Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Three – I think

I could be a farmer, ‘cause I have a way
With plants and I make grow well so they say.
And I could be a-plowing this rocky old field
With a broken down plow-horse that I bought on a deal.

And no one works harder than the farmers and fools
And you can’t learn these lessons in your books or your schools
Just take what she’ll gives you and leave all you can
‘Cause a man could be worst than be one with the land.

And today as I wonder what’s waiting for me
I look to the hills and what they means to me.

These are the words (a Dave Mallet song) that I hear in my head this morning as I looked out the window at the lush flat plains of North Dakota. With the “sun barely risen,” I am conscious of the fact that although my watch says it is 5:30 am, it is really 6:30, at least according to my circadian rhythm.

I find the coffee pot at the end of the hall is full and hot. I also notice that some time during the night the last car, a coach, has disappeared and taken all of its passengers with it. I can only surmise that they we jettisoned in Minneapolis/St.Paul where we stopped around 11:00 pm.

I “turned in” – an expression that takes on literal meaning in this particular conveyance – and had dozed off when the train arrived in St. Paul/Minneapolis. I had hoped Garrison Keillor would have been standing on the platform to welcome us - even Guy Noire would have been a welcome sight. But, after going thorough what looked like a relatively large city – tall buildings, etc – the railway station was rather pedestrian. At least on my side of the train which for some reason seems to always be on the wrong side when it comes to stations in the larger thoroughfares.

I understand Prairie Home Companion a little better being out here. This really is Middle America. Homes here are modest and the framed crossroads that carve out the center on each community are classic in their simplicity and grace. Prosperity is relative here.

The prairie looks lush this season with some large puddles still filling the fields and providing healthy habitats of bugs for the plentitude of birds that are gathering their breakfast. And as though framing a Winslow Homer painting, there are one or two mallards strategically placed in each water feature.

As I got out of my roomette to investigate, we were passing through Merrifield, ND, a suburb of Grand Forks. Grand Forks must be a large metropolis; they have at least one traffic light that can be seen from the train.

I have attempted to travel to the dining car and find it full. Americans love their breakfast. I guess it was bad timing on my part. But I’ve had my coffee, so I am set. Now perched in the observation car, I have a view of the outside and inside – this is a busy spot with the multitudes passing through. It is a bit noisy and there is the chattering of people and the occasional child crying.

There are I think five coach cars still attached to Empire Builder. It really amazing to see the scores of people who have camped out in these cars. Families traveling with children still tucked in their blankets and curled three to a seat – ah to be able to sleep like these. As I make my way to the back of the train, there are still many people sound asleep.

Speaking of sleep, last night was decent. There were a couple of times when we hit a big bump and I was aroused from dreamland, but generally the ride was smooth and I slept more hours than last night.

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