I hear the train a'comin...rollin' round the bend
February 14, 2016There is something lonesome, yet romantic about a train whistle to me. Where is it going? Where has it been? What will the next stop bring in the life of boarding passengers? I must feel this way since a train is so foreign to me. The one train riding experience I had in my life before Missouri was a Cub Scout Train ride from Holbrook to Winslow, AZ. My mom was a den leader at that time. And boy, I loved Cub Scout Day more than any of those boys ever did. Another train experience came every morning for four years as I rode the school bus 20 miles to Snowflake, AZ for my higher education. We stopped at the track as we entered the small town. The bus driver opened the door; looked both ways; shut the door and we moved on to school. In all those four years I don't remember ever seeing a train.
That small track in Snowflake, AZ carried box cars. No passenger ever got off to a loved one's waiting arms in that small town. Now, down the road 50 miles to Holbrook, AZ. a few passengers would leave or return home at that small depot. Our family drove down there when I was in fourth grade to pick up our new pet monkey that was arriving straight from the jungle. The rail workers dropped off a wooden box in my dad's arms. Wild screeches were coming from it. That's an Eb Lewis story for another day.
We followed the train tracks this week to Atchinson, Kansas to deliver new mattresses to the elders serving up there. The country side was bleak, yet with a beauty of its own. The trains move right through folks' back yard. The whistles are long and loud. So many box cars moving goods across the United States.
Amelia Earhart was born in Atchinson, Kansas and my elder graciously made a stop at her birth home for me. She was such a tiny woman! She had such a longing for adventure! I loved to see it all, then walk safely out to the mission truck and drive back to Independence, MO with my seatbelt on. For now, my adventure lies right there in that mission office.
Speaking of the office, our sweet Visitor Center Leaders, Sisters Schiess and Oleson, texted me last Sunday for Elder Fuller's phone number. Now, has your mind ever taken a sidetrack and assumed something else when people are addressing you? Mine did at that time. I assumed they meant Elder Fullmer, who was a visitor center missionary with his wife and recently went home to Utah. I texted back that if they reminded me on Monday, I would find that number for them. They replied that it was ok; they would be in on Monday. True to their word, they appeared in the office. There I was standing right by Elder Fuller, our car czar, and told the sisters that if they waited a minute I would get that number for them. Sweet Sister Schiess, without a smile, very kindly said, "that's ok. He's standing right here." Guess who went off in the bathroom and had some serious laughs on herself? Me. I can't wait to tell those sisters my side of the story. Think they will crack a smile or will they be too polite? As for Elder Fuller....he will like to hear it too when the time is right. On the other hand, maybe none of them will understand my sense of humor.
On this Valentine's Day, my heart will be in AZ when our third grandson receives the priesthood. All the local Seaman sisters will be there with their families. Noah Baum, how did you grow up so fast? Do you know the power you are receiving today at the hands of your dad? Your adventure is just beginning. Your life will be full of so many of them! You will probably ride lots more trains or fly in more planes than I ever dreamed of. And that's wonderful!
My world is small. I am A-OK with that. Trying to be an office secretary is my fun for now. As I work in there everyday and hear the train whistle blowing through Independence, I am reminded of my home in AZ. Where you are. Where your aunts, uncles, and cousins are. Where Home is.
MY LOVE TO MY FAMILY,
The HeroThis week has been a sad one for me. A friend of mine died in Arizona. Kevin Brackney was that friend. He was my boss for many years as I worked as the Business Manager and he as the Superintendent of the Show Low Unified School District. He and I waged many a battle together to make a budget work for another year without enough money. We had a good team during those years and had many good times but they were not without high anxiety and stress.
Thinking about it has caused me to contemplate if Mr. Brackney thought it was worth it. I wonder if he thought it was worth the ugliness or the high stress meetings with disillusioned staff and public. Or the constant barrage of changes in the education law or testing methods or staff evaluations. The constant give and take of politicians who have their own personal agendas.
I think of him as a hero and here is why. As a superintendent of a school district, you take on an impossible job, knowing that you can not win the war, only some battles along the way. You take pride in the teachers who give their all everyday in a classrooms filled with kids who are not getting what they need at home, if they have a "home." You try to get your teachers paid what they are worth, but generally, in the process. only alienate them because it will never be enough. You had to cut budgets and wages and benefits to make things work. You had to keep a Governing Board happy which is impossible as time moves on. The law suits, the disciplinary hearings, dismissal hearings, the endless meetings and interviews just keep coming.
Mr. Brackney, thanks for always thinking of the kids. Thanks for listening to me when you didn't want to, because it was generally bad news. Thanks for being black and white about education and not giving in to the endless personal agendas and the wanderings of crazy politicians that were always on the horizon. Thanks for sticking up for the employees, especially as it related to health insurance (a fight that you could not win) and especially for the underdogs along the way. You were a succor for the underdog. Thanks for juggling lots of balls and keeping them up. Thanks for showing lots of tenacity and fire when you believed in something.
Mr. Brackney, thanks for doing the impossible for so long, without the money or means, going it alone when you thought you were right, without much hope of long-term success.
It was worth it to me.