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When a local lad was ‘The Rest of the Story’

Considering my desk is roughly 60 yards from the railroad tracks in downtown Brookhaven, you could safely assume I hear trains often daily. News editor Donna Campbell — my wife — and I joke that the trains seem to know when she is going to leave the office, because there always seems to be one blowing its whistle when she walks out the front door.

Speaking of whistles — there’s one train that comes through daily on which I am convinced there is a small hyperactive child playing with the horn cord in the engine as the train comes by. It either makes one long, loud blast from one side of downtown to the other, or makes constant one-after-the-other blasts through town.

I’m sure it means something to someone on the train crews, but to me it just means noise.

Regardless, I find trains very interesting. I have a young friend named Carson who loves trains. I mean loves them a lot. I thought of him when Brookhaven residents Jimmy and Patti Perkins visited the office recently.

They came with an audio cassette from more than 30 years ago and a newly-purchased cassette player, and shared with me a very interesting story via famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey and his once-daily show “The Rest of the Story.”

If you are familiar with Harvey, then nothing else need be said. You’re already hearing the unique patterns of his voice in your brain as you read this. If you’re not, then I suggest you take a few minutes to listen to an broadcast online so you’ll now just how unique his style of delivery was.

Millions looked forward to his shows, which often delivered a bit of sunshine and hope across the airwaves.

A portion of the broadcast the Perkinses shared with me follows:

I enjoy reading The Daily Leader, published in Brookhaven, Mississippi, because it introduces me to that area’s home folks one at a time. That’s how I met Brad Tillotson.

Brad loves trains. From his mother’s earliest remembering, baby Brad got excited every time he saw a train. He was utterly fascinated by trains.

When Brad was 8, his mother, Linda Sue Tillotson, drove Brad down to Thayer’s Crossing in time to watch the Amtrak 445 come high-balling by. His animated delight was such that his mother from that day has driven Brad to Thayer’s Crossing twice a day every day for 15 years.

(The mentally-challenged) lad’s twice-daily vigil beside the Amtrak tracks has become so significant that the engineer approaching Thayer’s Crossing always blows the train whistle for Brad and the engineer waves, perhaps calls out, “Hi, Brad. Coming through. See ya buddy!”

One day the train stopped. This day there were two Amtrak officials aboard and it was with their permission that a trainload of passengers was kept waiting while Engineer Wilkinson and Conductor Wall and the officials got off the train to chat with Brad, to present him with a conductor’s cap and a shirt with an Amtrak locomotive across the front.

The conductor said he later explained to the passengers that the train had to stop to fix a flat tire.

Over the years, since passengers as much as crew look forward to their approach to Thayer’s Crossing, many wave, some toss gifts. Indeed, on the Amtrak’s newest route guide, which lists points of interest between Memphis and New Orleans there’s a prominent mention of a young track mascot who can always be counted upon to wave them on their way.

Brad is now 23. His enthusiasm has not waned one whit. His mother says he’s gotta be at that crossing twice a day and when the weather is bad and Mother suggests perhaps he should not go out, Brad with a grin will ask, “Do you want me to get fired?”

And so, dutifully, in rain or snow or whatever, she delivers Brad to his rendezvous.

… Even as Amtrak passengers and crew are cheered by the tall lad in a conductor’s cap standing at Thayer’s Crossing and waving, I am encouraged by this exceptional young man and by his loving mother.

So many of us, with so much more to give, give so much less.

Indeed. And, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know … The Rest of the Story.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.