Do you know how fun and rewarding it is when something you heard about from your studies suddenly comes alive? When connections that you never even thought about cross your path, and you realize that history is not just some old dry book of facts, but a living, breathing account of the lives and happenings of real people? Well…it is pretty neat!
This happened to us out of the blue this week. We picked up the next book in our current series that we are reading together, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and began to read. Imagine our surprise when we came to the part where Laura’s family gets to take a train ride–you can be sure that all ears tuned in for that! Our boys have turned into train fans for sure, and the whole chapter describing the noise, the danger, and the impressions of that train ride captured their attention. We all listened eagerly to the details that Laura described to Mary, who by then was blind.
When we came to the paragraph describing the scenery out the train window, it was like past and present collided for our family.
“The whole car swayed now, in time to the clackety-clacking underneath it, and the black smoke blew by in melting rolls. A telegraph wire swooped up and down beyond the window. It did not really swoop, but it seemed to swoop because it sagged between the poles. It was fastened to green glass knobs that glittered in the sunshine and went dark when the smoke rolled above them. Beyond the wire, grasslands and fields and scattered farmhouses and barns went by.”
We happened to be driving as we read this part, and several voices shouted out at the same time, “Insulators!” Yes, she was describing the telegraph poles, and the green knobs were the insulators!
To to most people, this probably wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow, but to us, it just clicked, and a connection was made. Daddy is currently working along railroads similar to the one described, to take down those now-compromised telegraph poles, and green knobs, or insulators, still adorn those poles. To many railroad buffs, these insulators are becoming sought-after collectors’ pieces, as their days are literally numbered. To us, they are a nostalgic reminder of days past, and provide a tangible connection to the days of steam trains, westward expansion, and, now, to Laura Ingalls.
Don’t you love it when learning clicks?
This is an essay I’ve been mulling over ever since we arrived in this remote location where we are now staying.
Truly, you have to see The Canyon to appreciate its grandeur, much as you have you have to ride a roller coaster to experience the thrill of it. Mere words or pictures will not quite do it justice. But, I do want to attempt to paint a feeble word picture, if only for my memories.
When I asked the question before we relocated to our present spot on the map, “What’s in the Canyon?” I received the answer, “Not much–the river, the railroad, and the highway.” I soon found out that this was no exaggeration, although now that we’ve been here for almost a month, I think I’d describe it as rocks, rivers, and railroads. Because more than any other feature, when you see the canyon, you see rocks. Boulders, actually. Mountains made entirely of rock.
As we drove to church the past three Sabbath mornings, I mentally jotted down some adjectives that came to mind as we traveled the forty-five minutes or so journey. Picture me peering out the window of the truck, not infrequently with white knuckles as the boys in the back seat laugh and shout, “Look down, Mommy!” Grrr…
Here is what I see…
Massive boulders. Innumerable rocks–larger than a truck, larger than a house. The river is clear and green. It rushes on wildly in places, and placidly shimmers down around the bend, as beavers glide along in the deep water. Hydroelectric power plants dot the landscape, their huge waterworks damming up the river, which generate power for thirteen states. Real power!
Proud trees cling tenaciously to the near vertical rock walls alongside the highway. Boulders tumble with dangerous regularity down to the road below; stopping traffic, or creating a worse accident for some unsuspecting traveller. This is the canyon–rugged, raw.
To travel this highway is to experience the beauty of a different sort. With boulders haphazardly hanging above and beside, the narrow road winds its way along. To the left, it’s straight up a rock face, to the right, straight down, down, down. Above it all, is the railroad, with its tunnels and trestles, marching steadily along, sometimes crossing over the highway, and sometimes below.
The Redbuds show off their magenta-decked limbs. Some purple wildflowers bravely stand alongside some bright orange ones–the first of the season. These can only be seen as we pass the highest points. Kind of a trophy for making it across the pass. At least that’s what I tell myself.
And the sunshine! Shining and glistening off the rock faces and sparkling on the water.
The canyon envelops us. Can you feel it?