Don’t you just love those days when you find a happy surprise in the mail? I had one of those days last week when a mystery box showed up at the house. My brother-in-law Jerry had attended a local church used book sale in Boston and salvaged two assorted volumes filled with photographs recording the final years of the steam railroad in America. Knowing I would enjoy them he boxed them up and off to Maineville they went.
That first night I dug straight away into ‘The Last Steam Railroad in America’. O. Winston Link rather intentionally spent the decade of the 50’s photo-documenting the final years of the Norfolk & Western Railway hauling coal through the back country and tiny towns of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The pages detail Link’s incredible efforts to plan ahead and stage the scenes he felt would best record for posterity a fading industry that he dearly loved and appreciated.
I have vivid childhood memories of riding the train between Toledo and my grandparent’s house. Aunt Pauline would drive the Chevy station wagon into Lima to pick us up and welcome us in. My recollections of riding the tiny Toledo Zoo train are every bit as strong as those of the Kodiak Bears and Indian Elephants. In the late 60’s my parents took us on a trip through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains where the zenith of my steam train tales took root on the narrow gauge tracks between the mining towns of Durango and Silverton. Trains were so structural within the fabric of our childhood that my wife Lynn and I saw fit to sew some of those same seeds for our children. There are two electric train sets in the basement. We routinely rode the train on our Cincinnati Zoo visits and we one summer returned to Durango where our children too spent a day in the Rockies brushing soot and cinders out of their hair.
I guess the traditional path to Christmas is paved with the birth narratives of Jesus found within the pages of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I’m here to freely admit that this year I’m finding my way to Christmas through the pages of Jerry’s books. Vivid images have come flooding back of the Lionel train set my brother Randy and I found beneath the tree when I was very young. I’ve found myself thinking of Chris Van Allsburg’s ‘Polar Express’ and his tale of a magical Christmas within which a doubting child found new motivation to believe in the spirit of selfless giving that is, for me the essence of Christmas. For the boy from Grand Rapids in Van Allsburg’s book, the first gift of Christmas was a bell from the reindeer’s harness. For the dentist from Mason the first gift of Christmas this year was a heavy cardboard box out of Boston. Thanks Jerry and Merry Christmas!
Dr. Davis is especially good with kids. And his staff? Helpful, compassionate, and caring. They take care of business for you. Thumbs up. 10 on a scale of 5.