Giving Thanks – Day 13

I’m thankful for hobbies. Anyone who follows “A Coffee State of Mind” knows my main hobby is model railroading. I’ve written about it many times. I started with HO trains when I was fifteen. For Christmas that year I received a small “HO train set” that included an engine that didn’t run right, five cars, and a circle of 18″ radius track. I was as excited as any kid getting a train set could be. I was determined to build a railroad empire, which I did, at least in my own mind. In the early days, my layout was on top of a ping-pong table. At a local hobby shop, I traded my ill-running Santa Fe F7 engine for a metal 2-6-0 switch engine. My first steam locomotive! It was small but I loved it. I bought more track until I finally had a large oval. I added a few turnouts and soon had a “layout” that included a twice-around to complete the circuit.

The next year, I purchased a Baldwin Class Berkshire 2-8-4 locomotive. This is the same type of locomotive depicted in “The Polar Express” movie. By the way, if you’ve never been to the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan, you really owe it to yourself to go see the beautiful, operating Berkshire 1225. There is just no way to adequately describe the experience of watching this incredible locomotive thunder past with smoke and steam exploding into the sky! This amazing locomotive saw many years of operation throughout Michigan as part of the Pere Marquette Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad before diesel engines took the place of steam across the country.

A lucky break for the retired 1225 took place when it became part of the steam restoration project at Michigan State University. After many years of stop-and-start activity on the engine, it finally found a home at the institute in Owosso. For many years, the mighty engine has been pulling restored passenger cars full of steam railroading fans on The Polar Express Train, as well as steaming across the state on various excursions. We have ridden the Christmas train a couple of times, it’s a wonderful experience. Arguably, the biggest break for the 1225 came when Warner Brothers made audio recordings of the locomotive under full steam for the sound track of the movie, “The Polar Express.”

I’ve had other hobbies, a few didn’t last longer than a few weeks. For example, my grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet. I had my own knitting bag with yarn, needles, and a jar of crochet hooks. I never made anything but long ropes.

Baking could be described as a hobby, I guess. I’ve been baking since I was ten years old.

Is writing a hobby? I don’t think of it that way. I’ve been writing seriously for almost thirty years. I have actually made money writing. For two years, I had a weekly column in a newspaper with a circulation of 50,000. That was fun. For several years, I wrote curricula for church publications distributed throughout the country. I’ve written four books, “The Good, The Bad, and The Funny,” “Camp’s Over, Now What?” “One Plus One Equals Three,” and my first middle-grade novel, “Smivvy Stepward In Love and Other Misery.” Nope, none of them are available on Amazon…yet.

Another hobby I have, or had, was flying radio-controlled airplanes. I really enjoyed that! I have one plane that crashed three times (twice by me, once by someone else) and I rebuilt it each time. It looks a little rough but still flies great. The problem now is my hands. A condition called Essential Tremors has made it almost impossible for me to fly. RC airplanes don’t respond well to shaking hands. Bummer.

What are your hobbies? How often do you work on your hobby?

I’m sure there is lots of research about hobbies somewhere. I think we naturally drift toward things that work for us. I’ve always liked trains and planes.

I think maybe I’ll write a post about why those of us who write write. It’s probably the same kind of thing as building a model railroad layout. Why would anyone do that?

Whatever your hobby is, or hobbies are, whether painting, sewing, building, growing flowers, planting shrubs, feeding birds, watching animals, taking pictures, traveling, restoring old cars, driving new cars, quilting, clipping coupons, spending money, riding the rails, flying, playing video games, designing video games, watching others play video games, wondering how to play video games, playing solitaire, playing poker, watching soap operas, amateur radio, dressing up, antiquing, wondering why people like antiques, writing, drawing, doodling, wine tasting, exterior illumination, beer sampling, beer brewing, interior illumination, reading, listening to audio books because you don’t like reading, Legos, Lincoln Logs, watching cartoons, singing, writing music, playing instruments you don’t know how to play, imagining playing an instrument well, pretending, acting, walking, running, standing, sitting, watching TV, binge-watching Netflix, watching and re-watching every episode of Friends, shopping and returning what you bought, or playing trains, if you love it, do it with all your heart and let your hobby be to you what it’s meant to be.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 15

This is just what the quiet little tourist town of Maple Valley needed. First, Sylvia Meisner disappears without a trace. Folks here are still in stir about it. Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is almost at his wits end, not to mention he’s still healing from a bad fall in Sylvia’s basement. There have been rumblings of replacing the sheriff with someone who can solve the case. I don’t know what else could be done at this point. There is no evidence leading anywhere!

Next, there was the effort to delay the start of tourist season which almost caused an uprising. Then it was discovered Randy Herbahl forgot to invite Buck Wills and the Wagoneers to the Founders Day Celebration. Lucky for Randy, the group was still able to come. I’m quite sure he would have been run out of town if the Happy Harmonettes became the entertainment for the event because of his mistake.

Now it seems we have another emergency.

Maple Valley folks were shocked this morning to discover a huge flying ship had landed over Wittington. The circumstances are similar to Sylvia’s disappearance, and they are equally disturbing. No one heard the ship land. No one knows where it came from. Folks were not even sure what it was until someone climbed up on the Maple Valley River Trestle and took a picture of it. It does indeed appear to be a flying ship of some kind.

The Maple Valley Council is in an uproar because Mayor Thrashborn activated the Gulliver Emergency Response Team without their approval. This is just not done in Maple Valley. No other mayor in the history of Maple Valley has dared to activate the emergency response team without council approval. There will definitely be an investigation after the emergency has been resolved.

The response team, which consists of several residents of Maple Valley, made its way to the site where the craft landed. So far, the team has done nothing except stand and watch. There does not appear to be any danger at this time.

For now, the emergency response team will keep a close eye on the craft and report back to Mayor Thrashborn. The only comment made by anyone on the team is that the being inside the craft appears to be humanoid, and is rather good looking. “If he were the same size as other folks in Maple Valley, he might even be one of us” someone was heard to say.

My suspicion is a simple explanation will be discovered. Unlike the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner, this craft is tangible. It has shape and size. It appears to be somewhat familiar, even inviting. The very troubling thing at this point, is the craft is blocking the railroad lines. Freight and passengers will not be able to move until the craft is either moved, or leaves of its own accord, which is rather frightening. No contact has been made with the being in the craft. Although the being has a humanoid appearance, there is no indication of an attempt to communicate.

This episode could also have been titled, “This is What Happens When You Have One Too Many Hobbies.”