CABOOSE TRIP HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
By Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance (1909-1989)
In 1944, Naomi (Jane) and I had been on the trapline all fall and we returned to Thicket Portage, the small settlement on the Hudson Bay Railway line where we lived. It was three or four days before Christmas and I had business in The Pas, so I took the passenger train south. No passenger trains were scheduled to return north before Christmas Day, so we expected to be apart for our first Christmas.
After I completed my business in the Pas I went to the roadmaster and asked if there were any trains going north that would take me home for Christmas. He said that there was a freight train going to Churchill in the morning and told me to return then. I was at the station early the next day and the roadmaster introduced me to the conductor. I explained that I wanted to be home for Christmas, and he allowed me to ride in the caboose of the freight train.
It was a long trip because of the frequent stops to unload freight and to shunt boxcars, but the train finally pulled into Thicket Portage around midnight on Christmas Eve.
I went to our house and gave “the secret knock” so Naomi would know that I was at the door. She opened it and gave me a big hug as she had expected to be alone for Christmas and was surprised to see me. It was our first Christmas and the best because we had not expected to be together.
Comment: I asked mom if she remembered the above incident but she does not. She told me that at the senior’s place today they asked the residents about their memories of Christmas. She told them that “riding in a one-horse open sleigh” was not a special event when she grew up on the farm as it was the only way to get around. Grandpa would hitch up the horses and the family would crowd into the sleigh and bundle up with quilts and the family would go visiting.
© Linda C Butler 2013