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James R. Stout

The Train Will Leave The Station

            It was the summer of 1975. I had just begun dating the girl that I would eventually be married to for 27 years. Her parents owned a weekend place near Lake Somerville in central Texas and most weekends they, along with their daughter, spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon at that place. I had been invited to come up and spend the day with them on a Saturday in July. We had already been out on a couple of dates and things were going well. I had gone to the lake many times with my father and uncle on fishing trips between 1968-1972. But it had been 3 years since I had gone to the lake. I had to drive through Brenham, Texas to get to the lake. Just outside of Brenham on Highway 36 there was an abandoned motel. I remembered a time when it had been open several years before but had not been aware that it no longer was. It always caught my attention and imagination when we passed it by. On this day in July of 1975 I decided to stop and check out the motel. It was one of those old kinds of motels where each room was a separate building. In this case, all of the buildings were designed to look like rail cars. The office was designed to look like an old steam locomotive. The motel itself had about 12 rooms to it and the facility was shaped so that it appeared to be a large train. Each room had its own covered parking next to the room itself.

            I pulled into the old facility and got out to look around. Grass and weeds had taken over much of the facility, but you could get around fairly well. The front door to one of the rooms was standing open and it was inviting me to come check it out. So, I did. I was surprised to find most of the furniture still inside. Oh, it was covered in dirt and dust and rodents had taken over, but it was easy to picture what it had been like to stay overnight in one of those rooms. Everything was in the theme of trains and railroads. The headboard of the bed looked like a caboose. Pictures on the wall were of old trains, trestles, and rail equipment. It was obvious that someone had loved trains and had spent a great deal of time decorating the rooms. I was standing inside the room looking things over when I heard a loud rumble outside. Within a minute the sound of a diesel train overwhelmed the little room. It seems that there was a rail line just across the highway from the motel.

            I continued to look around the place and decided that I would need to come back soon in order to take photos. I would love to attach photos to this blog entry of that old motel, but I can’t. Why? Because I never got to take pictures there. I had plenty of chances though. After we were married, we would go spend a weekend with her parents about once every six weeks or so. Each time we drove by that old motel I would remember that I wanted to take photos, but I always seemed to be in a hurry and we just didn’t ever stop.

            One weekend in late 1978 we were on our way up to the lake and I had come prepared to take photos. I had two cameras with me, and we had set aside time to stop and take pictures. We had just connected up with Highway 36 from a new loop around Brenham and as we approached the location of the motel, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The place had been bulldozed. Nothing was left standing and it appeared that they were in the process of clearing the land to build something. I was so disappointed. But it was my own fault. I had plenty of opportunities to take photos and I just didn’t seize the moment.

            Thinking back on that motel and the lost chances to photograph it I realize that we do a lot of things in life that cause us to miss out on something that goes away. I learned that lesson many years ago and I rarely let the loss of a little bit of time stop me from enjoying something before its gone. Here it is 2020 and so many things are gone forever that once seemed as though they would always be around. Not only buildings, but things in general and most importantly, life itself. Back in the late 70’s I was in my early 20’s. I was in great shape and could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to do, physically speaking. That isn’t the case today. I’ve lost more than a few steps and some things that were so simple and done without giving a thought are beyond me now.

            I was talking to my sister recently and we were talking about all the “things” that we can’t remember what became of them. I once had a 10 and ½ inch reel to reel tape recorder. Now, I know what happened to it. I sold it to a music minister at a church after I purchased a new multi-track machine. While I kept all of my old tapes, most of which were 7” reels and for years had one 10 and ½ inch reel, I have lost that large reel. I remember what was on it. The songs recorded on one side and a concert that the trio I was in gave back in 1977 on the other side. I know I never would have thrown it away. I haven’t been able to listen to it for 38 years now. I wanted to transfer the contents to my computer using my brother-in-law’s machine that would play it, but I cannot find that tape. I’ve been through every box in the house and it’s just not here. Apparently, my opportunity to hear that tape again has passed me by. As Frank Sinatra sang, “That’s Life”. We can’t assume that what is here now will always be here.

            What I realize is I guess I’m getting to an age where I would like to enjoy some of the things that I thought were still around, but they are not. In the long run, it won’t matter to anyone once I’m gone. I am the only person who will be likely to want to hear my old recordings, read my unpublished poems and stories, and enjoy gadgets that probably will seem like antiques to those who follow. But for the here and now, those things matter to me. I do believe that my grandchildren may one day like to hear what I sounded like when I was young and to read things that I wrote. Perhaps they will spend some time getting to know me better that way. So, I will transfer all the recordings that I can and keep all of my written material. If they find it useless someday, then so be it. At least I will have given them the opportunity to enjoy it. I just hope that they don’t find it no longer in existence like that old motel.

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