Okay, so Mark and I went up to Scottsburg, IN the other day on a whim. I’d had my radiation and we decided to run up there to have a quick look around. We were actually looking for a used car dealership that used to have a branch in Madison a few years ago. It’s called Jeffrey’s Auto. It’s a Christian dealership and we bought our truck from them back when they were in Madison. Here’s what they say about themselves on their website:
We are a Christian, family-owned business. We have owned and operated our car lot in Scottsburg for over 25 years. We place a high value on our reputation and our name. We try very hard to please you, our customer, by providing you an automobile at a very affordable price. We appreciate your inquiry, and we will go out of our way to serve you. Thank you and may our Lord bless you.
This is their logo:
I mention this because while Mark and I greatly respect and appreciate the fact that they are Christians and don’t hesitate to advertise it, the finger pointing up has always struck us as kind of funny. Every time one of us mentions Jeffrey’s, the other will point up and say, “One Way.” As funny as we find it though, we did have a good experience with them, so we decided to head up to Scottsburg to see what they had on the lot.
We aren’t really full out shopping for a new car, but we are browsing at this point. And by new, I mean something newer than what we currently own, not necessarily something that just rolled off the factory line.
Anyway, we didn’t find anything, so we drove on through town just to look around, then stopped to get some gas because it was cheaper there than in Madison. After that we headed back through town on our way home. And I’ve said all this just to get to this point. There’s a train track that runs through the heart of town. Sure enough, just as Mark and I neared it, the lights started flashing and the arms came down. We could hear the train whistle blowing as it approached.
I immediately began to grin like a fool. See, where I grew up, trains are a big part of the scenery. There was a track a few dozen yards in front of my grandmother’s house. Every time a train went by the entire house shook. The shaking was accompanied by constant tinkling as my grandmother’s collection of salt shakers clinked against each other. I used to play on the tracks. (Yes, it was probably dangerous to some extent. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out a train is coming, especially when you’re touching the rails.) There was a trestle just up the tracks a bit and we used to walk up to it and then climb down to play in the water. And I certainly flattened my share of pennies on those tracks through the years
Then there was my hometown of Corinth, MS. (Pronounced Carinth, like the car you drive.) Corinth was known as the crossroads because it was a fairly pivotal rail hub and the tracks literally crossed there.
This is one of the more popular pics of the old station and tracks. It’s sold on postcards. There is no way to get around town without crossing the tracks at least once and more likely several times. As we sat there watching the train go by in Scottsburg, Mark and I talked about the trains from home.
There are a number of stories just in my life about various trains and crossings. I’m sure things have changed somewhat in the years since I left, but when I was young, more than a few of the crossings didn’t actually have lights or crossbars. You just had to pull up and look both ways before crossing the tracks. One of these crossings was toward the outer edge of town and we used to cross it every time we were coming back home from visiting my grandmother. One day we were coming back into town and we were all tired. Dad was driving and as he approached the crossing he didn’t even slow down. He just shot across it without looking. There was a train coming. And by coming I mean it was close enough to scare us all to death when we saw it looming over us. That became an oft repeated story over the years.
The best one, though, involved my mother and sister. They’d been shopping or something and were on their way back home. There was yet another crossing with no lights. My mother did slow down, but she told my sister to hang her head out the window to see if there was a train coming. She did and there was no train. There were, however, a series of mail boxes just on the other side of the tracks. To this day my sister still talks about Mom trying to knock her head off on those mailboxes.
We lived just outside the city limits and there was pretty much no way to get to our house without crossing tracks somewhere. The trains had this really annoying tendency to come to a dead stop on the tracks, blocking the roads. And these weren’t short little trains. They were so long that even if you tried to turn around and approach from a different direction, you’d just encounter the same train blocking whatever road you tried to take. So we spent a lot of time sitting there waiting for the trains to finish whatever it was they were doing and get moving again. It was just a part of life in Corinth.
Mark and I laughed and reminisced about this as we watched that train go by in Scottsburg. I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick. Trains always make me feel that way, mainly because I don’t see all that many of them around here. There was even a track some distance from the house I grew up in. On still, quiet nights we could sometimes hear the whistles as the trains approached town. I love that sound. And I love the clickty-clack of the wheels as they move over the rails. I love the smell of the creosote on the ties as they bake in the sun. It all reminds me of my childhood and takes me back to simpler days.
Mark and I have often talked about moving south one day. I’ve told him that I don’t think I’d want to go back to Corinth. Because it isn’t the same town I knew as a child. It’s grown tremendously. Everything is different. The church I attended has moved and rebuilt and is now more of a mega church than the tightly knit family it once was. My childhood home was sold years ago and the new owners did some construction so that it doesn’t even look the same from the outside. While I wouldn’t mind visiting, since I do still have dear friends there, I can’t imagine living there. I think it would be more painful than comforting. So if we ever do decide to move south, it will be somewhere else, I think.
Still, I love the town of Corinth. Just thinking about all the wonderful memories I have of it makes me smile. It’s small, but has a lot to offer. There’s a lot of simple beauty, especially downtown where the older houses are. And there’s no way to even scratch the surface of the history contained in every nook and corner of town. I jokingly tell people that Northerners have no real appreciation of history. I can count on one hand the number of historical markers I’ve seen in my years living up here. The South is an utterly different story. There’s a historical marker or commemorative plaque practically every five feet down there. Most relate to the Civil War, of course. Corinth played a pivotal role in the fight, so there are lots of markers in town. Plenty of cannons, too, all still pointed north. (That’s a Southern thing. All Civil War cannons are pointed north no matter where they are.)
I miss a lot about Southern life. If you’ve never experienced it, you cannot understand how different it is. Things just move at a slower, more easy pace. And there are trains. What’s not to love about that?