The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Papa John

By Jeffrey Rowan Lockhart © 1986

Issue: December, 1986

Fascinated by a train.Fascinated by a train.My grandfather on my father's side, Papa John Lockhart, from Scottish, Dutch and Irish parentage, was sitting in a room one Christmas Eve. The evening was quiet, everybody relaxed and not talking, rare for the Lockhart family.

Papa John started speaking, telling a story of when he was a little boy living in Asheville, North Carolina. They lived up the side of a mountain overlooking the town.

Once, on Christmas Eve, Papa John was 6 or 7, the entire family walked down into Asheville to stare inside all the fancy shop fronts decked out for the holidays. They didn't have much money but enjoyed looking at all the glitter and action.

Papa John was fascinated by one store front, it had a model railroad train running around a track in the glass window. When the family was ready to go home, they had to drag him away from it, with Papa John in protest.

They arrived home tired but very full of sights. Hours passed and dusk set in, which happened much earlier in winter time. Papa John was not to be found and no one saw him leave or heard a word everyone was concerned.

His pa knew exactly where he was and took off after him, a little worried and very mad. Papa John had raced back to that train set and was glued there the whole time, eyes wide open in amazement. His pa grabbed his arm and hauled him home, harder and sterner this time, angry at his son for not telling where he was and upset at not having enough money to buy the train.

Their Christmas passed on and 75 years right with it, the first time Papa John remembered it since it happened. The spirit of his fascination swirled in his eyes as I experienced a rare moment, having the privilege to go back to Asheville in front of that store and deeply share his wonderful memory.