Trains and Automobiles

I headed out from Dad & Jo’s at 11:15-ish on Thursday, April 22nd, just as Jo was getting her baggage at the Billings airport. 

Handel’s Messiah by the Monteverdi Choir (1982) the Glory of the Lord from Part I was filling the Element as a 150 car, four engine train went by. Incredible, as a train that large is around 1 1/2 miles long. I futilely pumped my arm for the whistle. It was unlikely the conductor could see me and not very likely I could hear the whistle or horn, even if it was sounded.

Back in the 1960s and 70s in Montana, the two-lane highways ran closer to the train tracks than the Interstate (divided highway) does now.  As our family station wagon pulled abreast of the engine(s), the conductors could see us and us them.  The three of us kids in the back of the station wagon would pump our arms furiously, mimicking the conductor’s motion of pulling the rope for the train whistle, in hopes of hearing the whistle blow.  Of course, even for our generation, it was more often horn than whistle. But so often the conductors did blow the horn!  I wonder if the train engineers / conductors do that anymore? 

(They do!  On US87S, a fair bit after leaving Great Falls on April 28th, a wonderful cobbled together train of an engine and six unique cars drove opposite the two lane highway. I (stupidly, I confess) rolled down the window, pumped my arm furiously, with a hopeful smile the conductor couldn’t have missed. In return, I heard a double horn blast off the north bound small train. Tears of joy ensued for renewal of a cherished memory and way of life.)

Now, back to the westbound trip to Yellowstone on the 22nd! Smooth sailing down I-90.  Got gas in Livingston but didn’t stop in hopes of mostly making a Zoom meeting.  Livingston to Gardiner is a great road (two lane, mostly good shoulders, bottom of the valley, and mostly flat with good lines of sight). Light auto traffic at this time of year with elk abundant in the valley, increasing as we approached Yellowstone National Park. 

Two osprey nests were slammed atop tall poles (one wooden utility pole) with osprey pairs active in their home.  Nestled in Paradise valley with the mountains close and very loud Handel’s Messiah Allelujah chorus had a soundtrack to match the view.  The closer I came to Gardiner, the closer the Elk are to the road — here, there, and everywhere. By the time I reach the outskirts of Gardiner and the airfield, another six elk are comically nestled against the “control tower” house like cats waiting to get inside.  A 500 pound cat. The landing strip is designed for Cubs and Pipers, but … still … oops! … miss by a little, crash down 50’ into the Yellowstone River!

But … I made it … and now to find Bob’s house.

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