Editorial: Little Black Train

by Andru McCracken, Editor


There’s a little black train a-comin’,

Set your business right

There’s a little black train a-comin’

And it may be here tonight

~ Woody Guthrie

The way the Woody Guthrie song goes, you need to get your affairs in order before the Little Black Train arrives.

I’m wiser than that. Our affairs are never ‘in order,’ at least not for long. But if the song reminds us of something it is that we should make the most of our time.

Over the weekend I met a local boy who moved away to Alberta who was, in fact, making the most of it. I asked him where he was and what he was doing (mostly because he seemed like an easy recruit to move back to Valemount).

Instead of telling me his job or where he lived he told me about his family.

An odd redirection for a benign question.

He told me about his two young children and his wife. His eyes shone.

I told him I had a two year old.

“Isn’t it awesome?” he exclaimed.

I paused. Hmm. Was it awesome?

I remembered the morning’s incident in the crib with the missing diaper and the make-do sticky playdough. And then I thought of our toddler’s growing propensity to answer any small gesture with “De doo.” Her version of “Thank you.”

“Yes, it is awesome,” I nodded, reaffirming it for myself.

There were three in our little circle, another man talked about his commitment to working in the oilfields for high pay.

“I like buying stuff,” he said.

As the discussion turned to wages and working I got the full story from super family man. He had found work suited to family life. Lower pay, better living, he said. He worked slightly longer hours which gave him every second Friday off.

I said ‘Dude!’ and he said ‘Right?’

I was struck at the difference.

My dad used to say his kids were his riches. Kids are like money in the bank. An asset tied up in institutions for removal at a later date.

I really didn’t get to know my dad until my mom got sick. I was 10. That is when Dad stepped into our family’s life, withdrawing his fortune. Mom died when I was 13, she was 39.

But, maybe because of my mom’s early death, I see life whistling past at an alarming rate and I wonder what the hell everyone is doing.  Friends no less healthy than me have heart attacks; healthy people are diagnosed with cancer; some die in accidents.

I live in the Robson Valley so I can survive here with my family. I don’t have to save up for an escape.

Guthrie explains the concept with six clever verses in the song.

This young man, just over 30, gets it. Is he some sort of old soul? Did he get hit on the head or have a near death experience?

I don’t know what his secret is, but it kills me that everyone spends their time idealizing family life and one in 20 prioritize it.

So few people answer the question ‘What are you doing now?’ with a description of their family.

I stand with super family guy.

For the folks that are busy making money so their family can ‘live better,’ remember Guthrie’s catchy chorus (adapted by the Carter Family):

“… death’s dark train is coming… prepare to take a ride.”

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