When I was growing up my grandmother would occasionally comment about how my father, as a boy, had done an awful thing and hopped a freight train to New Orleans. It was always spoken of in hushed tones with the subliminal overtone of - “Don’t you ever try something like that.” Given that I had been stricken with polio in the early 1950’s epidemic, it was highly unlikely that I could have undertaken such a journey, so my grandmother’s comments were directed more at my father than me. George never brought it up in conversation, and neither did I. It wasn’t until my father retired and began traveling around the country on trains that I felt comfortable about inquiring into the details of that memorable trip. While we had some brief discussions about it, unfortunately George passed away suddenly without ever being formally interviewed about all of the details. That did however, allow me to develop and insert characters into the known framework of the story.
I felt compelled to begin a novel about my father’s amazing venture. I knew enough to write the story, interweaving other facts and information about my father which I had learned over time. Those who had suffered through the Great Depression often relayed stories of that era to their children, some to instill upon them some lessons of life, and at other times to point out how much better off their children were than when they were young. Either way, those stories were invaluable in framing the background as it existed at that time as well as painting the picture of the trip.
When I began the research for the book I focused on the historical facts about the L&N Railroad and other pertinent details. It was during the research though that I came to the conclusion that most likely the catalyst for my father’s adventure was his own father’s abandonment of their family leaving them to fend for themselves. I recalled that whenever I had asked my father about that event, he would become somewhat emotional as he responded. My own mother and father as well as my brother and sisters sacrificed to help me through his struggle with polio and realized what a devastating affect it would have on a young person to be abandoned by a parent, especially in a difficult time. At the same time I could relate to how difficult it is to overcome life-changing challenges at a young age even with support from others. It reinforced my decision that the primary theme for the story was the effect his father’s leaving had on Georgie, the main character.