* 31 … HOLDING PATTERN (04/30/2012)

A few days later, the brothers still did not know when they were leaving on their Route 66 trip, even though both were now ready to go. The younger brother had the approval from Kyle at WSM to do live broadcasts along the road and had already secured the necessary equipment for the journey. The older brother had mapped out the route and contacted several people, including Becky at Becky’s Barn in central Illinois, just north of Dwight IL where they would start the drive. The brother had also corresponded with Rich at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in southern Illinois, Gary in Missouri, Melba at 4 Women On The Route in Galena KS, Laurel at Oklahoma’s Afton Station, Dawn at the Rock Cafe in Oklahoma, Angel in Seligman AZ, Jim Hinckley in Arizona, and Debra in Barstow CA. The eldest had also finalized plans with his sister and the local Route 66 Association to keep the family business open while he and his younger brother were away. The brothers had also even decided to take the family car, their parents’ and now the eldest’s 1976 Caprice Classic sedan.

But, holding them back was the couple from Illinois. By now, the eldest had told the middle sibling what was happening and why the couple was there. Not that he understood it fully himself. He needed some time to think about it and what, if anything, he would do. The shopkeeper, of course, had his opinion, and while he held back, he let the eldest know that he wasn’t too keen on trusting the couple.

Meanwhile, the rebuilding of the town’s train depot seemed to roll ahead. The local Route 66 Association requested a meeting with the town council about the project, funding, and how to prepare to battle the State, in terms of getting it approved and authorized, just in case the State balked at the idea. The town itself was a buzz with the progression, and one couldn’t escape the conversation, mostly favorable, all over town.

* 32 … THINKING TIME OR NOT (05/04/2012)

At one point, mid-afternoon, the eldest found himself at the site of the long-gone train depot. He had just finished lunch and was working his way back to the business. His brother and sister were already there, greeting and conversing with visitors. But, he felt the need to take his time getting back.

He got out of the Caprice Classic and slowly closed the driver’s door. He looked around, eyeing the still-visible concrete steps. From there, he remembered where the depot stood, how it was situated, and how it looked after the storm sucked the life out of it. He started walking along the gravel toward those steps. As he did, he wondered if the town council would bend again, should the state pressure it, or if it would accept the meeting request from the local Route 66 Association and make plans to fight. He hoped they’d meet with the local Route 66 Association to send a message to the state that the town wouldn’t back down this time.

Just as the eldest reached the steps he heard two distinct sounds. The first was a train whistle; the second was tires crunching the gravel in the lot. He wasn’t surprised by the whistle, but the other noise caught his attention, particularly since it sounded like more than 4 tires making the sound. He glanced back to see the same LTD wagon that had been in his driveway coming to a stop next to his Caprice. Behind the LTD was the shopkeeper’s old pickup.

Not exactly happy that he now had company, the eldest sighed and sat down on the concrete steps, sweeping his eyes across the basically vacant lot. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to do much more thinking, and he had a hunch that he wasn’t going to get back to the business anytime soon, either. He watched the couple from Illinois exit the LTD, while the shopkeeper’s pickup came to an abrupt stop. The shopkeeper hurriedly exited the pickup and, while pointing to the couple (now walking mid-way between the cars and the concrete steps), shouted out to the eldest, “I WARNED ya ’bout ’em!”

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* 30 … AWKWARD MOMENTS (03/25/2012)

All his life, the shopkeeper said what he meant and meant what he said. The townsfolk knew that if anyone would give it to them straight, it was the shopkeeper. He didn’t have a problem telling people just exactly what was on his mind, popular or not. This, inevitably, led to numerous nasty looks from his wife, particularly when she didn’t agree with him and wanted to be sure he knew. But, in those nasty looks was a love that nothing could break, not even an unpopular opinion.

Yet, something about the couple from Illinois made the shopkeeper just uneasy enough to not completely share what he was thinking. He didn’t even understand why. It was just a hunch. So, when the gentleman bellowed out his query about what wasn’t right, the shopkeeper just froze. The eldest sibling swiftly stepped to the shopkeeper’s rescue, telling the couple that they were just talking about some local political issues that had the shopkeeper in a fit.

It worked. The gentleman from Illinois simply voiced a generic agreement that some issues just don’t make sense. The shopkeeper nodded his head in agreement.

“So, you going to show us around?” the gentleman asked the eldest sibling. With that prompt, the eldest took the couple from Illinois on a tour of the business.

After the eldest and the couple were out of earshot, the middle sibling glanced at the shopkeeper and his wife, then set her glare on her younger brother. “Now will you tell me what is going on? And, come to think of it, neither of you have told me when you plan to leave on your trip!”

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* 29 … PICTURES DELIVERED (03/06/2012 & 03/11/2012)

Later that afternoon, the shopkeeper and his wife delivered, literally, on their promise to give the siblings two pictures to display in their business. The eldest was in the office checking paperwork when his sister popped in to let him know they had arrived. The eldest got to the front door of the business in time to see his younger brother hold the door open for the shopkeeper and his wife.

“Well, now, good aft’rnoon, folks!” The shopkeeper grinned as he entered the business. “The misses and I come bearing gifts!”

The shopkeeper’s wife handed the eldest the photos, as his sister and younger brother watched.

“These are great,” the eldest finally said, after eyeing them contemplatively. “I really like that one of the train depot with the passenger train in the shot, too. How long after that were the passenger trains moved to the new tracks?”

“Well,” the shopkeeper scratched his chin, “I’m not really sure. I’m thinkin’ it was just a year or two later.”

“That sounds about right,” the shopkeeper’s wife chimed in. She grinned and looked at the eldest. “Course, I know your favorite is the other picture.”

The eldest nodded, as he handed the photos to his brother and sister. “Yes, yes it is. And, ya know, to some extent, standing there peering through that broken train depot window seems like I did that just yesterday. But, in other ways, it seems like it was a lifetime ago.”

“Life sure flies by,” the sister remarked, “and it can sure drum up some wacky experiences.”

“Yeah, speaking of wacky alright,” the shopkeeper interjected, turning to the eldest, “them folks stop by yet today?”

“What folks?” the sister queried, looking at her brothers quizzically.

“Ah, a couple from Illinois,” the youngest brother replied. “They were at the house last night when we got back there after the meeting.”

“Oh?” prompted the sister, handing the pictures back to her older brother.

“Yeah, I’ll fill you in later,” the eldest said, taking the pictures and placing them on a small table. Then, he turned to the shopkeeper. “No, no they haven’t, yet. I thought they would’ve been here by now, but no sign of them since they left the house this morning.”

“You let ’em stay overnight?!” the shopkeeper’s wife exclaimed.

“Oh, no,” the eldest replied quickly. “They stopped by this morning, but they left when I told them I had to get some things done.”

“Wait, they stopped by this morning?” It was the youngest brother’s turn to be confused.

“Yeah, before you woke up,” the eldest responded.

“Well, if ya ask me,” the shopkeeper said, “I’d be darn careful around them folks from Illinoise. Somethin’ just ain’t right, I’m tellin’ ya.”

“Something just ain’t right about what?” asked a male voice. All five of them turned to look at the front door of the business, from where the question originated. The aforementioned couple had just entered.

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* 26 … A COUPLE IN A LTD (02/14/2012)

“Who on earth could THAT be at THIS hour!?” exclaimed the youngest the split second the car’s headlights illuminated the dark green 1978 Ford LTD wagon parked in the driveway.

Finding an old car parked in his driveway didn’t phase the eldest. He had seen plenty of old cars parked in his driveway upon returning home, mostly locals wanting to chat with him about something Route 66 or town-related. But, as he carefully examined the LTD parked in his driveway as he steered his 1976 Caprice Classic around the Ford, he realized this wasn’t a local person. The Illinois license plate on the rear was his first clue. He mentally searched his memory bank, but didn’t remember their relatives living in Dwight IL having a Ford wagon. Not that that meant they couldn’t have recently purchased one.

“So, who IS that?”, the younger brother queried again.

“I’m not sure,” replied the eldest, “but did you see the Illinois plates?”

“No, I hadn’t noticed that, but I see them now. Is this…”

“I don’t think so,” the elder brother interrupted, knowing the question coming from his younger sibling. “I don’t believe it is our relatives from Dwight. It may be their friends from Franklin Grove, though.”

As the elder brother pulled the Caprice next to the LTD, an older couple emerged … a distinguished gentleman with nearly white hair got out of the driver’s side, and a grandmotherly type woman rolled down the passenger door window. The gentleman walked around the front of the LTD and up to the driver’s door of the Caprice, of which the eldest had already rolled down the window.

“Evenin’,” the gentleman began, “I know you don’t know us, but we know you.”

* 27 … A RUDE AWAKENING (02/19/2012)

The eldest brother was startled out of a deep sleep by his alarm. The second he realized the alarm was going off, he grumbled. He was slightly irritated at himself for not turning the alarm off the night before. He knew volunteers from the local Route 66 Association were going to watch the business that morning, so he didn’t have to be up so early. He tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t.

Instead, he slowly got out of bed, dressed, and went downstairs. He was relieved his younger brother hadn’t heard the alarm clock. This would allow him at least an hour, if not a few hours, for some time to relax and think. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bowl, milk and some cereal. He wasn’t hungry, really, but figured he might as well eat.

He sat down at the table with the bowl of cereal and started eating. As he chew, he reflected on the events of the previous day, particularly last night’s meeting and the visit from the couple from Illinois. His thoughts turned to what he should do about the news the couple brought to them, but he didn’t get very far before he heard a car rolling into the driveway. He glanced at the clock on the wall. 7:47a. He knew he had to act on what the couple told them, but he also knew he and his younger brother weren’t ready for their trip just yet. So, he had no clue what he was going to tell the couple.

* 28 … TALE OF TWO CONVERSATIONS (02/21/2012)

“I figured you boys would be at the business this morning,” the gentleman said, sitting down at the kitchen table.

“No,” replied the eldest. “A couple volunteers from the Route 66 association are opening the business this morning. I’m only up because I forgot to tell my alarm clock I didn’t have to be up early.”

The gentleman chuckled.

“Can I get either of you anything?” the eldest asked.

“No, not me,” the grandmotherly woman replied, “but thank you.”

“Same here,” the gentleman added. “We had breakfast at the hotel this morning.”

A slight pause was broken by the eldest: “Look, I don’t know what to tell you yet.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it,” the gentleman said, waving off the eldest sibling. “We’re not expecting an answer yet. We know we sprung the news on you a bit late in the evening, and we’re sorry. Today, we just wanted to spend time with you at your business.”

“OK, well, that’s cool,” replied the eldest, “but we’re not going to be there until sometime this afternoon. I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have some things I need to do this morning. My brother and I are planning a road trip along Route 66, and I need to make some contacts and arrangements for that.”

“Oh,” muttered the gentleman. “I see.”

“I don’t know yet when we will be in Dwight, so I don’t know what to tell you right now,” continued the eldest.

“That’s fine, dear,” said the grandmotherly woman. “Take your time.”

She then turned to her husband, “Why don’t we take a drive around town and stop at their business this afternoon? The last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable.”

“Sounds good to me,” said the gentleman, clearly not completely happy.

The couple left, and the eldest watched their LTD pull out of the driveway. The phone then rang, and the eldest glanced at the clock: 8:28a. On the other end of the line was the shopkeeper.

“I thought you and yer brother was making arrangements for yer trip this mornin’?” the shopkeeper barked.

“We are,” the eldest said.

“So who’re them folks botherin’ ya? I’ve seen that car in this area for about a week now.”

“What?” The eldest was intrigued.

“Yeah, I saw that foreign wagon at least a week ago drivin’ through town,” the shopkeeper continued. His use of the word “foreign” to describe the wagon was his way of saying that it wasn’t a “local” vehicle.

“You couldn’t have seen it,” said the eldest. “The couple just arrived late last night. They met us here at the house after the meeting.”

“Nope,” declared the shopkeeper. “I seen that car that morning I met you out at the train tracks. You can’t tell me I seen a differnt car. Not too many Illinoise plates on older cars in this area.”

The eldest knew the shopkeeper was telling the truth. But, this revelation put a slightly different spin on the couple’s visit, not necessarily the news they had shared. The shopkeeper’s voice broke the silence.

“Hey, you still there? We’re going to bring those pictures to ya this afternoon, if you and your brother and sister are going to be at the business.”

“We are, and that sounds great….” The eldest’s voice trailed off because he was still pondering about the couple.

“You OK? Is something wrong?” queried the shopkeeper. With no immediate reply from the eldest sibling, the shopkeeper continued, “Just what did that couple want with you boys anyway?”

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* 25 … A LONG MEETING & A VISITOR (12/19/2011 & 01/22/2012)

Less than 20 minutes transpired from the time the eldest brother hung up the phone to when he steered the Caprice Classic into the town hall parking lot, with his younger sibling with him. It took them a few minutes to find a parking spot because more than just the local Route 66 Association members were there. Word had spread quickly through town that part of the local Route 66 Association’s agenda was to discuss the idea of rebuilding the town’s train depot. Since the meeting was in their town, the townsfolk decided to voice their opinions and support … in person. Also in attendance was the brothers’ sister.

The local Route 66 Association whisked through four agenda items in less than an hour, and then came to the fifth and final agenda item … the rebuilding of the train depot … the discussion of which lasted an hour and a half. Per etiquette, the local Route 66 Association members first spoke about the proposal, then opened discussion to the public. And the public spoke indeed. The shopkeeper was the first to the open mic, telling everyone how much a rebuilt train depot would mean in terms of showing the world how the town had been. He was careful to caution against hoping for more trains to come through the area; that wasn’t the goal. After a seemingly endless line of people spoke, mostly in favor of the project, the head of the local Route 66 Association turned everyone’s attention to the oldest brother, who voiced his support of the project and told those gathered about the plan he and his brother had for a Route 66 trip.

At the end of the meeting, the three siblings waited their turn to leave. Many people expressed their appreciation for them attending. Several folks advised the brothers on who and what to see along their trip.

“I guess I’ll need to step in a bit more than I thought while you’re gone, huh?” queried the sister.

“Not necessarily,” replied the eldest, as the 3 siblings approached the Caprice Classic. “I don’t think this project will be moving THAT quickly.”

His sister shook her head. “I don’t know. Your idea to rebuild the train depot sure seems to be picking up steam….”

“Pun intended, sis?” interrupted the youngest brother, chuckling.

“…and I’d hate to see it stall while you’re gone,” continued the middle sibling, ignoring her younger brother, “…especially if the State decides it doesn’t like the idea….”

“Well, if you want to help, that’d be great,” replied the eldest. “We can talk more about it before we leave town. Right now, I know you need to get home, and I’m tired.”

With that, the siblings said their goodbyes, and the sister drove home to her family. The eldest was looking forward to a good night sleep when he and his youngest brother arrived home, but as he steered into his driveway, the Caprice Classic’s headlights illuminated another old car parked in the driveway.

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* 24 … SURPRISE MEETING (12/16/2011)

The ringing phone pierced the early evening silence in the old family home the brothers now shared. The eldest was in his den, their father’s old office, working on papers for the business, and the youngest was in the living room checking a few websites on his laptop. It had been a couple of days since Jim Hinckley’s visit.

“I’ll get it!” yelled the youngest, anticipating the person on the other end of the line to be Kyle, but it wasn’t.

“It’s for you,” the youngest said, poking his head into the eldest’s office.

“Who is it?” asked the oldest.

“I don’t know. Someone from the local Route 66 Association.” The oldest brother picked up the phone on his desk, and the youngest went back to his computer in the living room.

It was, indeed, a member of the local Route 66 Association, calling to offer support for rebuilding the train depot. As the eldest discovered, the shopkeeper and Jim Hinckley had already started to make phone calls, unbeknownst to each other. The local Route 66 Association member told the eldest that he had been contacted by both men and had already contacted the other members, all of which expressed great interest in the project.

“Wonderful,” the eldest said. “But, my brother and I are preparing for a Route 66 road trip of our own and will not have time to put much into this effort until we get back, and we’re not sure when that’ll be exactly.”

“Oh,” came the reply from the other end of the phone.

“But, please,” continued the eldest, “make no mistake. We are very dedicated to giving this project life.”

“Well, good,” said the local Route 66 association member. “Because we are going to talk about it at our next meeting and wanted you, and your brother if he wants, to be there….”

“When is the meeting?” queried the eldest.

“Tonight,” came the reply, “in a half hour.”

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* 22 … REBUILDING IDEA (12/08/2011)

Jim Hinckley’s research was surprisingly detailed, in the eyes of the brothers and the shopkeeper and his wife. While he hadn’t included this particular town in his book about Route 66 ghost towns, he had delved into the town’s history. Jim discovered that, despite the town council’s declaration, the state fought the town every step of the way in the restoration processes. The local Route 66 association was instrumental in moving forward, of course, but it was the sibling’s Dad who impacted the forward progression the most. He rallied people, various businesses, other Route 66 associations, and even a few politicians, to support the town’s cause. His passion for the “small town life”, and Route 66, was one of the major driving forces that helped the town succeed against the state’s wishes.

“I had no idea,” mumbled the shopkeeper at one point in the conversation. “I mean, I knew he had a hand in helping our town, but I had no idea how much.”

“And, it wasn’t just him,” Hinckley noted. “His wife helped, too, though she remained out of the spotlight.”

“Wow,” said the youngest brother. “Mom really was as passionate about Route 66 as Dad.”

“Kinda makes me want to see about rebuilding that old train depot,” the oldest brother mused.

“Ah, that ain’t gonna happen,” interjected the shopkeeper.

“Why not?” queried the eldest. “It doesn’t have to be an ACTIVE depot. We could start a museum. Maybe include some of the documentation that Jim uncovered in his research.”

“I like that idea,” said the shopkeeper’s wife. “But, where would the money come from?”

“Good question,” said the eldest. “But, I’m not ready to just give up the idea yet….”

The eldest’s voice trailed off, as Jim spoke up: “Definitely don’t give up on the idea. I think it’s a good one. I’m sure I could get others behind the project, too. Let’s see what we can do.”

Jim left that afternoon, promising to help them explore and get the project of rebuilding the train depot off the ground. The youngest brother was skeptical; the eldest was enthusiastic but realized it would take a while. The shopkeeper was clearly behind it; his wife muffled her excitement.

* 23 … PLANNING STAGE (12/08/2011)

By the end of the day, the brothers and the shopkeeper and his wife had greeted well over 50 visitors, including Jim Hinckley. When the brothers arrived home, the youngest called Kyle to start discussing the details about the broadcasts along Route 66. Meanwhile, the eldest put the Caprice Classic back in the garage and called their sister to tell her about their day.

Kyle at WSM had already put in motion the “game plan” for the broadcasts along Route 66. He wasn’t concerned with how many or how often. It was the timeframe that was most important in terms of deciding which staff members would take the trip. But, the youngest brother couldn’t give him a timeframe.

“We don’t want to limit our trip in terms of time,” the youngest sibling told Kyle. “We want to be able to take our time and enjoy as many people and places along the way as possible, and I had hoped that the remote broadcasts would help showcase what Route 66 offers.”

Kyle paused. He was not prepared to send staff out on the road without a specific timeframe. Yet, he understood the youngest sibling’s take on the trip and wanted to be as supportive as possible.

“OK,” Kyle finally said. “I know the equipment you’ll need, and that’s not a problem for an indefinite timeframe. But, I do have a problem sending staff members out on your trip with no idea of when they’ll be back home.”

“I know,” acknowledged the youngest brother. “But, I bet if you ask the staff who’d like to take the trip, and then ask those who’d like to take the trip if they mind not having a definite return date, they won’t mind.”

Kyle hesitantly agreed and told the youngest brother he’d be in touch in a few days. The youngest brother hung up, hoping that it would work. He was thoroughly enjoying his time at home, but he also missed hosting his radio show on WSM. He missed sharing the music with listeners from the Nashville area and all over the country.

“Hey, you done talking to Kyle?” The youngest’s thoughts were broken by the semi-yelled query of his older brother.

“Yeah,” the youngest replied, as he walked down the stairs to the main floor. “Why?”

“I just got off the phone with our sister,” the eldest continued, “and she thinks that rebuilding the train depot is a great idea.”

“Ah,” the younger brother said. “But, how are we going to concentrate on that while we are planning our trip? I should know about Kyle’s arrangements for equipment and staff in a few days.”

“Great!” exclaimed the eldest. “I’m not sure, but we’ll think of something.”

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* 21 … SHAPING HISTORY (10/30/2011)

The older couple had not intended to stay at the business all day, but they did, except for going to get food for themselves and the brothers around lunchtime. In between greetings Route 66 visitors, the conversation centered around the town, how it has evolved, and how the brothers’ parents helped shape it.

For a brief time after the loss of the train depot, many residents thought the town would become a ghost town. But, the brothers’ Dad and Mom spearheaded a campaign to keep interest in the town. In fact, it was the brothers’ parents that implored the local Route 66 association to help revive the town, given the association’s failure to keep the train depot. Thus, much to the state’s chagrin, the town council unanimously voted down a measure that would’ve dealt a further blow, declaring in part that the town “was a Route 66 treasure and, with the backing of the local Route 66 association, we will move forth with plans to restore more structures to keep interest in our town, and Route 66, alive for current and future generations. Any and all future attempts to devalue this town will not be taken lightly and will be fought to the fullest extent we are able.”

What most in the town didn’t know, at that time, was that the town’s newest business owners had been the driving force behind the revitalization of the town. The shopkeeper and his wife, however, did know and became fast friends with the newest family in town. Over the next several years, a few buildings received much-needed restoration work, including the shopkeepers’ business, and interest in the town increased to the point that it became a “must stop” destination along Route 66. It wasn’t until the death of the sibling’s Dad that it fully came to light just how much of a roll he and his wife had played in breathing life back into the town.

Furthering the discussion that day between the brothers’ and the shopkeeper and his wife was a surprise visit by author and blogger, Jim Hinckley, who was traveling Route 66 and was in the process of visiting several people and places, including Becky at Becky’s Barn, Rich at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch, Gary in Missouri, Melba at 4 Women On the Route, Laurel at Afton Station, Dawn at the Rock Cafe, Fran at the MidPoint Cafe, Angel in Seligman, and others. Jim shared some of the research he had done about the town as an “almost” Ghost Town….

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* 20 … THE PICTURE (10/16/2011)

“Well, would you look at this…. You folks open fer business yet?” The eldest sibling remembered watching his parents turn to look at the front door of their new business to see a local merchant poking his head inside to have a quick look around.

“No, not yet. Soon, though,” their father had said.

“Ah, I see. Hope yer establishment works out,” the merchant had replied. And, with that, the shopkeeper had left, closing the door just as quickly and quietly as he had opened it.

Now, though, the shopkeeper and his wife weren’t so quick to leave.

“It HAS been a while since we’ve been ‘ere,” the shopkeeper continued, nudging his wife.

“Yes, indeed,” she agreed. “You have made some nice changes in here, though I imagine not everything is all that new….”

“No, certainly isn’t,” the eldest sibling said, with a wry smile. “You just haven’t stopped in recently.”

The shopkeeper’s wife pointed towards a memorial. “I wondered if you kids had done anything special to remember your Mom.”

“Yep, we did,” the eldest confirmed. “We just expanded the display a bit from Dad’s memorial. Mom had insisted on putting up a small commemorative area for Dad, and we just decided to build upon that for her.”

“It’s well done,” the shopkeeper observed. “I still can’t believe they’re both gone.”

“It’s hard for us to believe, too,” the youngest sibling interjected. “But, for me, it’s always been easier living far away and focusing on my work. That way, I don’t see the constant reminders. But, being back here now…well….”

“I understand,” the shopkeeper’s wife said, letting the youngest sibling’s voice trail off. “It sure is good to see you back here, though.”

The youngest brother nodded.

“Ya know,” the shopkeeper said, interrupting and turning to the oldest brother, “I think I may’ve a picture of that ol’ train station that you might like to display in ‘ere.”

“Really?” The eldest brother was intrigued.

“Yes, I believe I do,” confirmed the shopkeeper. “In fact, I may have a couple you could have. The first one was taken years ago, right before the passenger trains were moved to new tracks. That was before yer time ‘ere, back when it was a bustlin’ place.”

“And, the other one?” the eldest asked.

“I bet I know what the other one is,” the shopkeeper’s wife said with a knowing grin.

“Oh?” the shopkeeper queried.

“Yep. It’s the one you took of this guy right here,” the shopkeeper’s wife said, pointing to the eldest sibling, “one of the mornings you found him out there after the train depot had been damaged.”

The shopkeeper chuckled and turned to the eldest, “Yes, indeed. Do you remember that?”

“Believe I do,” replied the eldest. “I thought you had given Dad and Mom a copy of it, but I sure don’t remember seeing it when we went through their stuff.”

“Hmm…I thought we had given a copy to yer Mama and Daddy, too,” agreed the shopkeeper. “But, I wonder if that was one of them times that we talked about doing that and just never did.”

“I think that’s what happened,” said the shopkeeper’s wife. “I remember you showing it to them, but I don’t remember ever actually giving them a copy because a day or so later it was in the town paper.”

“Ah, yes,” said the eldest. “And, that’s why we didn’t see it in Dad or Mom’s stuff, because I have a copy of that paper!”

The picture in question was taken by the shopkeeper a few days after the storm damaged the train depot. The eldest sibling, dismayed by the damage the storm had caused, kept going back to the damaged building to check on it, as if checking in on it would repair it magically. The morning this particular picture was taken, the shopkeeper had been driving by on his way to his store when he spotted the eldest, carefully peering in one of the broken windows. Without being detected by the eldest, the shopkeeper had steered his truck to the side of the road, quietly exited his truck with camera in hand, and crept as close as he could to snap the photo. The image, depicting the youngest forlornly looking through that broken train depot window, appeared in the town newspaper the next day and quickly became THE image of the storm’s aftermath.

“I still wish we had won that fight to save that place,” said the shopkeeper shaking his head. “Sure would’ve been nice to have it for Route 66 travelers to see comin’ through ‘ere. They could’ve seen part of our history, not just the tracks that now seem misplaced…. Well, enough of that, I’ll make sure to look fer those photos when we get back home and get ’em to ya.”

“Cool, I appreciate that,” said the eldest sibling.

What the shopkeeper didn’t know, at that time of the morning, was how long it’d be before he and his wife were back home.

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* 18 … AN ANSWER (08/09/2011)

About an hour and a half after the eldest brother returned home, the youngest sibling’s cell phone ring pierced the silence. The older brother could hear his younger sibling make a mad dash to answer the phone before it went to voice mail. The house got quiet again, so he figured his brother had managed to answer it in time.

Moments later, the younger brother burst into his older brother’s room.

“Yes?”, the eldest half-stated, half-queried, turning to look at his younger brother.

“That was Kyle at WSM,” the youngest said with a smile on his face.

“And…?”, coaxed the eldest.

“The broadcasts have been APPROVED!”

Discussions on what that meant for their proposed road trip were tabled, in favor of getting ready to head to the business for the day. A half hour later, the brothers arrived at the business, greeted by a certain old pickup with an older couple sitting in it, waiting.

* 19 … RETURN VISIT (08/10/2011)

“Well, there ya are,” the former shopkeeper said, getting out of the driver’s side of his truck. “What took you so long?”

The glimmer in the old man’s eye tipped the brothers that he was just joking around, as usual.

“Figered I’d bring my wife with me to come see you boys today,” the old man continued, as his wife stepped out of the pickup. “We haven’t been ‘ere in a while.”

“I’m so sorry to have called you so early this morning,” the youngest sibling said to the older couple, as they all met between the Caprice Classic and the pickup.

“Ah, it’s no bother. We were up anyways,” the former shopkeeper’s wife interjected. “My husband, here, likes his breakfast hot and early.”

The former shopkeeper just shook his head and said, “Well, you going to open ‘er up or are we just gonna stand out here all day?”

With that, the eldest unlocked the business and ushered them all inside.

“Well, would you look at this!” the former shopkeeper exclaimed as he walked into the building. In that instance, the eldest sibling was transported back to the first visit the shopkeeper and his wife made to his parents’ business.

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