I’m going to deviate today. Thank you for indulging me.
If you’ve been around here very long you know that I value very highly my farming heritage. I have shared close to 30 lessons from the farm along the way.
The reality is I was fortunate to not only have a father in the ag industry, but a heritage of it. Both sets of grandparents lived (and worked) agricultural lives.
That meant holidays were spent more often than not in the country. Summer trips at my grandparents were a staple of my childhood, and something that now I am incredibly grateful to have experienced.
One of my favorite memories, and one I couldn’t wait to share with my daughters as they grew older, was going to my paternal grandparents. Hot cocoa, grilling over charcoal, German shepherds, Louis L’Amour books, vintage couches, hot tubs, feeding cattle off the tailgates, and unwanted (and unwarranted) naps merely scratch the surface in summarizing my favorite memories at “the ranch”.
Except for the best memory. And that was the trains.
My granddad loved model trains. He loved them so much, in fact, that he had a “layout” that took up a two car garage. (Side note: I don’t know if “layout” is the right word, but it was basically the world created by his trains, complete with buildings, cars, mountains, carnivals, railyards, cattle, trucks, forrests, and rubber roads. This wasn’t a train running a circle around a tree. It was massive.)
And to any young boy growing up, trains are a magical experience. The roar of the engine running until the power stops. The aroma of electricity surging through the miniature machines (Yes, electricity has a smell, and it’s not toast). The sheer imagination of towns coming to life, and the hours on end that could be spent getting lost in a world so different from our own.
And there stood my granddad. The conductor. The orchestrator of it all. It never occurred to me that my granddad loved to play with trains. They were just there. He was the one in charge. But he was the one who loved to share the experience with me. It was a shared experience for us. It was one of the first things I showed my oldest the first time we visited his house. And something my girls still know about him.
The conductor passed away this week. As I sit and reflect on my memories of him, I’m humbled. I’m overcome with emotions. I’m heartbroken. I’m grateful.
He was not a perfect man. No one is. But he was my granddad. And he will be missed.