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Battle of Same-Named-Towns

WaterlooThere are actually eight places in the UK called ‘Waterloo’ whilst there are over 40 – almost one for every state – spread throughout the USA.

Now whilst we know that the London tube and railway station takes it name from the Belgium town (which always amused me when it was the Eurostar terminal – what did arriving French passengers think … that we we having a little dig at their expense? Hopefully…) I wonder if all the ones in America are named so.

Still on a happy-high from White City the day before, Waterloo in Nebraska was going to have a hard time living up to it coming just the day after. And whilst it didn’t disappoint – it too was a small town of 500 people – it was just odd in the way it was laid out, and it seemed just a little bir more built, and thus a little bit less charismatic than White City the day before.

Naturally there was a train line running through it. You saw that one coming, didn’t you? Again … totally unplanned on my part, but it seemed this town had more of a train connection than I realised. The headquarters for the Union Pacific railroad, were just 20 miles in the city of Omaha – in which the shadow of does Waterloo lie.

I got my obligatory photo of the main bar / restaurant / diner in town, located right by the crossing in the middle of town, called “The Depot”, decorated with Railroad paraphernalia, and – again – an almost perfect square mile of blocks of houses arranged around this central focal point. And then I got thirsty, and headed off to the general store – located more on the outskirts of the town.

“You’re a long way from home then!”, croaked Donald at me as I hunched over my laptop. I’d been in line in front of him in the store buying my drink, and he had obviously heard my accent. Well that and the fact that he’d checked out my South Carolina license plate when he came out to his car (parked next to mine) AND the fact that I was leaning on the hood of the car, laptop on the go looking up to see if there were any local geocaches in town, that I’d clearly piqued his interest and he wanted to know who the hell I was.

Now I might not have any grey hairs (yet), but for the next half an hour I did a bloody good job at being an old man. A few minutes into the conversation, I realised I was in for the long haul and shut my laptop lid, and started drinking my drink. And for the next 30 minutes, Donald gave me a complete history of the town, his own life, and anything else that I dared to ask him, as we both leaned on the hood and chatted away like we were old neighbours leaning on a fence.

He was 78, had been born in the neighboring town of Elkhorn, but had lived in Waterloo now for the last “Forty or so years”, and I got a complete run down on how he met his wife, his two sons (now both living in Texas), and how the trains used to stop here but not anymore. “At least they run on diesel now”, he laughed, “When they were steam and coal, you could never dry your washing properly. My wife would hang the clothes out, and within moments a train would rumble past blowing soot and ash onto them”, and chuckled loudly.

Yet again thought, I got a notion that a 70-something mid westerner may have his reservations about the south. “You been livin’ in South Carolina, huh? I don’t go down there … once you get in, they never let you out”. I didn’t ask who they were, I’m not sure I really wanted know.

Talking of reservations, he offered up plenty of his thoughts on the native Indian Reservations which I’m going to drive right through next week in North Dakota. Yet again, let’s just say Donald had a rather conservative point of view about such affairs.

But ultimately he won me over. I couldn’t help but gradually work out that his wife was dead – he hinted without saying so, and I didn’t like to press – and that as chipper and good going as he was for 78, he was also tinged with a little sadness.

“You should send me postcard when you get to North Dakota!” he said. “Ummm, ok” I replied not really knowing how to take that. Is it normal to meet someone outside a convenience store that’s on a roadtrip and strike up correspondence with them?

In Donald’s world the answer was ‘yes‘, because before I knew it he was telling me his full name and address, an I flipped open my laptop again so that I could type it in and make a note of it. Have I just made a 78 year old friend? Seems like it.

2 responses to “Battle of Same-Named-Towns”

  1. MumTina says:

    You have discovered a way of life, chatting to strangers that would have been normal 30/40 years ago. Unfortunately we are all too scared of supposed crime these days, that we are afraid to talk to anyone. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts. As a comparison, it was a bit like this in Ireland a few years ago when I lived there. Strangers would strike up a conversation in a supermarket or petrol station queue, always asking me ‘Are you on your holidays?’ on hearing my English accent.

  2. leslie says:

    He he. If you manage to pass through Austin like we had discussed on your way back to SC, I’ll have to take you by Waterloo Records and Waterloo Ice House.

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