Lessons from the Rails

Shelby, Montana

The guy sitting across from me (my partner in crime on this trip) is dying from Cancer. His son asked him where he wanted to go, before the end, and his reply was Montana. He’s heading to Shelby, although he doesn’t know anyone there. From the jar of peanuts that he keeps chugging, I don’t believe he has a lot of cash. He’s OK with dying, but really worried about finding work. “I can cowboy!” He keeps tell me. At some point, he worked in Wyoming, on fishing boats in San Diego, California, and he’s a trained chef.

Arriving in Shelby

I poked around, when I could connect to the Internet, and looked up jobs and cheap hotels. He knew about some of the jobs. He had already seen and couldn’t afford most of the hotels. His plan was to just sleep inside the train station, if it was kept unlocked all night. Hearing that news, I went back online and found a men’s shelter in town. If our train could get him to Shelby, by 7:00 pm, he’d get dinner, a warm bed, and breakfast tomorrow, at the shelter. The train was late.

Leaving Shelby

Either way, he was a great train buddy, for the 18 hours that I knew him. He told me how much he enjoyed clowning and laughing with me. He said the laughter took his mind off how scared he was about arriving in Shelby.

There’s probably no “see you when I see you” future to this story. Still, we had a time! — GGT


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