Last Call

Scenes unroll this morning like a spool of ribbon dropped to the floor. Verdant fields. The shadow of mountains. Small worn-out houses with fenced yards abutting the tracks. Mile after mile of groves neatly aligned. Vineyards stretching like corduroy as far as the eye can see. The shabby side of businesses and towns.

Raindrops crawl sideways across the windows as I watch it all. I am doing something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child — traveling by train.

I don’t know when passenger trains ceased to run in South Dakota, but they were a thing of the past by the time I started school. However, according to reports from older students, my first grade teacher always arranged a field trip for her class — students rode to the neighboring town in the caboose of one of the freight trains that still traversed the state. All year I waited to climb aboard. And then the school year ended and I hadn’t had the adventure for which I longed.

Eventually, that disappointment faded, as childhood experiences do. I even forgot until my dad’s sister brought her family to visit. Part of their journey from Oregon to South Dakota had been made by train. At that point in my life, the longest trip I had made was to a music camp my freshman year in high school — 165 miles. My parents had taken me by car, and it was a one-time experience. I was wonderstruck by the idea of crossing the country by train, and fantasized about places I would go.

But I was not raised to follow the allure of the road. I was raised to believe opportunities were gifts given to others, to believe that I needed to learn how to be content with what I had instead of longing for more. Since my mother died more than 40 years ago and my dad wasn’t inclined to talk about the decisions he made as a parent, I don’t know why I was taught to limit my dreams rather than to pursue them. I just know it created in me a dissonant dichotomy.

On one hand, my world became small; I took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves rather than explored paths that excited my imagination. On the other hand, I was plagued with an inner restlessness; I rarely stuck with a job more than three or four years, and have moved more often than I care to remember. Only my inner journey has been unencumbered by artificial barriers. I’ve studied human development and spiritual development and shied away from nothing.

As I sit here now though, watching the world go by, watching passengers come and go, I find myself wondering if it’s not time to explore the final frontier — not space, but the wonderful world in which I live. I wonder if it’s not time to see how I might be shaped by a broader range of experiences.
I find myself wondering if this morning’s cry of “All aboard” might not become one of many I hear in my lifetime.

I wonder.


And that means?

I give up. What is a faberist?

Apparently in 1891, the editor of the Custer Chronicle was irritated with someone in Hill City. I would speculate, if Hill City had a newspaper called the Hill City Miner, it was the editor of said newspaper. The vitriol published would probably result in a libel suit today. I could feel my eyebrows reach for my hairline as I read it.

So that you aren’t left wondering (after all, it’s been published before): “As usual, the crude faberist of the Hill City Miner, in his reply (?) to our article appearing under the caption of “A Single String,” aims his deadly (?) shaft at us, and thus fails entirely to hit the question at issue. Our adjectives have been a constant source of annoyance to him, and he seemed determined that we shall scale them down to the level of his understanding.

“This latest effort of the miner to make an intelligent reply to us is, by all odds, the most sickly failure he has yet made, which, after distorting, garbling and omitting all of the salient features of our article, succeeds only in exciting the pity of the readers, for his evident and unmistakable failure to be either funny or sensible. His utter imbecility, aggravated, doubtless, by his protracted residence at Hill City, is becoming pitiable, and sorry for having given him any attention in the past, we will in the future, treat his silly and senseless mutterings as we would the incongruous jabbers of a HIll City inebriate, i.e. permit it to pass unnoticed.”


That being said, my insatiable curiosity raised what I believed to be a salient question. What is a faberist?

My dictionary didn’t include the word. I googled it. A bunch of German sites popped up.

Faber is apparently a popular German name. “Dompfarrer Faber ist EuroVolley Botschafter.” “Nadine Faber ist deutsche Vizenmeisterin.” “Simon Faber ist Flensburgs neuer Oberburgemeister.”

So, I wondered if a Faberist might be someone who subscribed to Faberism. I googled Faberism and briefly thought I was on the right track. I found numerous references to “Faberism exposed and refuted and the apostolicity of Catholic doctrine vindicated: against the second edition, ‘revised and remoulded,’ of Faber’s ‘Difficulties of Romanism.'”

My hope was short lived. The book, written by Frederick Charles Husenbeth, was published in 1836. The work being disputed was written by an Anglican theologian named George Stanley Faber. Somehow, I couldn’t imagine either Faber’s work, originally published in 1826, or Husenbeth’s making its way to Custer in 1891 – or attracting the attention of two newspaper editors. Why on God’s green earth would they debate Catholic church doctrine?

That being the case, what might the editor have meant? I eventually decided the Custer editor meant to use the word “fabulist,” a noun which means “composer of fables” or  “a teller of tales, a liar.” That might make sense.

So what is the point of all this? I’m not sure, but my research did remind me how marvelously flexible and adaptable language can be. I like that. I like language evolving with the culture and times.

That malleability ensures we can say what we need to say in a way that others can understand. That delights me, too. Lucky me! Lucky us!