In 1913, my mom, 3-year-old sister, infant brother and I boarded a train for Nebraska. We rode about 20 miles, then had to change trains to go to Lincoln, Neb. It was after dark when we boarded our next train, and a few miles down the tracks, we discovered we had boarded the wrong train.
When the conductor came through the cars checking tickets, he looked at Mom’s ticket and told her we were on the wrong train. He said we’d have to go back to the last station and catch the right train from there. Of course, the next train for Lincoln, Neb., wasn’t leaving until the following day. Mom told the conductor that we had no money for a hotel.
The conductor disappeared, then returned a few minutes later. He said they had wired the train we were supposed to be on, and it would stop and wait for us. Within a few minutes, our train was stopped next to the train we should have caught. We boarded and were relieved to be going in the right direction.
Our train arrived in Lincoln, Neb., behind schedule, and we missed our next train. We spent the night in the train depot, and the next morning, a brakeman approached Mom and said that if we wouldn’t mind riding in the caboose of a freight train, that it was leaving immediately.
What an experience! The caboose had a wooden seat along one side, where we sat. There was a small stove in the center, and soon after we boarded, the conductor put a piece of steak on top of the hot stove. I remember hearing it sizzle and smelling the wonderful aroma.
When the steak was done cooking, the conductor cut a piece off for himself, then put the rest on a platter, which he handed to my mom.
He took a loaf of bread from the cupboard and tore it in half, again sharing with Mom. Oh, how we enjoyed that breakfast, and the rest of our trip.
Many years later, my husband and I were driving through Nebraska and saw a museum with a caboose. We stopped and toured the old, weathered railroad car, and it looked just like the one I had ridden in when I was only 6 years old.
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.