Inspection- The Great Rhetorical Train Wreck at Beaver River Station… (Part 2)

You might notice I also posted part one. I know this is a repost. I thought it would make sense to do this to help readers understand my use of the rhetorical train wreck. Only this edition is the great rhetorical train wreck on much smaller scale. Even the smallest communities seem to have problems discussing issues. I believe it is tearing society apart. Oh, and there is an actual train in this part of our story! I will start with a quote from the previous Inspection

“We have become a society which argues by extreme; absurd, hyperbole… and that has become the standard for ‘rationale’ discussion. Those who disagree with us are cast in absurd stage lights while we toss rotten tomatoes: personal insults and mischaracterizations, at them. Many of these comments are no more than mere smears that would make Boris Badenov seem more human: more real. Of course another factor here is the tendency to portray whatever those who disagree with us believe in as always resulting in worst case scenarios, while whatever you believe in will always result in best case scenarios.”

“Worst and best case scenarios almost never come true.”

Beaver River Station is a quiet hamlet in what some refer to as “The Central Adirondacks.” It’s a bit more southwest than “central,” but years ago someone… maybe Mr. Cohen or Adirondack French Louie: I’m not sure… started calling the area “central” and it has super glued itself to the region since at least my great Grandfather was a guide.

There are no roads to Beaver River Station; not since the Flow, as it used to be called, was flooded near the turn of the previous century. But there is a railroad going right through the center of town. On a rare occasion I will see a train, or maintenance crews with railcars: trucks really, riding the rails past my retirement home.

There also is a controversy surrounding this railroad which is a great rhetorical train wreck on a very small scale.

When we bought our place there in 05 I longed to return to the peaceful, quiet; “get out of Dodge while going to Dodge City” town I first fell in love with in the early 60s. The kind of place where a stranger: a teen, could sit at a restaurant and play cards until past midnight with the owner’s wife and the parents of many locals… some who are now on opposing sides in this train wreck.

This sometimes rather nasty divide is over whether to rip out the rails and create a recreational trail out of what is used for snowmobiles when the train isn’t operating in the winter… or support the railroad’s efforts to hopefully have regular passenger service that passes through the Station. There’s an added incentive: a necessarily limited ability to ride the rails with a railcar.

Ever had a controversy where you feel you’re on a rack and screw and you’d rather not have one side pulling on your arms, or the other stretching your legs? This is the way I feel about this issue. I can see advantages and disadvantages either way in this debate. But what I do see is what this issue might do to my beloved Beaver River Station. As fellow Beaver River-ite Bill Partridge and I agreed a few years ago…

“This town doesn’t need, and is too small, for this kind of %$#@!.”

(I provided the “color” to our comments, to clear Bill of any foul language there may have been.)

Like all issues, we should return to some rather obvious observations from the previous Inspection

“Worst and best case scenarios almost never come true.”

Those who favor the train often address this issue as if the railroad will live up to all expectations and regular service will be common. The tracks will never again lay rotting; unused, as they did for many years after the last trains used them.

Those who favor ripping out the tracks and making a trail point to how the train disappeared, how it competes with local business while using funds accrued through their taxes. They say decisions are being made for the community by people who have other; less than local, fish to fry. They address the train as if all it will do is wind up being is yet another massive drain on taxpayer’s pocket and hurt business.

Worst case scenario.

Those who favor the trail address the trail as if there would be few problems tearing out the tracks and it will be little but a boon to the area… yet the trail is painted by those who oppose it as if it will automatically bring in an army of Visigoths; the most rabble-ish of the rabble… destroy the very heart and soul of what we all love about Beaver River Station.

Yet another worst case scenario.

Does any of this sound like the debate on health care, or Iraq, or…?

Both are wrong.

To repeat:

“Worst and best case scenarios almost never come true.”

Both are right: these are concerns that must be addressed.

Mostly they are between.

Oh, God… and the more I listen, the more I understand both sides. Why is it so much harder when you care about people on both sides of a very divisive issue? Both have a right to support their own side, of course. It’s just unfortunate how such issues divide any community in very personal ways. Being a very tiny, and quite isolated, community we need each other. Walking down Park Avenue in New York City it’s easy to come to the false conclusion that we really don’t need each other with so many strangers passing us by, so when we disagree being dismissive is obviously easier.

But in tiny place like Beaver River? I don’t understand.

If the tracks are ever torn out there can be little doubt that there will be abuses. Hell, I was one of those kids who rode the trails with my 125 Harley Rapido in the early 70s: a system of trails established for snowmobiles. Not quite legal, to say there least, though it was quite the adventure traveling back to where my father lived out the Depression running trap lines and living in lean-tos at well below minus zero.

Just like traveling the tracks takes those of us who can to where old forgotten towns once were and allows us to see sights few do.

What an adventure; just like my trail bike riding in the 60s and 70s.

One might say that if we apply the same system used to regulate snowmobiles to such a rail trail: problem solved. Not really.

During the winter the snowmobiles noisily buzz about and there is an elaborate system of licensing, trail grooming and patrolling these trails. The trains don’t use the tracks that time of year. Even given the winter time system enforcement of the tracks and the trails there are still problems, tragedies and vandalism. Irresponsible behavior is very hard to control on any massive wilderness trail network.

The problem with a rail trail; minus tracks, is similar to the problem we already have with snowmobile trails. The yahoo quota goes up. My uncle; a cop for many years in the biggest Adirondack town nearby: Old Forge, had a large photo book filled with accordion snowmobiles minus the mobilers. You didn’t want to see what was left of them. I know at least one family at the Station who has been touched by this kind of tragedy. This past winter there was one specific accident in Beaver River Station area involving reckless behavior and snowmobiling and the tracks… what I think may have been a race out to the Flow where alcohol was most likely involved. (Probably a “I’ll get to Scotland before ye” type challenge.) I think it pretty obvious that any rail trail would add to the carnage year round.

Plus…

Some trail supporters claim that selling the scrap metal would pay for pulling the tacks, and then some. Some track supporters claim it would prohibitive to even attempt to do it.

I think the only way we’ll know for sure is over the long haul. Despite best of intentions… things, and people, change. There is no perfect, or obvious, solution here.

But let’s bounce back to the other side…

Railroads are expensive endeavors to fix and maintain, so I can’t imagine the trail being as expensive as the railroad, since both have bills the public pays to a certain extent. Will the rail ever pay for itself? I have serious doubts.

Also, to be honest, one must mention: all of this is dependent upon the whim of those who run the train, and whether the State decides to keep investing. We could, once again, wind up with little more than a rotting track system and therefore useless railcars. Even if the railroad opens up all the way to almost the Canadian border and has no stops and starts as it has had in the past, it could roll right by us if those who run the railroad decide that’s best.

As an aside, I notice there’s been a hubbub recently regarding high speed rail in Upstate New York. From my admittedly limited understanding this is more Mohawk Valley/Syracuse oriented. One hopes. I would surmise that high speed rail would most likely limit rail usage by railcars, but other than that it would probably mean to Beaver River-ites comments on the approaching train would sound a bit like the following…

“Here it comes!!!!

There it ggggooooooooooeeeeesss!”

I think the only way we’ll know for sure is over the long haul. Despite best of intentions… things, and people, change. Once again… there is no perfect, or obvious, solution here.

Is there ever on any issue?

Either way we are talking about greater access with less control: more lethal accidents…

…or less access with, perhaps, too much control in the hands of those who may not always have our best interests at heart no matter howkind those in control may be now. The kind of access that allows outsiders to put up gates that block access to someone’s camp… until they relent and give a key to the blocked owner. Or not, if less compassionate and understanding souls are in comtrol in the future.

Or, on the other side, the kind of access that may create sometimes lethal results.

(Not that railroads are by any means 100% safe, but there is less of a safety concern for the most part I would think.)

What bothers me here, though, is how relations at the Station have gone to hell because we are having a problem discussing such things; or at least just getting along when we do disagree. I have been visiting web sites where fellow Beaver River-ites discuss such things and… well, it’s much like the content of much of our “debates” these days.

We have a not so funny, funny, way to discuss issues these days. We paint anyone who dares to disagree with broad brushes then continue on as if our painting is “fact.” And what I just typed above pretty much goes for any debate; certainly not just this one.

We must ask ourselves, again, as we did during part one of this topic, what exactly does strong sarcasm, name calling, and conveniently proclaiming you know the “true motives” are of those who you disagree with, achieve?

Especially in a small town, will it make relations better?

Will those you disagree with just go away, no matter how clever your insults are, or will they be more determined to oppose you?

Will it all escalate?

If you think the actions, opinions or words of those you disagree with might be very wrong headed, just how much good will handling such conversations in a very confrontational way achieve?

Usually? The single answer here is…

“Will make it all worse.”

Getting to Beaver River Station always has been… and most likely always will be… an adventure. I think most of us like it that way. Well, actually, love it.

One upon a time; many years ago, that included the tracks. But if we think the dreams of the pro-railroad group will come to full: complete reality without any serious hitches or snags, we have to remember that there is an obvious history here: many stops and starts; reorganizations. I have recently read that the State has lately been questioning how much, and if, they are willing to continue fund the project. So just how likely is it that service will be regular and a boon to the Station without stops, starts, maybe even being abandoned again? Oh, probably almost as unlikely as the tracks will ever actually be torn out; especially…

“…without any serious hitches or snags…”

What we have here is an issue that is being argued over much like we argue most of our issues these days. This who hold opposing positions on issues often look at their own stance in a very idealistic way, and very stark when it comes to the other side. And as one poster recently mentioned, it would be grand if we could do all this face to face, rather than via the net: especially when some hide their identity as they tend to do on the net. But this is part of the great rhetorical train wreck that is America, that has careened out of control over and over again.

I am cursed when it comes to this issue, fellow Beaver River-ites. I truly see both sides, and while I lean back and forth, I believe the true curse is that we can get so damn angry and, sometimes childish, over issues. Insulting someone’s railcar or conveniently declaring someone so shallow they would destroy a town for profit, is really neither conversation nor debate.

It’s just emotion.

And to be honest, having read page after page of such on many debate forums regarding this debate and many, many issues over the years, I find discussion driven by name-calling and personal insult… B… O… R… I… N… G.

Here is what I wish, I hope, I dream for my beloved Beaver River Station: those who are the most angry would calm the hell down and remember the person who disagrees with you isn’t a villain or evil. As my Grandpa Earl said to Adirondack League Club’s Mr. Gallagher when he opened the Bisby Gate for him one summer, “Anyone can be wrong. Even I was… once.” And, this is harder: the other has a right to be “wrong,” and have an opposite opinion… no matter how ill-conceived anyone may think their opinion is.

But what will most likely to happen, no matter who “wins?” Well, since either way requires action on the part of government… my guess? Though I pray I’m wrong, no matter which way it falls, no one will be happy with how it turns out. It will resemble the south part of that moose who walked north through the Station a few years ago everyone was talking about.

Finally! Having mentioned this to almost anyone in the Station I have spoken with regarding this issue, I finally found something I think we may all agree on!

-30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2009
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved