Monday, December 8, 2008

More from the Ozarks

by Pa Rock

Today I am taking up space in a Barnes and Noble somewhere near the dividing line between Bentonville and Rogers, Arkansas. In the early days of Wal-Mart when Sam Walton and David Glass would go out into the world buying clothes or crockpots en masse, the people doing the selling would often enquire, "Where is Bentonville?" Their reply was always a deadpan "Right next to Rogers." And it is!

It is cloudy, cold, and windy today. I wouldn't mind experiencing some snow, but I certainly don't want it interfering with my flight back to Phoenix tomorrow.

Kansas City Southern's Christmas Train came to Noel yesterday, and I drove Dad down to see that. Children and adults were lined up for several blocks to walk through the specially decorated old-time train and receive Christmas goodies from the man with the flowing white beard. Dad sat in his pickup and watched the activity while I walked around taking pictures of the train and the crowd.

Several charities and civic organizations were on hand to work the crowd. I ran into Jane Hamm who was manning a booth for the Noel Fire Department. Her son, Matt, works for that organization. Jane was our best fifth grade teacher at Noel during the years I was there. She taught in the same room in which I had attended fifth grade with Boonetta Davis in the late 1950's. Jane will be retiring after this year. She caught me up on her other two sons, as well. Jake is a librarian with the Joplin Public Library, and Andy works for Glad in northwest Arkansas and is quickly becoming rich!

I also visited with Marcia Denny. Marcia is one of my former college students, and she has worked for Economic Security in McDonald County for the past decade. Marcia was ringing the bells for the Salvation Army, and I had dropped my dollar into the bucket before I even recognized her! The Salvation Army bell ringers are always the best of people!

A fellow who was filming the event told me that Kansas City Southern and a group of co-sponsors had a list of families with special needs and were making certain that they received some extra help this Christmas.

Preceding the Christmas Train into town was a KCS passenger train from the 1950's. It was parked on a siding on the other side of town, and we drove up to see it after leaving the commotion near the old train depot (now City Hall). There were several of us walking around the passenger train taking pictures and trying to stay out or each other's shots. We had to face west into the setting sun, making good photography a real challenge.

My first experience on a passenger train was a school trip from Goodman, MO, to Joplin, MO, at the end of my first grade year. When I was in high school my good friend, Tom Anderson, and I rode the train from Noel to Joplin to spend the day with his dad at work. Also, it was during high school that my other close friend, James Carroll, and I rode the train from Noel to Kansas City to visit a family of tourists whom we had met in Noel on the river that summer. My final trip on the Kansas City Southern Railway was when I was in college. I rode the rails to Kansas City and visited Mike Box, a close college friend, and his family for the day. The passenger service must have ended sometime around 1970.

Today we still have the Amtrak, a perennial target of Republican sleazoids who want to do away with practical transportation options and have us buying more of their gas. Hopefully the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress will recognize that the time has come to offer rail transportation to every city in the United States with a population of 50,000 or more. What a great public works project that would be! Jobs, jobs, and more jobs!

Come on January 20th!

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