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A Train Story

June 16, 2011

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a retirement ceremony for a fellow firefighter and friend. His name is Charles (Chuck) Donmyer. Any firefighter who works a full career has many stories that his colleagues can tell. I told just one.

The incident took place back on a dark moonless night many years ago. Chuck was driving his pickup along a stretch of rural Kansas highway in southern Saline County. I don’t know all of the particulars, but Chuck always had a multitude of work and recreational equipment. I believe he was pulling a caravan of some sort that night.

Back in the day there were a number of roadways in Saline County that had some distinct flaws. Unmarked intersections, blind spots created by tree rows, and rail crossings without warning signals.

As Chuck was motoring along with his caravan, young and carefree, he collided with a large dark object – a locomotive train. Chuck was pretty beat up in the accident, but survived.

Even though this wasn’t a story about a time when he was on duty as a firefighter, it was a story that told volumes about Chuck. He’s a gruff, tuff fellow that did battle with a train and lived to tell about it. That’s the way he was at the fire department too.

There are those who have written songs that seem to tell the story of a firefighter’s career. Here’s how I related it.

The first day on the job you should be tuning into “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne.
“All aboard – ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaa – Crazy, but that’s how it goes.”
That lead in from Ozzy would be quite fitting to a recruit class. From there you might need to tweak the words a bit, but it doesn’t take much to set the picture for what’s ahead.

After recruit training the firefighter needs to plug in the Doobie Brother’s song “Long Train Running.”
“Down around the corner, half a mile from here, you see them long trains (fire engines) run, and you watch them disappear. Without love, where would you be now.”
If you are going to make the entire trip – to the pension – it’s certainly going to be a long train running. And, with any career you’d better have some love. It’s not something that firefighters talk about, but I assure you it’s there.

It takes a few gray whiskers –a bit of wisdom – to finally get what it’s all about. Curtis Mayfield captured that message with his song titled, “People Get Ready”.
“People get ready, there’s a train comin’ – You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board – All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’ – You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord.”
Unfortunately, we spend a great part of our early lives doing just the opposite – collecting baggage.

Wrapping up the career nicely is the Cat Steven’s song “Peace Train.”
“Now I’ve been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come – And I believe it could be, something good has begun – Get your bags together, go bring your good friends too – Cause it’s getting nearer, it soon will be with you – Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train – Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again.”
Nobody knows for sure when their ride is going to arrive at the station. So, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

From the many friends that came together yesterday, I know Chuck did.

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