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A Denney for Your Thought – What's in a name … a lot (Nov. 4, 2015 issue)

“This is it. The yard is empty now, no crews, no engines, only a couple of cars for the industry we have left in Erwin, and lonely switch target lights. It’s over.”
“Eloquent,” is how I would describe these words from Joe Barr’s Facebook posting documenting his last run as an engineer on CSX’s former Clinchfield Route. They became part of the front-page story in the Wednesday, October 21, issue of this newspaper.
The news reporter in me wondered about the handling of this major story, as it would have been reported and re-reported by the time this weekly paper, hit the stand. So, I asked Keith Whitson. (The smiling face you see with his publisher’s column to your right does not reflect the stress that goes with the job.)
Calling it “…the biggest news that has happened in my 30 plus years working here,” Keith said they had heard the previous Wednesday that the announcement was coming Thursday. Curtis Carden was on the job by 6:30 the next morning to be on hand as the news broke. Basic facts document events in the community and help out-of-town readers keep in touch.
Other story angles would be needed “…to make it real and make it human… .” Some workers were afraid to comment.
Keith saw Barr’s posting and heard about its impact on others, even someone who brought a printout to him at church. “I had already contacted Joe about using it and about interviewing him. He told me I was welcome to reprint it but that he didn’t have any more to say other than what he had written.”
“We decided to give it simplicity but impact with the full front-page photo. … a first for this paper.” Keeli Parkey and Keith came in on production day Monday with the same idea of making the issue all about the railroad. She came up with the “What’s Around the Bend?” headline and was responsible for the picture and much of the front page design. Keith, Curtis and staffer David Sheets worked until 10 p.m. to finish pages and layouts.
Other items in the issue included Charles Holt’s editorial cartoon showing 300 jobs down the drain due to CSX’s closing; a prayer vigil photo and accompanying story headed, “Community expresses reaction to CSX’s decision for terminal”; another headed “Leaders discuss steps moving forward due to CSX Transportation’s decision.” Then, too, there was the story and photo documenting the formal naming of the railroad overpass, opened a few months ago to relieve problems resulting from two sets of tracks stopping traffic on Second Street.
One thing that stands out in my mind from that issue is the appreciation for all things Clinchfield expressed in both the publisher’s column and Barr’s posting. The latter ended with, “…my brothers and sisters of Erwin Terminal, we are the CLINCHFIELD.”
That full-page picture of a portion of track reminded me of the late Mary Hattan Bogart’s book, Conquering the Appalachians. Having found her father’s (civil engineer William C. Hatton) journals, records and pictures in her attic, she documented the engineering feat required to build the Clinchfield through the mountains.
No name changes, no closings can take away pride in accomplishment.