The train. It’s 5:59 in the morning, but the train doesn’t care. It’s as if the conductor has a gripe with this town. Our warm and friendly port on the shore of Lake Huron. He’s blasting that horn continuously. Chugging through town with one mission—to make sure everyone’s up as early as he is. Maybe he was born here. Grew up happy, but got frustrated and felt stifled by the conservatism and lack of opportunities. Maybe it was the general acceptance of mediocrity as a way of life. Restaurants pumping out dishes from Gordon Foods. Cashiers, cable guys, salesmen, hairdressers, waiters and waitresses filled with apathy. It could have been any number of things. Maybe a girl. A boy. Perhaps he was visiting this place as a kid, walking with his family across the Second Avenue Bridge and his dog got scared by a jacked up truck with loud exhaust and a huge confederate flag flapping in the breeze. Yep, ol’ Skippy—a half blind and nerved up Dachshund—jumped right over the edge. The leash went taught in the future train conductor’s hand. It happened so quickly that he lost his grip and sploosh went Skippy. Straight down, like a concrete block, into the black water of the Thunder Bay River never to return. Except in memories, during times when he’s alone, and especially when he’s gliding along steel tracks that guide him through all sorts of out-of-the-way places, like Alpena—our small town that always feels like it might be living or it might be dying. It just depends on the day. A person’s state of mind. Honesty. And as simple as someone being shaken from peace and warmth and dreams an hour too early. Happy trails, Mister Conductor. Happy trails.