Let's not start at the beginning, let's slip softly from the late 1800's all the way forward to 1930 and a cold, blustery evening in December.
The last month of the year wasn't leaving gently. It came puffing and blowing, dumping immense skies full of snow over Puget Sound. Numbing Arctic winds finger-painted the scene with silvery strokes and on one paricular snow-still morning a Western Washington farming community went about its business. At 10:30 a.m. a mournful, drawn-out whistle led a swaying freight train out of the deep forest to halt at the wooden water tower where it would spend an hour or so taking on a fresh supply.
The trains carried men from one ocean to the other, then back again; men who had taken to the open road for one reason or another. Some were good men, some maybe not so good. A large number were husbands and fathers striving to come through for the families waiting at home. Finding even the bare requirements of food on a daily basis was a challenge. Every day hundreds of down-at-the-heels men approached hundreds of back doors across the country hoping for wood to chop or ditches to dig in exchange for a meal.
Women bore their own kind of burden. Months taken up with trying to fill children with scanty rations and imagination.
Little, old Mrs. Moore had no such worries. The modest farm produced plenty for the two of them. She, and her husband, Knapp, had raised their one child long ago and would soon be celebrating their 60th wedding aniversary. She put another stick of wood in the cook stove, checked on the baking bread in the oven and eased down into the waiting rocking chair.
As the train gave a long, steamy, "Sheeeeesh," a lone man jumped from one of middle cars, pulled his tattered overcoat close around his neck and took off at a slow and cumbersome run across the field.
Nearby, Mrs. Moore had heard the whistle. She roused herself put on a pot of coffee and began to slice potatoes and ham into a frying pan. He would be hurrying along now, one of the fellows who, "rode the rails" in these hard times.