Like a beast it roared, bellowing smoke and shrilling its cry, frightening both those it came upon and those it carried in its belly. The beast could sneak up on no one, for the world knew to shy away from its path. Those that found themselves staring it down shrunk in their tracks, struggling to find the courage to move out of its way. Even those that were locked tightly within its jaws feared for their life. They worried whether they’d ever step foot on earth’s sturdy ground again. And if they would, they feared what part of themselves they’d lost along the way.
There was one man, however, that did not fear the beast, though his bones rattled deep inside as the train barreled down the tracks. Neither the lurching nor the jerking unsettled his soul, for the beast had been his home for more days than not.
Jedediah Baker once boarded the train, as a three-year-old boy, with his mother. He was enamored by its every aspect: the commotion of the station, the sheer size of the beast, the steam that streamed out its side, the sharp whistle, and the way it tumbled invincibly down the tracks.
Over time his fascinations evolved, but his infatuation with the beast grew into a sincere form of respect and admiration. When his mother passed away only three years later, Jed was left an orphan. His father was as good as dead, and he had no siblings. The orphanage held him captive for no more than one month before he fled. Morrison Station was a mere five miles from the home and he could hear the trains pass through, hour after hour. It was only a matter of time before the whistle called out, directly to him, he was sure of it.
He skipped onto a boxcar, explored his way from the engine to the caboose, and rode for days before being found out. He was tossed from three different trains fourteen times, but none of that would stop him. All it took was for one conductor to empathize with him, to see a little bit of himself in the boy, and that’s just what happened. Trains were still young, people still feared what they could do, and only the true pioneer braved the tracks as Jedediah did. But that’s what he was born to do.