Monday, January 22, 2007

Training in Selle

The wall behind my computer is slowly getting cluttered. I said I wouldn't do that in this new house, but I guess I'm accustomed to clutter and can't function too long without it. Life would be boring without a little clutter to clean up or to remind us of things we think are important.

One item in my growing wall collection is an original mock-up of a Spokesman-Review front page. Susan Drumheller, a former Spokesman reporter, gave me that after I wrote a last-minute front-page story right at deadline time about a dug-out canoe discovery in Lake Pend Oreille.

Some official researchers from the national center where they determine authenticity had come to the museum to report their findings. After spending the week in the water filming and examining the canoe, they had determined that it certainly was old. That story about the rare finding in our lake was the quickest turnaround piece I'd done in years, and Susan thought I ought to have the Spokesman's original photo of that front page.

Since moving here, I've also pinned up a small collection of enlarged, laminated family pictures. There's Willie and friends at his 1995 graduation. Below that are Annie and friends standing next to Bill who's on the '56 Ford tractor. The old Ford, with its fine character, merited another blow-up with Bill and Willie posing next to it. Another meaningful shot zeroes in on my dad, my sisters and my brother Kevin at my dad's 80th birthday in 1997. I missed that party because he celebrated it at the same time we had taken young journalists to a convention in San Francisco. It's a fine shot, especially with that chocolate cake with the big "80" sitting on top.

Two larger photos on the wall captured my children at moments of innocence. As dapper as dapper can be, Willie and Annie stand side by side in Marilyn Chambers' living room. Willie's wearing an all-white suit with white shoes and a black bow tie. His blond locks almost match the ensemble. Annie clasps her white gloved hands together like a First Communion angel as she stands next to her brother in the most exquisite long white dress imaginable. Her hair is exquisitely styled for participating in the elegant backyard Chambers family wedding setting.

I'm glad we captured that moment because its suggestion of total innocence was so fleeting. Within an hour of the shutter snap, my little angels were being shoved into the family car and hauled home never to perform as flower girl and ringbearer again. The white suit had green knees and a split crotch. The lovely white skirt on the lovely white dress had separated from its top.

That sudden egress from the Chambers wedding festivities occurred just as the two little Love children were attempting to scale the silver stakes holding up the feast tent. The photo immortalized a story to be told over and over as the children grew into fine adults, eventually taking on exemplary wedding behavior.

Another photo shows Willie standing in a simple, dark background with phenomenally soft face and body lighting. My husband snapped that shot one night when we came home early from yet another Chambers family function. This time it was their annual Christmas party. This time it was because our babysitters kept calling as we had made our way from one Christmas party to another. Willie was about three at the time. After our departure for the parties, Willie began a bout with the stomach flu, and the babysitters had to keep changing his clothes.

The final call, while we were at the Chambers, revealed that the teen-age girls had run out of clothes and had finally substituted one of Bill's T-shirts, found in the dryer. When we came home, Bill couldn't resist snapping a shot of our young son standing near the sliding glass door with that bright yellow T-shirt draped over his cherubic body, extending to the floor. I wish I had the negative to that photo because it will melt anyone's heart.

So, that's the extent of the family picture clutter---so far. This past week I pinned up one more item for the collection. It's a calendar sent to me by my former student Bryant Jones, who's gotten in the habit over the years of sending me calendars. He used to specialize in Duck Boy varieties. Last year he brought me a fine calendar from China where he spent the year teaching. It not only includes the dates for each week but also hundreds of paintings, some even done by his colleagues at the school where he taught.

This year Bryant, who's working on an advanced degree in Washington, D.C. and helping out in Congressman Mike Simpson's office, decided I needed something to remind me of what I left behind when we moved to Selle. It's the 2007 Union Pacific calendar with huge color photos of the company's trains on the move around the country and even in Japan.

Bryant figured I missed the trains, which have been a basic ingredient of day and night throughout my life. Our last home was not much more than a football field away from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (once the Great Northern) switch tracks. We also saw Spokane International trains loaded with logs go past each afternoon.

In 1997, we even had nine cars in a train derail and spill over into our pasture. We've watched the "Nuke" trains go by our house, and I've enjoyed riding my horse down the road and waving to strangers as elegant tour trains cruised by almost silently except for their characteristic whistles. So, Bryant was right when he sent us that calendar.

The minute Bill saw it, he said I should tell Bryant that the one and only train passing through Selle is the Union Pacific. This morning I wrote him a note and told him I seldom hear the train unless I'm outside. Ironically, when I finished the sentence, a whistle off to the northeast broke the early morning silence. Then, I heard it rumble through the countryside, headed south.

So, that morning train through Selle made a liar out of me, but that's fine. As I said to Bryant, the sound reminds me that all is okay with the movement of life and maybe even some of the clutter that fills up space and creates yet another wonderful story to be told.

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