The weekend before last, four of us”my wife and I and another couple”set forth on a grand adventure to see the Louisiana Derby in New Orleans. My friends had bought a share in a racehorse that is pointed toward the Kentucky Derby (you can read all about it in the May issue of Kentucky Monthly), and we knew we must get to New Orleans to watch him run in the Louisiana Derby one way or another.
After exploring several options, we chose to take the train `The City of New Orleans, which leads to the point of this little tale. The only place to catch the train in Kentucky is in Fulton, once called `The Banana Capital of the World. The only time to catch the train, southbound, is 3:17 a.m. (CST)
While most of the towns along the route”places like Yazoo City, Hazelhurst and McComb, Miss.” have quaint little railway stations, the Fulton station is a double-wide trailer in the middle of a vast Fulton County field.
Inside the station are a dozen comfortable chairs, two ashtrays and a white garbage can. The walls are adorned with Amtrak posters and time schedules. The bathrooms are locked and the following sign is posted on the doors:
OUT OF ORDER
Please go to Wal-Mart
Turn left on Hwy. 51 towards town
Take 2nd right at Guest Inn
Turn right at stop sign
Wal-Mart is on your right.
While this might, to some, seem like the point of my story, it`s not.
After we`d all stopped laughing about being told to `Go to Wal-Mart,â€ we were joined in the station by Valarie, a delightful young lady from Paducah. She was traveling alone to New Orleans and asked if we, being that we didn`t look too scary, would allow her to tag along with us. `I haven`t been on the train before, she said.
`Neither have we, I said. `We`ll all stick together, and we`ll be fine.
Paducah is the largest city in Kentucky`s Purchase Region. It`s called the Purchase because it was a portion of the great Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It is the county seat of McCracken County, which has a population of more than 65,000 people.
`You`re from Paducah? I asked.
`Yes, Paducah, she said. `Lone Oak to be exact.â€
`Lone Oak? I said, recalling that one of my classmates at Murray State University is from that town. Before I could stop myself from asking an obviously farfetched question, it slipped out. `Do you know Caitlin, to which she responded with the correct last name.
`Certainly, she said. `We grew up together. Her dad works with my dad.
Only in Kentucky would such an exchange be possible. If you don`t believe me, well, then you can go to the Wal-Mart.