Thursday, February 28, 2008
A Few Quiet Moments with the Boys
I spent a few minutes with a few of the boys today. With it being a
leap year it throws the days off a bit, but one thing is for sure,
for guys like Frank Martin, Lewis Walker, Sydney Jones, John
Parzybok, John Kelley, Joe Pettit, Earl Longcoy and Ben Jarnigan, 98
years ago, this was the their last day on this earth.
I cleaned the moss off the headstone I bought for Benny. It's been
less than a year since it was installed and yet the Western
Washington winter was already making itself known. I did the same
for Sid Jones. Birds had done their deeds on stones of Johnny
Parzybok and "Pattie" Kelley, so I took care of that too.
Strangely, there was a 2005 penny sitting atop Joe Pettit's marker.
Maybe, like me, someone was asking Joe "a penny for your thoughts?"
Lewis was where I guess the times of the day dictated, to the rear of
the rest. His marker proclaims him to be a "Man of God". No one
would argue that. Beyond that, he was a man among men. Even his
boss, James O'Neill would say as much.
Earl Longcoy rests alongside his mother Lucy. Sadly, she carried the
burden of out living her son for another 70 years. With that sadness
was the torment knowing that Earl died trying to free himself from
the grip of the snow. No one knew where he was under that tragic
sheet of white. No one knew he was alive, fighting the ultimate
battle between living and dying. A battle he lost.
I ended up out towards the front of the cemetery, talking things over
with Bill Harrington. The old "Snow King" shares a common marker
with his beloved Lil.
I told all of them about finding the old prankster himself, Bob
Meath. Bobby and Elizabeth are themselves resting in peace in their
home parish of St. Mary's in Hammond, WI. I even told them the tale
of Bobby sneaking into a wake and boosting the coffin out the window.
It is good to go and see the boys every so often. I always come away
with a feeling that I have been given a great responsibility. It is
the task of telling their story; not the railroad's story, not the
lawyer's story, not even the story of the passengers on Train 25.
No, for whatever reason those boys have tapped my shoulder and asked
me to tell their story.
This comes at a good time. I'm doing yet another edit of "Vis
Major", trying to walk that fine line between keeping the story
moving so our attention deficit society will keep reading, and not
once again putting the gags on the voices of men whose story has been
suppressed for far too long.
It is good to remember. It is good to visit the boys.