great visions. They have always been different versions of the same vision: the vision of God and man’s relationship to God. The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.

It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man’s liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man’s destiny and reorganizing man’s life and the world. It is the vision of man, once more the central figure of the Creation, not because God made man in his image, but because man’s mind makes him the most intelligent of the animals. Copernicus and his successors displaced man as the central fact of the universe by proving that the earth was not the central star of the universe. Communism restores man to his sovereignty by the simple method of denying God.

Thus, Chambers’ decision to desert the Communist party was a conversion from the second-oldest faith known to humanity to the first.  That is, to faith in God.


The problem with blogging about this book is not that there is too little to consider  and comment on, but rather that there is too much.  His life is a microcosm of the past century and his life was a turning point in the great struggle of that age between these two faiths.

What his book has to say to us here in this 21st century is simply overwhelming.

And so today I want to end with the notion that, although in many ways official Communism has been relegated to the dustbin of history, the second-oldest faith of which Chambers writes – that is, man’s arrogant trust in his own resources, his conviction that he can make the world a better place if only he can get God out of his way  – is very much alive and kicking.

It is alive in the hallways of our colleges and universities where students block  the hallways to prevent the presentation and discussion of ideas they hold to be wrong.  No matter to them that these ideas have their roots in Christianity.  They are wrong, so the “righteous marchers” hold, and any means available to stop them from being given a fair hearing are justified in the name of progress.  History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.  In these new social justice warriors, we have the next generation of those who have bitten deeply into the apple of arrogance.

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Book Review: Witness, by Whittaker Chambers

I am writing while standing on my back deck in the middle of an electrical storm.


I’m cozy and dry under this roof and I hear the rain tattering on the slates above and the lawn below.  It’s not a violent storm, at least not right here, right now.  There is an occasional flash of distant lightning and then the accordant, low roll of thunder, coming near and then trailing off to the west.

I absolutely love these warm, summer rains.  This one is gentle enough for me to take in this way, only a few feet away from the rainfall itself, and I feel in the moment like I am somewhere far away in the mists of highland Scotland or on some outpost in the Brazilian rain-forest.  When the storm escalates and I see the leaves nodding and the grass soaking and the dimpling sheets of clear water rinsing street and walk and the stream out back rising in its flow I am reminded again that rain is a sign of God’s blessing.  I guess what most of us remember about rain in the Bible is the Great Flood, brought on, so the scripture tells, by forty days and nights of rain.

But there are other references.  Here is one of God’s promises to Israel, if they will keep His commandments:

[I] will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil . . .

The rain, when it falls in buckets as it is doing now, reminds me of God’s abundance, His power and His ability and desire to bless us, over and above even our own imaginings.    There is one place in scripture where God tells the priests to “bring the tithe into the storehouse” and, in response, He will “open the very sluices of heaven and pour down on us a blessing so great” that (this last bit is from a Scottish paraphrase) “we can scarce receive it.”

It’s a great time to write.

Which, if you are a follower of this blog, you know I have not been doing very faithfully these last few days.  Sorry about that.  I really do appreciate my followers and make it something of a point to try to deliver something pretty regularly to keep up the interest in this blog.  Kind of lax there, lately.  But I do have an excuse:  I’ve been reading.  Filling the mind and soul with the thoughts and emotions of one great man.  Any writer must do this often.

If you’ve kept up here, you know that I’ve been on something of a Bob Dylan kick lately.  I am a lifelong fan of his and very much interested in his spiritual life and in the way he creates.  The two books I have just finished – Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life and Chronicles, Volume I – address both of those subjects in satisfying depth.

I won’t say much else about those two books in this post.  I’ve reviewed them pretty fully in my last few posts here.  I do recommend that you read them – particularly if you have any interest in Dylan’s life or work.

But today I want to talk about another book that is of another order entirely.  I recommend the Dylan books, but I beg you to read this one.  It is by any measure a masterpiece and there is a good argument to be made that it is the seminal book of the American twentieth century.

The book I’m reading is titled Witness, and it is written by a man named Whittaker Chambers.

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I had heard of the book years ago through the writings of some political and social commentators I used to read.  Their praise of the book was effusive.  These men, all of whom had made names for themselves as writers, all pointed to this book as “life changing.”  And now, only about a quarter of the way through the book, I know why this is no exaggeration.



Whittaker Chambers was, during the 1930s, a Communist.

Image result for whittaker chambers



He was active for years in an underground operation in Washington, D. C., working with several American citizens who held high positions in the Federal Government to steal and copy official documents and provide them to the Soviet Union in preparation for the war that, so they believed, would inevitably come.

In 1938, in response to what he learned of the so-called “Great Purge,”  Chambers lost faith in Communism and saw it as the great, enslaving, murderous evil that it is.   At that moment he decided to desert the party, even though he knew that such desertions usually ended in the deserter being killed.  He also then believed that the Communists would be successful in undermining the west and achieving world domination.  Upon his decision to desert, he told his wife: “You know, we’re going from the winning to the losing side here.”

His desertion was also a conversion to faith in God.  That is no mere coincidence, as he describes it, for he says that Communism is itself a faith.   It is a faith that says first of all that the world must be changed and, second, that humanity can accomplish that change without the aid of God, without reference to God.  Thus, any sort of tactic can be justified in pursuit of the ultimate goal of perfect justice.  One such tactic was Stalin’s Great Purge that resulted in the murder of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Russians and eastern Europeans, many of whom were themselves active Communists but had been determined to not be loyal enough to Comrade Stalin.

One of the many strengths of this book is its description and definition of Communism.  Since the fall of the Soviet Union over twenty-five years ago, the idea of Communism has become kind of a Seinfeld joke.  But it was no joke in the early and mid-20th century.  This book, written by a man who had seen the movement from both the inside and out, explains the phenomenon clearly.  He tells of its psychology and its attraction.

And its attraction, even here in the United States, was much greater and pervasive than I had ever imagined.  I thought of American Communists as a few, crazed radicals who, even taken all together, never posed much of a threat to our freedoms, our constitutional system of government, our individual rights.  I don’t believe that now.

Chambers, as an operative for the Soviet Union, worked hand in hand with Americans from well-to-do families who had been to our best colleges and who held lucrative and powerful positions in government for the express purpose of undermining that government and subordinating our democratic institutions to the control of party bosses.  This was business as usual, for years on end.

It is a scarier story than I knew; a closer call than I ever believed.  It is worthwhile to consider this structure, at one time gigantic, that had for its floor human arrogance and for its ceiling an accordant naivete.


I’ll have more to say as I make my way through the book.

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Book Review: Chronicles, Volume I

Image result for dylan chronicles volume 1



Through his tears a memory is fading
Something he wasn’t certain of
And his friends who kept on saying
“You don’t have to let yourself fall in love”
(You don’t have to let yourself fall in love)

Through the years his energy is failing
As he forgets what he’s letting go
And his friends who kept on saying
“Nobody has to know”

You’ll be sorry if you let him leave
Without a taste of what you’re thinkin’ of
And you’ll be sorry if you believe
You don’t have to let yourself fall in love
No, you don’t have to let yourself fall in love


John Sebastian, “Baby, Don’t Ya Get Crazy”


Bob Dylan fell in love and kept on falling in love.


That is the message of this book, “Chronicles, Volume I,” and it is the bright and distinguishing mark of his phenomenal life.   Yes, there have been women, lots of them, in his life and, yes, he loved them with passion sometimes near delirium, but his book makes plain that Dylan fell in love, over and over, with everything around him.

In fact, a great deal of this book is taken up with Dylan trying to communicate what went on in his heart and soul when he saw and heard and touched the flames of music and art and, well, life.   That kind of intense, internal experience is hard to describe.  Probably can’t be put exactly into words, but Dylan tries.

He was and is a man who forgot the notion of being tied down and knew that his life would consist of chasing those things that pulled at his heart.  He did not quash his desires, he went for them head first and this life of his – now issuing in the award of the Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize – is what came of it.

Have you ever seen the movie “Moonrise Kingdom?”  It’s a story of a couple of thirteen- year- olds who dream and fantasize of running away with each other into the wilderness.  That’s not an unusual juvenile fantasy, but in the movie it actually happens.  They really do get away into the wild and away from the structures that had been confining them and they really do fall in love and they really do, as much as anybody ever does, get it right.

Dylan’s life is like that.  He bet the ranch early on, and never looked back.  He kept scanning the sky and caught the bright birds of imagination as they flashed before him and he fell in love, kept falling in love, like a hurricane, like a lightning strike.  With the songs of Woody Guthrie, Jack Elliot, Joan Baez, Berthold Brecht and Robert Johnson.  With the poetry of Rimbaud and the art in the museums of New York City.

All of those answers, my friend,  blowin’ in the wind.




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Voices #20


Image result for cass railroad




I got the job driving that train in 1917.


There wasn’t many men around then with the war going on and all.  I was sixteen and lied about my age and the man at the station was desperate for an engineer and hired me on the spot.  I got two training runs, one up the route and one down, before the other driver left for the service.  There wasn’t too much to learn.  My route was seventy-seven miles long and had fourteen whistle stops for milk and mail and passengers all up and down the Greenbrier River.  There were days in the 1940s, when the next war came, that I’d be pulling thirty cars, most of them flatcars of lumber, all the way from the great mill at Cass to the junction with the main line in Lewisburg.

There were days then when the train had more than one passenger car and we’d have forty or fifty passengers on the route; ten or twenty of those in uniform.  With all of the stopping to load and unload every mile or two it took us nearly four hours to complete the whole run from Durbin to Lewisburg.  The passengers didn’t care.  Our way was the only way out of the mountains, then – besides horseback or walking, and the train was comfortable then, with coal fires in the winter, and opened windows in the summer, when the whole line was practically intunnelled by the spreading forest that surrounded us.

The river was never out of sight for long and on bright winter days it sparkled in the angled sunlight and in the summer it ran green and blue in the deeper stretches.   I lived in Durbin at a boarding house there above the depot and store for the first fifteen years.  The place was full of lumberjacks and sawyers and the breakfast table always full with eggs and sausage from the farms around and the butter and cream all fresh from Thompson’s dairy over in Belle’s Valley.

The man told me that just about the only way I could get in trouble was to be late.  That job was about being there on time.  I’d be at the station at five-thirty every morning and see the iron horse there waiting for me, taking on water and coal and already steaming and anxious to begin our run.  The best days were those early mornings in heavy snow when the train actually uncovered the tracks as it went and you could see the smoke of the breath of the cattle in the white pastures and the whole world around us was white and perfect.

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