We're in Rising Fawn, GA. We're here to watch our son-in-law, Kenny, graduate from SLTC (Southeast Lineman Training Center). Since a boy he's always wanted to be a lineman, "It's just something I've always wanted to do" he says. His previous job had dwindled to almost nothing and he figured, "it's now or never." And so, here we are at the end of his four months of intensive pole climbing and electrical gobble-de-gook-learning. We're here to encourage, to congratulate but mostly to spoil the grandkids.
From the deck of this trailer, rented out for SLTC students, I'm surrounded by what looks like foothills to some mountain range, which I should know the name of, but I probably skipped that day of school. I lean against the rail and take it all in. The fading green grass, the grey remains of fallen autumn, the white house with the wrap-around porch on the distant hill, like brush strokes on a water color canvas they all sweep upward into the grey-blue painted sky. An icy wind slaps me from my warm musing of the mountain.
And I hear it, the thing that fascinates my two-year-old grandson, Peyton, most – the train. I decide to walk the hundred yards or so and see what fascinates this child so.
She whistles to me and I hustle down the hill. I feel her vibration when I reach the track. Now rather than a faint whistle she screams, "GET OUT OF THE WAY, I'M COMING THROUGH." I stand close and click camera's shutter as she clacks down the track like thunder. Her whistling wind blows off my hat and pushes me back. I can't believe how fast she flies.
Train cars slap by all in a blur…like the years of my life, the thought occurs.
I'm too close and they're too fast, to see anything clear. All I can do is feel the railcars wind pushing, and the rumble like thunder under my feet.
And then she's gone. Her thunderous rumble reduces to the hum of a slowing ceiling-fan. Her tracks lay bare, still and quiet, unchanged, exactly the same as before she thundered through tooting her own whistle in all of her glory. Nothing here to show of her passing. Nothing.
Is it that way with me? Will there be nothing here to show of my passing? Empty tracks. Empty.
Mountains un-climbable surround me, unbendable steel rails lie before me, cold and hard. I'm cold, and sad at the parallel. Life slaps by too fast like cold steel screaming through the night and no one is awake to hear – no one wakes to listen. I'm alone.
I wonder about those who have wandered this track before me. Have they too felt the brevity of life? After the whistle, the wind and the thunder, all remains are still and quiet. Two rails ramble through these hills as far as I can see. Where do they go? Where do they lead? Is there a destination? Or do they just ramble on eternally?
I decide to walk the track. And I find a big rusty nail, a spike. This spike is used to hold the track in place. The track is used to carry the train across terrain it could not otherwise travel. The track directs and steers and stays. It lays, unchanged, unmovable. It does nothing, it does everything. And now I see a beam, a discarded beam used to lay under the tracks, used to accept the spike that holds the track.
And now what's that I hear? A-Still-Small-Voice, a distant thunder. "I accepted the spike and carried the beam. To carry you across terrain you could not otherwise travel. I direct and steer and stay. I lay down My life to give you safe passage over the hills and through the night."
And I hear it… again, the distant thunder down the tracks. I watch her one more time. This time I focus, I look close. I tie my eyes to one railcar coming fast. My eyes grasp and pull my head around as she speeds past. I see it clear, The Answer. In blood red the artist's graffiti fancifully written: Jesus Loves You.
And the rumble and thunder become a gentle familiar hum. I know that sound. The track taps out the chorus and the whistle keeps perfect tune. I sang it as a child in Sunday School, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…
Maybe that's what fascinates Peyton so, maybe he can hear the song too. He can't read, but he can see Jesus Loves You.
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