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Lexi rides the Empire Builder - toot toot!


Hi, my name is Alexandria. Call me Lexi. Grandma took me on train from Seattle to Wolf Point so I can spend time with my cousin Antoinette. Call her Toni. I am 6 years old. Toni is 8.

Grandma asked me to write about the trip. So I took notes. We left Seattle from the newly restored King Street Station. Grandma told me to write that. It is beautiful. I told Grandma this is my story, and she should write her own story.

In fact, I had to teach Grandma to give up all thoughts and illusions of control over this trip. It wasn’t easy but she eventually took it gracefully. That is a polite way to say she didn’t have a choice.

We were at the King Street Station early so the first thing I did was make friends with Ella. She is also 6. We colored and played games and chased each other in circles around the grown up people. We agreed to a play date on the train. She was not in the same car as me and Grandma but her dad brought her to our compartment. Ella and I played Crazy Eights and Go Fish.

Did you know there are a lot of flowers on the train? Grandma said the flowers are really Philips screw heads. They look like flowers to me. So we will call them flowers. I like that the train is held together by flowers.

(Note from Grandma: Give a child a bit of information and she instantly is an expert.)

(Note from Lexi: Like an adult is different?)

There is a huge white mountain we went to on the trip. Grandma said it is Mount Baker. She said we were really not going to the top of the mountain. I could see that we were going to the mountain. I named it the Mountain in the Clouds.

Ms. Veronica is our car attendant. She helps us with lots of stuff. She told us where to find the dining car, in front of our sleeper car. She made our beds at night. She brought us water. Ms. Veronica has four children and knows all the Bernstein Bears Stories.

For a snack before dinner time, me and my grandma ate salted-in-the-shell peanuts. We ate a lot of peanuts. We were really careful to put the shells into the little garbage can next to teeny little closet. Ms. Veronica would appreciate if train travelers did not bring peanuts in the shell for snacks.

When the train goes around a curve on the tracks, we can look out the window and see the front of the train. The front is the engine. Grandma said she had not noticed that before. Why didn’t she just look?

Water on the train comes in little short bottles. Water tastes better in little bottles. We drank a lot of bottles of water.

Tunnels are fun. There are lights in tunnels. Grandma said she hadn’t noticed the lights before. Why didn’t she just look? Grandma said most of the lights in her tunnels were lights from oncoming freight trains. I don’t know what she meant.

The dining car is really fun. I got to talk to lots of adults. Grandma sat quietly and held her breath. I don’t know why she held her breath. The other people liked to talk to me. They laughed a lot and asked me lots of questions. I told them everything.

I especially liked to smack the button that made the doors between the cars open.

When night came I climbed up into the top bunk and went to sleep. In the night the train went over what Grandma called a rough patch. It scared me. I thought I might fall out. So I climbed down to the lower bunk and snuggled with Grandma. We slept really good.

(Note from Grandma: Sleep-Ha!)

When the train stopped in Havre, Grandma took me into the station to meet the woman who sold her our tickets last April. She was really nice, too. She and Ms. Veronica are friends. They gave me a bag of train goodies, books and coloring books.

(Note from Grandma: When we were within 10 minutes of Wolf Point, Lexi, who had never before been in Montana, said to me, “This is terrible. This is just terrible. Some people don’t take good care of their fences. Wire is broken and missing in places. It’s just terrible. This is nothing like how it used to be.” Who knows what she meant!)

I love the train. I want Grandma to take me on a train trip every year to play with my favorite cousin.

(Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem, graduated from Northern and despite years in foreign countries such as Washington state, says Montana will always be home. Poet, essayist, former theater director and business owner, Ashton splits her time racking up air miles between Havre, including suburbs from Glendive to Great Falls, and Mazatlan, Mexico. Her quirky essays can be seen at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Ashton can be reached at sondrajean.ashton@yahoo.com.)


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