a lonely ride home

image courtesy of photobucket.com

An obituary the week of July 7th, 1953 read:


Funeral services for Ervil Samons were held Saturday afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Blythe, and burial was in the Palo Verde cemetery. Ervil, son of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Samons of Midland, was killed in a car accident in Texas last Tuesday. His brother, Harley injured in the same accident, was able to return to California with his brothers remains, and will be in Midland for a while. Other Midland relatives are a sister, Mrs. Duane Stallard.

That was the obituary for my uncle I never got to meet. The fatal car crash was Tuesday June 30th,  1953 in Caldwell Texas. Nine years before I was born and a little more than two years before my dad married my mom. The surviving brother mentioned in the obituary was my dad.

It’s interesting to read a story, but never know the story inside the story or the details. My dad came from a family with nine children, of which he landed smack in the middle. Ervil was the oldest and by everyone’s account in my life, siblings in large numbers pair off, so it was with my dad and his big brother Ervil.

The obituary mentioned that my dad although injured was able to return to California with his brother’s remains. It didn’t mention  the mode of transportation for my dad and his hero’s body was via the railroad… In a box car.

I wonder what my dad was thinking about during a two day ride in a boxcar with his brothers body. I’m sure he was glad to have permission to ride for free even if it was in the “hobo” section of the railcar.

I wonder how he felt losing more than a best friend, he lost his brother, the leader of all his siblings. The one who guided, directed, and protected them in a much less forgiving world.

I guess sad, although overtly simple probably sums up the atmosphere to help define a lonely ride home in a boxcar. Heartbroken would better describe my grandma’s reaction to her oldest son’s death.

I’m not sure heartbroken or grieving to the point of death could describe how my dad might have felt when his mom told him she wished it could have been my dad who died instead of her favorite son.

God used an event like that in ways that are beyond my comprehension. To say at that time in my dad’s life must have been difficult is an understatement, but God also used it to begin to mold a humble man and steer his life in the ways of wisdom.

The reason I have to wonder what my dad thought and how he felt is due to the fact that he never told us. He didn’t use the events in his life to paint himself as a martyr or victim. We didn’t even find out the way his mom had treated him when Ervil died until after her death when I was in grade school, and it wasn’t from him.

I marveled at a man in my dad who sat at his mother’s bedside caring for and praying with her. My dad held her hand right up to her last breath. To find out the words that escaped her mouth in an emotional time before I was born and see the actions of my dad in spite of those words, was a good lesson for me to say the least.

My dad showed forgiveness and love in a situation where he could have been bitter and weak. Those are the actions of a strong person because God is in us.

God took my dad home May 7th of last year, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him and the lessons I’ve learned from him.

When the harsh southwest sun in its summer strength flash brilliant light on a train towing box cars, pushing its way westward, I think of my dad and his long ride home in a boxcar during the year 1953.

Although deeply saddened by that event I’m proud and have joy in the life my dad lived.

I’m honored by God to have that example and I’m satisfied by knowing where my dad now rests.

It’s truly a happy ending to a great story, but this side of heaven, happy endings don’t always make you smile…