It’s not a place most would associate with great physical or emotional
pain. One mile west of my hometown of Viking, Minnesota there’s a spot along the railroad tracks that’s seen pain
you can feel and the pain you can only describe. On the lighter side, this spot has also seen good deer hunting and was the
site of a water tower used by a railroad once powered by steam. There’s still a dam where a stream provided water for
the steam engines to feed their boilers. It’s a spot with history and it’s very own story.
People like to hunt, it’s great recreation and generally a safe hobby.
It was 1948 and Wayne Hanson plus a few friends were walking the tracks near the water tower bird hunting. It had been a good
day and a good hunt but things would soon change. One boy used a pump 12 gauge and after taking a shot he racked the next
shell like always but this time the gun accidentally fired. Wayne Hanson now lay bleeding on the ground. No 911 phone call
to make, no ambulance-just the help of a neighbor and his parents who sped him off to the hospital in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
Wayne, just fourteen, lay there and peered at both sides of death for better than a week. Forty-four days into his hospital
stay, Wayne felt a tremendous pain and felt like his heart was creeping up his throat. When the pained reached it’s
pinnacle, something finally gave and Wayne knew from his relief that he would live.
In 1995 I was walking along the railroad tracks near the water tower gathering
wood. My dog , Rudy, was along for his good company. I noticed a train approach so I gathered Rudy in my arms and waited.
When the trained neared Rudy squirmed away and just stood on the tracks. I thought about jumping for him but the train was
too close. He just stood there until the last moment when he turned to die. My first marriage was failing at the time but
I’d always had my little dog to listen to my problems. I wouldn’t compare the loss of my dog to the loss of a
child but I would compare it to losing my connection to everything good in my life at the time.
Today Wayne Hanson is healthy and
my little dog is buried in the ground and in my mind. The water tower is gone and the dam is hard to find. I drive by that
spot near my hometown and it’s a striking scene; railroad tracks that inspire imagination, woods to either side and
a little creek just to the south of the railroad grade. But that’s not what I see.