Of Trains and Autumn Kindness

Photo by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

Autumn, mountains, and a slow train ride:  lovely.  I have been ready for such a calmly pleasant excursion.

That was our recent experience aboard the Potomac Eagle, departing from Romney, West Virginia, for a three hour tour along the South Branch of the Potomac River.  What could be lovelier?  I will tell you:  the people.

You arrive early, to get all things in readiness for a promptly on-time departure.  To a person, each member of the crew was genuinely friendly.  They did not look to be manufacturing a happy face; their amiability was easy.

While the South Branch flows into the Potomac, there is no sign of partisan backwash way upriver.  We could not have felt farther from the rarified atmosphere of today’s national capital.  Whether employees or passengers, I could not guess for you the political persuasion of anyone I met.

The most refreshing air on this autumn day was that we were spared exposure to any of the fissures that some are trying to foster—or foist—upon most Americans.  There was a natural sense of community that comes when genial people gather. 

The tour narrator, who described points of interest as we proceeded along the tracks, did display a hometown sense of veneration for Romney as the oldest town in West Virginia, a claim resting on the evidence of having the oldest municipal charter, by a matter of hours.  Shepherdstown makes a claim to be older, although the record is that the governor signed the legislation establishing the town of Romney before lunch on December 13, 1762, and after lunch signed the legislation establishing the community that became Shepherdstown.  Such are the documents of local history.  (For those interested in such matters, I refer you to the well-written and documented, “The Founding of Romney:  West Virginia’s Oldest Established Town,” at http://www.HistoricHampshire.org.)   

I will add that the little town of Romney exhibited no signs of the “privilege” that critics say is rife among the population.  You can count the houses as you drive through.  I saw none either auspicious or dilapidated.  The homes and the cars and trucks parked in the driveways were not the late model foreign luxury wheels prevalent inside the Washington beltway.

I wish that what I say of the people I met that day in Romney could also be said of others with whom I have associated around the country this year.  I have to report that I could say that.  People seem to enjoy being in each other’s company, friend, family, or new acquaintance.

By the way, the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac is well known for its many bald eagles.  Sit on the riverside of the train for the best eagle views, wooded mountain slopes on the other.

About Wayne Abernathy
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am the husband of one wife, the father of 5 children, and grandfather of 16 (and counting). In my career I have served on the staff of the U.S. Senate for some 20 years, including as staff director of the Senate Banking Committee. For just over 2 years I was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions. Just recently, I retired from the American Bankers Association, where for 15 years I was an Executive Vice President, for financial institutions policy and regulatory affairs. I am most comfortable at home, where I like to read and write, and at the Temple, where I rejoice in helping to unite families.

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