On the Josh Ritter train

In between Hamilton sing-a-longs, I’ve been listening to Gathering, the new album from singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. One of Ritter’s new tracks is Train Go By, which he performs in this recent video from a pre-release concert:

This afternoon, on my way home from a flat white at Gray Squirrel, I was stopped at the intersection in Carrboro near the train tracks that only rarely see a locomotive pulling a car or two. When we first moved here in 2001, little Anna and I would watch the locomotive pull cars of coal to the UNC power plant, but the university has since upgraded to a cleaner source of energy. Anyway, Train Go By was playing in the van as I crossed the tracks, and I had a flashback to my childhood in Caldwell, Idaho, where we’d often be stopped at the tracks in the family’s Oldsmobile station wagon as a Union Pacific train of a hundred or more cars rolled click-clacking by on its way across the state.

Later, when Erin and I lived in Vanuatu, I talked about those trains with our fellow Peace Corps Volunteers Pat and Doug Clegg, who were from Nampa, the next town over from Caldwell and where I had gone to school. Doug worked for Union Pacific for many years before retiring and joining the Peace Corps.

And now Erin’s sister, Katherine Shaughnessy, lives in Boise, where she’s continuing to make art and where her husband, Tom Michael, is general manager of Boise State Public Radio. Katherine caught Josh Ritter promoting his new album at a Boise music store last month.

“You’ve seen him, right?” she texted me.

“Many times,” I replied. “Taking the girls to see him in a few weeks at Cat’s Cradle.”

Cat’s Cradle, by the way, is right next to the Carrboro train tracks.



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