I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. It was Iron Ore country where my father worked in the mines for 50 years. Our house, which was about 40 feet from the old railroad tracks, would shake as the trains rolled by. Trains carrying iron ores passed every hour, every day, with both full and empty loads.
The sound of the trains was a lullaby to us as babies. Then as we grew older, my siblings and I would chant "I think it can, I thought it could, I knew it would," as the train pulled nearly a hundred cars behind it, on an upgrade. We would stand on our front porch and wave to the engineers and wait eagerly for them to wave back. Although we never actually talked to the engineers or got to meet them, we felt like they were family.
I remember the hobos who hopped the trains. They would jump off near our house and beg for food. My mother always fixed something for them, and they would sit on our porch and talk to us while they ate. They were always thankful and polite, and we were never afraid of them. In later years, they weren't allowed to hop the trains because there were too many of them, and some would cause trouble.
During my childhood days, I rode a couple of trains, and it was a thrill. How well I recall the pleasure I derived from trains, as they have always been close to me. While growing up, we always lived near the tracks, and when I got married and moved to South Dakota, we had tracks across our land. Even now, I only live three blocks from the tracks, and when I walk to town, I still like to count the cars and wave to the engineer.
God bless them.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.