I weep for the walker. The once stately procession of students from the Kratz and Miller (strictly speaking, Yoder, I suppose too…) dormitories to their trans-rail classes, even the dining hall, has been abruptly crippled by the inexplicable disappearance of an essential pathway across the harrowing “Tracks of Doom,” as shorter unshod members of the student body now call them. The bustling thoroughfare which once led me from the residential side of campus to the parking lot behind Wyse is no more. You may question the relevancy of this issue. “How pedestrian a matter!” you might say. To which I can only respond: “Literally.”Thus I have taken it upon myself to reminisce and recollect on the Golden Era of the Path.
I was young. Back in my day there was none of this ‘underpass’ nonsense. We waited—sometimes for minutes on end! Such patience today may sound quite ludicrous, but the older generations were made of sterner stuff. They harken back to simpler times when iPads were rare curiosities and the Shrock Plaza fountain still champed at the meter-high bit. I would get up early, I needed to be up for G-Chem.
[Historical Note: Newer students to Goshen College may not recognize the archaic abbreviation ‘G-Chem’, this is a shortening of the course title ‘General Chemistry’.]
I would emerge from Miller I (then RA-ed by the distinguished Quinn Brenneke) and join the stiffly moving crowd as we trudged towards the tracks on the way to breakfast. While some people chose to go north to the vehicle crossing, I knew better. “You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be a-eating afore ye,” I would say, attesting to the obviously shorter route leading through campus to the dining hall.
Every morning I walked that path, and now…now I don’t know what I’ll do. Just today, I was forced underground by a passing train much to my chagrin. It is, I suppose, a nice gesture—the underpass. But I think the time I take going around the plaintive site of my old route far outweighs that of what I will ever save by subterranean train evasion. Maybe I can save time by falling down those stairs…
And the path was not only a critical artery of student traffic, it was historic as well. There is fossil evidence that the first Homo sapiens in the Americas, migrating down from what is now the Bering Strait, crossed over this pathway…all of them. I hear tell of some brave souls who still make the crossing, signifying the midpoint by jumping off the vestigial pavement around the track there in slow motion and claiming it to be “one small step for man” and at the same time “one giant leap for mankind.”
There are so many memories from this “passage between two worlds.” You will be hard-pressed to find one who does not miss that lumpy way. I think my roommate crashed my scooter trying to jump the tracks there last year. “I almost got hit by a train there,” attests Abby Deaton, second year. There is little doubt that the now vanished path clearly has a dedicated and loyal following. And while our eyes may no longer see it, our feet will always know the way.