As Thanksgiving season nears, I think a lot about electric trains.

Most of the boys got trains at Christmas back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yes, we still have toy trains today. But I think kids would rather have some remote control car zooming around or a remote control plane flying over the dinner table to annoy their parents or grandparents.

A few years ago, I tried to buy a train for my youngest nephew and I had to search five counties before I found a store that carried one. The store clerk told me they only stock a few electric trains, most of them seasonal Christmassy trains or some plastic rendition of Thomas the Train.

Department stores in the big cities once had enormous train layouts at Christmas in their toylands. Boys, like my brothers, were hypnotized by the locomotives.

I’ll never forget my older brother’s first electric train, a Lionel engine with a couple of boxcars, caboose and a round loop of track.

It wasn’t long before he annoyed our parents and grandparents into buying him more equipment and a locomotive that looked like a “real” steam engine. He (or we, since I was his assistant engineer) wanted a figure-eight track, then switches and crossovers. Birthday and Christmas wishes yet to come did not stop until we had passenger cars. The old-time Christmas “Wish Book” catalogs contained pages of turned down corners marking all the accessories we absolutely had to have.

When Lionel came out with more accessories, we’d pool our birthday money. We needed fences, bridges, street lights, farm animals. We created our own rural community with a water tower like they had on the old-time TV show Petticoat Junction.

We ruled our farm home’s basement and literally thought we had the world by the tail.

That is, until Lionel introduced the smoke pellet.

One could drop a smoke pellet down the stack, heated by a tiny bulb. It was hot enough to produce an awful-smelling smoke, but it was smoke.

One afternoon, my brother and I decided we should stack a few pellets on top of each other. Neither of us could have predicted what would happen next.

Our basement quickly filled up with smoke.

We panicked and raced to the cellar’s outside door. As we opened the door, the awful smelling smoke billowed out behind us.

We laid down in the yard to catch our breath only to open our eyes with our mother glaring back us. 

You know the look — all mothers have one. My mother’s look alone would almost make a person cry.

From that point on, our smoke pellets were rationed. If we wanted one, we had to ask for one.

We didn’t like it.

But my brother and I had no choice since mom claimed we “darn near” killed ourselves with smoke inhalation. Oh … but it was sure fun seeing the smoke billow from the smoke stack.

Today, my older brother has the train set in a plastic storage tub in his machine shed.

I wish he’d get it out during the holidays. Then again, I don’t think either of us wants the wrath of our mother breathing down our necks. Once was enough.


It was a busy first week for me at El Defensor Chieftain, meeting people and gleaning as much information as I could from Scott.

The biggest question folks did want to know came as a result of John Larson’s column. Everyone seemed to be interested on whether or not I was related to Dr. Fritz Moeller.

Unfortunately, I am not. However, my grandfather was named Fred and his close friends did call him Fritz from time to time. However like Dr. Moeller, our family does raise cattle. However, instead of Texas Longhorns, our family raises purebred Black and Red Angus.


One final note, I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the local Veterans Day service conducted in Socorro on Sunday.

Three generations of my family have or are serving our country. My father was a World War II veteran serving in the Army Air Corps. My younger brother is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and recently retired as a Commander, the same year as his son entered the Coast Guard Academy. My nephew is a now a Lt. j.g. stationed aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay in Rockland, Maine.

We love our country and the opportunities it provides for us.

While Veterans Day is a wonderful way to salute our men and women who have served in armed forces, we shouldn’t just honor our veterans on one day of year.

We should salute their service every day.

So the next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service. It’ll bring a smile to their face.