Oh, Montana! Wherefore art thou so distant to Indiana?
California is still higher on my favorite states list, but one could make a solid case for the big skies, rolling green plains and rugged mountain beauty of Montana.
A driver hauls the eight of us from St. Ignatius to the train station in Whitefish. We’ll be traveling east from here on out.
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
I imagine some of the strangers we’ve met on this 17-day trek would wholeheartedly agree with that.
Throughout this entire trip, we eight, well, the four boys at least, have enjoyed catching people who don’t know us off guard with unorthodox pronunciations and generally acting ignorant. It’s while boarding the train in Whitefish that a stranger catches me unaware. Let me explain.
Many people, when happy, will show it by whistling, humming a tune or singing a song. I am just as apt to exhibit my happiness to those around me by breaking into an auction chant. My friends are used to it. My sibling are annoyed by it. Strangers are confused by it.
I bring up the rear as our eight climb the stairs inside the train car just after boarding. Another man is behind me.
Absentmindedly, I launch into an auction chant while filing down the aisle.
The man behind me gets my attention and reassures me. “Just keep taking your medication,” he says without a hint of a smile. “It will be all right.”
I’ve heard that line 81 times since then from my siblings.
We enjoy God’s scenery in Montana from the train today. As usual, we spend quite a bit of time in the lounge car playing games. We play more chess and schnicklefritz the rest of the way and less Settlers of Catan.
We have played between 40 and 50 Settlers games on this trip already. Mike Lambright has sewn up the Settlers’ title, garnering 13 wins. My nine is good for — oops. “Your majesty,” they said. “there is no second place.”
Schnicklefritz is a relatively new game, much like a two-on-two checkers match. I play Watson to Calvin’s Sherlock Holmes and we stay undefeated on this jaunt, winning all six of our games.
Another train traveler, also named Mike, joins us for some chess. The man plays above our level and wins every time, except once. Sherlock pulls a quick four-move checkmate on him. Mike is not satisfied until he has played Calvin again and settled the score.
Our train runs behind schedule and we are hours late getting in Chicago. Amtrak feeds us a complimentary supper on the train.
Upon arriving in the Windy city, instead of having a three-hour layover, our eastbound train is ready for us. We board that one directly and are soon on the last leg of our excursion.
We are going home.
Loren Beachy is an auctioneer and elementary school teacher. He can be contacted by writing to 14047 S.R. 4, Goshen, IN 46528 or calling 574-642-1180.