The Byrd Finally Flew North


| March/April 1991



17837 Lindenwood Road, Lindenwood, Illinois 61049

Living in north central Illinois puts our farm right in the migration path of those beautiful Canadian geese. It was always an 'event' when I was a kid, to see the first V of geese going south for the winter or north in the spring. Matter-of-fact, when I couldn't see them in the fall of second grade, Mom knew I needed glasses.

Once in a while it's been known in nature that biological clocks get confused. That's exactly what happened at our place in mid-September this year. A very rare species of rail byrd made a fast-flying trip to our farm before the winter cold set in.

This species is known for its sensitivity to harsh weather conditions owing to the fact it was born and bred in the southern hills of Tennessee. Flying first class in a Ford pickup, our good friend Billy Byrd of Madisonville, Kentucky came up north to see us thresh. Regular readers of IMA have met Billy through his frequent articles or letters. That is how I got acquainted with Billy several years ago.

Billy is one of the most gracious individuals I have had the pleasure to meet. I answered his request in a letter to Anna Mae for the names of Nichols and Shepard owners. He replied within a week that he was trying to put together a list of owners and engines. I am probably one of the worst letter writers around. I wait for months before I write and then promptly forget to mail it. In this case I waited five years before I wrote again. While home recuperating from surgery, I ran across Billy's first letter. Since resting was the most comfortable thing to do, I decided to reintroduce myself and see if his Nichols list ever got done. That was the beginning of a semi-regular letter exchange that has lasted for more than two years now.

Billy related to us his history as a Tennessee boy, railroad engineer, and currently a steam engine enthusiast. His love for the 'Pride of Battle creek' was evident. Generous to a fault, he's donated lots of time to community events and activities. His engine's often the center of attraction in local parades. Little did I know when I first wrote to him that this was the same man I had seen Charles Kuralt interview for a CBS 'On The Road' special. That in itself is a story to hear Billy tell.