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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

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Monday, September 24
Pat Carson Turkey Hotel
Tuesday, September 25
Mattie Mattheai Alpine Saloon
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Tumbleweed Smith Big Spring 50 Years
Thursday, September 27
Burr Williams Midland Wildlife
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Casey Weaver Austin Postcards
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In Print: On News Stands Now

WAITING FOR A TRAIN

by Tumbleweed Smith

I sat for an hour just outside the train station in Texarkana listing to train sounds. It was a quiet, still night and the sounds were clear and solid and carried well in the dark. I heard squeaks, groans, crashes, explosions as well as high frequency beeps, whistles and sustained whines as the train cars rumbled slowly over the tracks, getting ready to make their journeys across the country.

I was there waiting for my wife Susan, who had boarded Amtrak’s Texas Eagle in Dallas that afternoon. The train was late, so rather than go back to the motel and wait, I decided to wait by the tracks. It was a pleasant hour. I had been interviewing all that hot day in Longview and Marshall and was ready to relax.

Texarkana’s Union Station is on Stateline Avenue, meaning the Arkansas-Texas border bisects the center of the railroad complex. When the Texas Eagle stops in Texarkana, the west end of the train is in Texas and the east end is in Arkansas.

The last time I was in Texarkana, I went there by train. I was in a group of travel writers who went round trip Dallas to Texarkana on a familiarization tour. We spent a couple of days learning about things the city has to offer, which is quite a lot. It is an extremely cultural city. Ross Perot is from there and has made some meaningful contributions to his hometown.

Train travel, to me, is the most civilized way to get from one place to another. I’m glad Amtrak is providing rail travel as an option to cars, buses or airlines. Train ridership is up substantially since the price of gasoline has gone sky-high.

My wife was traveling with our five-year-old grandson Caleb, who is, at an early age, already a train nut. He has four or five sets of trains and all the things that go with them. When he comes to see us, we always take him to the train yard so he can see (or at least hear) trains. We’ve been real lucky. Most of the times we go there, we see a train either pull in to a stop or pass by within five minutes after our arrival. Only once have we not seen a moving train.

Susan and Caleb had a compartment on the train and lived it up. They had dinner in the dining car. Caleb thought this was the very best thing that had ever happened to him. He kept telling Susan, “Amtrak is the best.”

While on board, they played with the closet, the curtains, the table and all the rest of the amenities in the compartment. They also put a Sponge Bob Square Pants puzzle together about a dozen times.

They met some interesting dinner guests and exchanged contact information with intensions of getting together with them again. When Caleb got sleepy after dinner, he climbed into his bed, which the porter had made ready. I was afraid he might not be awake when the train pulled into the station, but he was fully alert and the first one off the train. He ran into my arms, giddy with his experience on the train. He did have fun. We’ll have another Amtrak trip. Next time, I’ll get to go, too.

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