The View From Here

Jeff Brull, Executive Director HaysMed Foundation

It’s funny how some moments from childhood stick with you. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say I grew up around trains, they were never far away. Our country home was just a quarter mile from the tracks, and even the local school mascot was the Ellis Railroaders. I remember putting pennies on the tracks then looking for them after a train passed by. One memory, though, was created in my brain then immediately buried until I heard a recent podcast talking about trains.

The podcast story I was listening to was explaining why long trains sometimes reverse a bit after coming to a stop to create some slack between all the couplings holding together hundreds of freight cars. The reason given was that it takes an incredible amount of power to start a train from a dead stop. By creating just a bit of slack between all those heavy cars, the engines need only pull their own weight for the first couple of inches, then add the weight of the next car for a couple of inches and so on until all the slack is removed from the train. By doing this, the last freight car in the train doesn’t even start moving until there’s some good momentum up ahead.

Back to my childhood memory: A train was stopped by the Ellis tennis courts, and when it started to move, I heard the chunk-chunk-chunk of each car. Dozens and dozens of these percussive noises moved from as far as I could hear to my right to as far as I could hear to my left in a matter of seconds. It was a phenomenon I’d never heard before, and I realize now the slack was coming out of all those couplers so the engine could build some speed before pulling the entire weight of every car.

Remarking on that memory in my brain reminded me that a big task is just a successive group of little tasks all lined up. I’m grateful to all of you who have chosen to support the people and projects of HaysMed. See our online donor honor roll under the “About Us” tab at You can add your name to next year’s list with a gift or pledge before June 30. Help keep the train rolling down the line by combining your support with the hundreds of others whose same hope is adding their support to yours. When we all line up, we do some amazing things together.