One of the joys -- as well as one of the sorrows -- of the open road is seeing what's along the highway. The road can be melancholy at times. The abandoned homestead, the ruined closed old gas station, the dying small town. And the crosses by the side of the highway. In Montana particularly there are a large number of crosses -- put up by the American Legion -- to mark where there has been a highway fatality. Just a cross -- no words, no explanation. I remember when Tony and I first rode across Montana with the Seattle Mens Chorus in 2007 I noticed how many there were, and again when we road Corner to Corner in 2008. You get to wondering about them -- what happened, who it was.I'm going to cheat a bit now because, as in many cases, I ran across a song that does it better than I can, and because I'm not feeling all that creative at this moment. I was listening to the folk music channel on XM the other day when this song came on. It's called "Mile 416", by Jeff Daniels, on his "Grandfathers Hat" CD (available on I-tunes). When I first heard the song I was immediately taken back to the roads in Montana with the crosses. I'm envious of people with this kind of talent. He wrote this while driving US-2 back from Vancouver to Michigan.
Somewhere in Eastern Montana, out out where the cross winds blow.
Out where the Lord understands you, out where nobody knows.
Along the side of the highway, by a turn in the road.
I saw some flowers on a small white cross.
I saw where God called you home.
I can hear the sirens screaming down the road.
I can see the tow truck's flashing lights.
I can see your sweet soul letting go.
Into that Montana night.
I can see the barbed wire hug that broken post.
I can hear the wheat field cry in pain.
I can see the Father, Son and Holy Ghost riding that Great Northern train.
I do not know your name, and I will never know you well.
If its all the same, yours is a tale I will tell.