Family Heirloom

© 2019 Bill Murphy

 When I was perhaps eleven or twelve my maternal grandmother entrusted me with a unique family heirloom.  She knew that I would always protect, and treasure it as if it were pure gold, and not simply bronze.  It’s a heavy eagle with outstretched wings… fifteen inches, tip to tip.


This eagle has never been far from my sight, except for the six months I was away for military training/technical school.

Mamaw Fairchild explained to me that my grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild, had this eagle mounted atop his steam locomotive.  He was a railroad engineer, who worked those early logging rail lines of Mississippi.  

But, a well-meaning relative made a remark years ago which attempted to de-value my bronze treasure.  They said, “Oh, your wild and wooly cousin most probably stole that thing from atop a brick column at the entrance to some fancy home.” 

I’ve always chosen to believe my grandmother’s story.  It was her husband.  She should know!  

Because of my grandfather, I’ve always been a rail-fan. I had model trains as a kid, and I have them today.  I have box after box of railroad magazines.  I have coal dust in my blood. And yet, I’ve never seen a photo of a locomotive with an eagle.  I found it amazing that my grandfather could have been so unique.  Could my well-meaning relative have been correct?  Perish the thought! 

This past week, that horrid thought was thoroughly vanquished! The photo below clearly shows a similar eagle atop another logging railroad locomotive from Mississippi! This eagle once belonged to Fred Ricks, engineer for the J. J. White Lumber Company. It now graces the flagpole of the county courthouse of his home town.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.  This verification has been a long time coming.  I well understand the evils lurking in cyber-land, ready to steal, kill, and destroy.  But, there are also good souls out there, sharing their positive thoughts and freely welcoming us to enjoy their treasured memories and histories.  And such a soul last week shared that amazing image above, from an old newspaper clipping.  I deeply appreciate that!