Monday, July 21, 2014

Boxcar Adventure

Emma Gardner was a homesteading wife who came with her husband and children to the brand-new town of Ryegate in what would later become Golden Valley County. Like many families during the homestead boom, the Gardners came by boxcar. It was a seven day trip from their home in Minnesota, and the boxcar was loaded with all their earthly possessions including chickens and cows, furniture, children, and the family dog. Traveling in a boxcar in warm weather, especially with livestock, could be very uncomfortable. The boxcars were unbearably hot and stuffy, and so most families kept their big doors at least partially open so the fresh air could circulate. At one point, the train slowed down to travel up a steep grade. The dog decided to seize the moment and jump out of the car. Not only did he jump out, he took off running like mad across a field. The children were screaming, thinking that they would never see their pet again. Mr. Gardner did the noble thing and jumped out after him. Emma and the children lost sight of them both. The children began to think they would not only lose the dog, but maybe their dad, too. However, the dog was finally captured, and Mr. Gardner ran with him in his arms back to the train. But the train was starting down the other side of the grade, and it began to pick up speed. Mr. Gardner made it back to the train, but his own boxcar was way up ahead. As the train rumbled past, he had no choice but to toss the dog into someone else’s open boxcar. He hopped on the speeding train and, according to the family, hopped from car to car until he got back to his very anxious family and told them the dog was just down the way. The next time the train stopped, the Gardners collected their pet and all ended well.

A locomotive pulls boxcars across green horn trestle on Mullen Pass west of Helena. Photo by F. J. Haynes.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, H-3202

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