I love living in the place I grew up in. Sometimes I’m ready to move on, I crave some new scenery, and maybe even a new way of looking at the world, but then I have a day like today where I got invited to ride the Eagle Cap Excursion Train, and I know I’m in the only place that will ever truly be home.
The Eagle Cap Excursion Train follows the Grande Ronde River. My favorite part is when it rumbles past Green Bridge; that structure alone holds many great memories for me, from my youth, to my teenage years and as an adult. To top it off I will be heading to the Elgin Opera House tonight to watch a tribute to Johnny Cash. I am blessed to live in a town that has so much to offer and gives so much to those who come and visit us here.
From time to time when I was growing up my brother would invite me to tag along with him and his girlfriend or his friends. We traveled the back roads for miles, swam in several rivers, and hiked mountains through snow that was up to my 12-year-old hips. Memories of the green bridge and swimming in her shadow as a young girl pop into my mind as the train saunters by it. Of course so does the more recent adventure that my daughter and I had when my pickup wouldn’t start after we decided to park and take some pictures. It was getting close to dark, so we walked to where we were supposed to meet my brother who was rafting the river. He wasn’t there. We knocked on a door to one of the few houses that are in Palmer Junction. Thankfully the gentleman there gave us a ride back to our truck and even got it started for us once again.
During the train ride we went as far as the primitive park in Palmer Junction. I pointed out to a friend the large fence post I usually stand behind to keep from getting trampled by one of the horses that are robbing the train during the Elgin Stampeder’s Train Robbery. For five years I’ve been going along to record the wild event on film, not actual film, but you know….digital. Half of the people ride the train, the others rob the train. When all is said and done and the train whistle has faded into the distance we all get together, in the middle of our beautiful woods and share all of the fun that has taken place in the hour or so that the group has spent in two different places. Gone are the thoughts of the morning that ‘this will be our last train robbery’, the reaction from the passengers makes all the hard work worth while. After an hour or two together the group heads back to town. There is food to be cooked for the annual Elgin High School Alumni Banquet, and these rough and tumble cowboys and cowgirls are the ones that do it each and every year.
On the trip back today I was lucky enough to have the open air train car to myself. That sentence doesn’t even sound like me…I really enjoy people, but the solitude, the rocking of the train as it made its way down the tracks, the sound of the river and the wind in my hair was just what I needed. My thoughts were filled with melancholy moments of my youth. I find it funny that youthful memories are so memorable. I’ve had a lot of memories since the time I was 18, but I find time and again as I walk around town, or drive in the woods, it is those memories of my youth that stir my soul and awaken new thoughts and ideas about life in the past, life in the moment, and life in the future.
I’m truly blessed in my life. I have a wonderful family, the absolute best friends a girl could ever hope for, and a community that’s sole purpose is to bring joy to the people passing through. Elgin, Oregon, where you enter as a stranger and leave as a friend.