The Shadow Warrior and The Mid-City Marine on Rich Mountain

by Jim on 2013/04/09

[Jimbaux needs serenity, in a place where he can hide; nothing changes, days go by.]

When one of the influential people in one’s life dies an early death, it really forces one to think about where he is, who he is, who he has become, and how he became that way.

The Shadow Warrior was funeralized and laid to rest on Friday (5 April 2013.)  No, I did not attend.  My absence had as much to do with the fear that my still-ailing back would not be able to take that much sitting and standing as it did with the uneasiness of attending because of the falling out that The Shadow Warrior and I had sometime almost five years ago.  Nobody told me that I shouldn’t attend, and those mutual friends who did weigh in on the topic said that I should do whatever I felt was right.

Some, including his and my mutual friend The Mid-City Marine, asked what the reason for the falling-out was, especially since he said that Shawn never spoke to him about it.  Before I ‘answer’ that, please note that this post and the pictures inside of it are really all about the time that the three of us spent on Rich Mountain in February 2007, one of my most memorable trips there, and The Mid-City Marine’s only trip there.  On the night that Shawn died, both The Mid-City Marine and I had trouble sleeping, as we reported to each other the next day; both of us had lied awake in our respective beds processing the news for hours.

Really, I don’t know the reason for the falling out.  All that I know is that nearly five years ago in the late spring of 2008, he stopped calling me on the telephone and stopped e-mailing me.  As I was in the process of what eventuated to be a summer-long pilgrimage to North Dakota, I had little capacity to concern myself with it.  Furthermore, that North Dakota experience changed me greatly, and I had plenty with which to occupy my mind once I returned home.  That trip to North Dakota was also the last time I visited Rich Mountain – a place to which The Shadow Warrior had introduced me in February 2003 – until nearly four years later when I visited it on Day 1 and Day 2 of my 2012 spring road trip.  This is significant because since that February 2003 introduction to the place, I would visit Rich Mountain at least once and sometimes as many as thrice yearly, including every late-October gathering in that time period, the last being in October 2007.  My June 2008 visit was not so much a visit to Rich Mountain as it was a convenient place to stop the first night on my way to North Dakota, but, again, it would be my last time there in nearly four years, and, as I type this, the second-to-last time I visit the place.

Coincidentally, the June 2008 KCSHS convention in Monroe was the last one that I attended, the last formal gathering of railroad enthusiasts I attended, and the last time that I saw Shawn.  In another bizarre coincidence, just a few days before I learned of Shawn’s death, I inquired about possibly attending this year’s convention, since some other travel plans that I have might take me near potential convention locations (and I learned that this year’s convention is in Rosenberg, Texas.)  We shall see.  Anyway, as 2008 drew to a close after my North Dakota (and Saskatchewan) experiences, I began to focus on different pursuits.  My travel became both more local and more abroad: Mississippi, Georgia, southern Texas, a few more visits to Canada, a trip to the Pacific Northwest, a few trips to Washington, DC, one to northern New England, another trip to Mexico, and a visit to England and France.  What was great about my spring 2012 road trip is that it brought me back to places I had been, some of them several times, in the years before 2009 but not since then.  So, I was ‘reclaiming old territory’ in many ways.

Right as I type this, we’re rapidly coming up on the five year anniversary of my detention and near arrest from the New Orleans Police Department for photographing KCS’s business train from the Broad Street overpass.  Just as I was one of the first people Shawn called on the telephone a year before when BNSF decided to apparently not hire him out of dispatcher school due to ‘obesity’ or something, Shawn was the first person I called and told about that embarrassing incident with the NOPD, an incident I kept to myself due to the shame – which I realized was something of a choice – for more than three years.  I think that we talked on the telephone for about three hours that night.  I guess I can now reveal Shawn as the black person with a law enforcement background who said that had it been him on that bridge, the police probably would not have treated him the way that I was treated, which S. A. Bell seemed to confirm when he said that the NOPD officers were thinking, “what’s this white guy doing on this bridge [in that very un-white part of town]?” when he stopped me on 2011 September 11 at the Slidell Amtrak depot after I had photographed the northbound Crescent, as reported in 9/11 Freedom Photography – Part 2 of 5.

That brings us to the last ever private communication between Shawn and me.  Six days after the Part 2 article was published, he sent me a message, a message written in a way that lacked any suggestion that we had ever been friends, about  the “controversial and inflammatory nature” of the series of posts I made on my photos taken on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  I won’t go into further detail of why he sent the message, but he mentioned nothing of his role in the story; I simply did not respond to his message or acknowledge it.  That was it.  Now he’s dead.

I had just put him out of my mind years ago, and I saw some nastiness from him (we all have some nastiness) in a few instances spread over time that made me uninterested in maintaining a friendship and made me lose plenty of the respect that I had for him; upon learning of his death, however, a flood of memories returned, and, as I wrote that night, I realized that despite the end of our friendship a few years before his death, that friendship had had a profound impact on me and who I have become, and I am grateful to have known him.  I think that the “controversial and inflammatory nature” of the 9/11 series was actually, paradoxically, partly influenced by Shawn’s own individualist nature about such things, which inspired me in that regard.  In other words, losing him as a friend was the cost of what I had gained from having him as a friend, as weird as that is.  Thanks, Shawn.  I am today who I have become partly thanks to you, and some people whom I call friends today I met through you.  Regardless of what happened afterward or why it happened, I am eternally grateful, and the pictures here on this site are a testament to what I have learned from you.

Rich Mountain – 24 February 2007

Today’s song is one that I’ve long associated with Rich Mountain and its serenity, hence its selection, especially upon the death of someone.

Weirdest Weather Day Ever

As I stated earlier, the February 2007 trip to Rich Mountain was one of the most memorable that I have had there, and it was as much because The Mid-City Marine came along as it was because of the weather, which made it the least attended of any of the gatherings there that I have attended.  On Saturday 24 February 2007, the date that all of these pictures were taken, the weather got really bizarre.  It started out cloudy, then there was a torrential rainfall in the late morning, then followed by crystal-clear blue skies, and then followed by . . . . well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

To start the day, The Mid-City Marine and I had breakfast in Poteau at some Kiwanis breakfast, and it was good, and there were other railroad enthusiasts there, but I don’t remember seeing anyone out chasing trains other than the three of us for the rest of the day, except maybe when the rain came.  We then met up with The Shadow Warrior and shot a few trains at the South Howe Hill to start the day, and then we went to the overlook on the hill at Heavener Runestone State Park, which, as I reported on my visit there in March 2012, was the first time that Shawn had been there.

As usual, all of the images shown in this post are presented in their chronological order, though I took many more pictures that day that I’m not publishing here.

Then, The Rains Came

I can’t remember if we saw it coming, but we took cover at the covered picnic tables near the southern end of the yard in Heavener.  Despite the covers, we did get quite wet, as the rain was driving hard and furious.

Then, The Rains Stopped

The rains stopped, and the southbound H-train made some noise about leaving town.  Under cloudy skies, the three of us chased it across the mountain all the way to Mena.

Then, we went to check out the Mena airport, near which are some shops that do refitting work on airplanes.

I don’t know why I like that picture so much, but I do.  There’s something of a timelessness to it, one former friend, now deceased, and another friend, whom I got to know better through the first, and both being Marines, the former affecting me greatly, the latter being somewhat affected by me as much as he affects me.

This is the quintessential Shawn, with his beloved USMC attire and his beloved Jeep Liberty.

I don’t remember if there was a train to chase back northbound, and I don’t remember where we ate lunch – but I’m thinking that it was the Subway in Mena, which is a traditional place for me to eat there – but we made our way back northward.

Reconvening In Page

We learned somehow that a southbound train was coming to Page, and the three of us stopped there to see the C-KCTU come through.

It was shortly after I shot the above picture and shortly before I shot the below picture that I shot the picture of Shawn that you may have already seen that I published on Facebook the night of his death.

And then we see the going-away shot of the DPU, complete with TFM power still with its TFM numbering.

After that, we just hung out for awhile.  I don’t remember that we were waiting on a particular train.  We were just chatting, the three of us, three southeastern Louisiana guys, three New Orleans guys, even though never living in the city simultaneously.

Please note how sunny it is; not only is that a stark contrast from the very rainy morning, but it would not last until sunset, as we shall soon see.

I seem to remember that it was then that Shawn told us that he was trying to get into BNSF dispatcher school, which I thought was great.

Once he got through the school later that year, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was great.  He met many people – especially fellow railroad enthusiasts – in his time in the Fort Worth area.  However, many of us were a little stunned when, upon completing the training, he didn’t get offered a position due to concerns over his “obesity.”  Here’s what BEK had to say upon learning of Shawn’s death.

I knew him only briefly,when he was in Fort Worth studying to become a train dispatcher at BNSF. He passed the class admirably, and would’ve made a fine dispatcher and been an asset to the company, however, for medical reasons that made absolutely no sense in the context of folks who’d already been hired, BNSF passed on hiring him. He left Fort Worth, and apart from his fine photographs, that was the last I’d seen of him. I’d been impressed with his work for the KCS group and the Christmas train.

That all makes sense, but maybe the medical conditions of “folks who’d already been hired” and how it affected their work was the reason that the standards were raised, if they were raised at all, but I really don’t know.  In any case, Shawn got pancreatic cancer about five years after he would have been hired by BNSF.  I don’t know if that shows clairvoyance on the part of the railroad, but until I read the below message from a railroader friend, I had no evidence that I wasn’t the only one thinking it.

That’s terrible. I know he meant a lot to you, even though you two grew apart at the end. I wonder if the HR dept. at BNSF would feel some sort of self-approval of their decision not to hire his “overweight” self, if they knew of his death?

Actually, I think that the word that BNSF used was “obesity,” but, whatever the case, Shawn stated that he learned of BNSF’s decision to not hire him through an automated e-mail message to which he could not reply, which he thought was itself a bit unbecoming (just that it was automated and came via e-mail.)

Shawn’s response to this was something that I found both interesting, slightly unsettling at first, and yet ultimately somewhat admirable in ways that have influenced me to this day; there is plenty that we can learn from this, and please understand that that “we” includes any of you who are in a position to employ anyone else.

Some of his friends who worked for BNSF (in management and dispatching positions) encouraged Shawn to approach whomever at the company to ask about this, appeal it, follow-up on it, whatever.  Please keep in mind that Shawn was, despite his size, a runner, and was in at least decent cardiovascular shape because of it at the time.  Shawn mulled those options for awhile, but ultimately just decided to let it be, to not follow-up, to not ask why, to not appeal, despite the encouragement of friends who worked for the company.  Why just let it be when he had just spent the time and effort going through the class and had been so excited about the job of being a dispatcher?

“This is the peek behind the curtain,” Shawn told me.  If this was the way that the railroad would treat someone who hadn’t yet worked for the company, then, he said, it was a foreshadowing of how he might be treated once he became and employee.  Maybe so, maybe not, I don’t know.  His conclusion, or at least as I interpreted it, was, despite the chance to both work with trains and make good money, that if that’s the way that “the number two railroad in the country” was going to deal with people, then he didn’t want to work there.

Wow, what does that mean?  Have we found an example of honor and dignity deviating from self-sacrifice? but yet being, in an indirect way, another form of self-sacrifice?  And does it show the price people pay for having good-paying jobs with health insurance?  You can either sell your soul, or you can keep it not for sale, but doesn’t it, from what we see here, cost you plenty either way?  I’ve certainly had to face this.  Does having a nice house with nice things in it mean that you maybe don’t always stand up for yourself?  For many people, I guess, it is worth the cost, but apparently it was not worth it for Shawn (he may have reacted differently had he had children, and we could then also say that he did the right and honorable thing, even if it was beneath his dignity), and, being of a somewhat like mind, despite our falling out and despite the snarky and sometimes hypocritical behavior I witnessed from him at times (which made me mostly unwilling to make any attempts at thawing the ice once the ice formed, but that’s not terribly important anymore, except that it shows that I was behaving toward him in a manner similar to which he was behaving toward BNSF), I can both relate to him and admire him for it.

The story of how he handled the impersonal rejection from BNSF is consistent in ways that I admire with another story from his time with the United States Marine Corps, long before I met him.  After graduating from Brother Martin High School, Shawn attended the University of New Orleans for two years before enlisting the Marine Corps.  So, he had some college behind him upon entering the military.

“Not many people know this,” he once told me when we were traveling somewhere, “but I turned down a commission in the Marine Corps.”  Why?  Why would he turn down being an officer in the Marine Corps that he loved so much?

He told me that some of his superiors recognized his intelligence and suggested he try to become a commissioned officer.  Perhaps feeling flattered, Shawn took the placement test for officer school.  He scored high enough to be accepted, but then the testing person told him that he did not need to have tried so hard on the test.  Shawn asked why.  He was told that because he was a member of a racial minority, he only needed to score at least a certain score lower than the minimum score for white officers.

He said that it was upon hearing this that he realized the reason for his perception that so many of the white officers in the Marine Corps did not respect the black officers, and he thought that if he would have taken the commission, he’d always be viewed as one who became an officer because of his race as opposed to actual merits.  He said that he was told, “you’re making a mistake,” when he rejected the commission.

Do you see the consistency between the story of his refusal to question or follow-up on BNSF’s impersonal rejection and his refusal to accept the commission in the Marine Corps once he learned about the different scores for racial minorities?  I do, I admired him for it, and I, for better and for worse, have developed a similar attitude, which I suspect is, perhaps a bit paradoxically, part of the reason for the falling out; we were actually too much alike in some ways.

“What is Shawn going to do with his life?  Ever since I’ve known him,” he has bounced around from job to job, The Godfather once asked me after BNSF rejected Shawn and before The Godfather himself sold me down the river to a charming bully at the end of 2008, the same year that Shawn and I had the falling out, causing me to mostly go back to being an on-my-own railroad enthusiast with a few local and a few far-away enthusiast friends, which makes sense, since the like of trains and watching them is a way of getting away from the madness of humanity.  Heck, the last time that I went hang out at the depot at Hammond was in December 2007, and Shawn was there and can be seen in my picture there.

Well, dearest Godfather, it looks like Shawn did plenty with his life; one does not necessarily have to stay at the same job for 30 years to “do something” with one’s life.  There indeed are plenty of good reasons to stay with one employer for a long time, but changing jobs enriches one and therefore helps to enrich those whom one serves in each successive endeavor.  With each new experience, each new job, each new service toward a non-profit organization, Shawn gave the gifts that he had helped to cultivate in each of his previous endeavors.

In that sense, Shawn died a rich man, avoiding becoming a martyr, at least for things that he didn’t think mattered but that others might have thought mattered, and he had many great experiences while helping to enrich the lives of many others, including mine, and maybe even yours if my work here, or at least the aspects of it that have been inspired by Shawn, affects you.

I’m thankful that, per my request, he took my camera and grabbed this picture of The Mid-City Marine and me.

Before he took the picture, he made some joke about, “uh, how do you work this thing?”

Back To Heavener, Before A Different and Bizarre Kind Of Storm Hits

We decided to quit chit-chatting and head back to Heavener, and we ended up hanging out at the fuel racks as the power on some train was parked there.  It is still, as you see, sunny and cool with blue skies, but that was about to change.

Not long afterward, as we were talking and looking at the train at the fuel rack with our backs to the sun, the scene got slightly dimmer.  I didn’t think anything of it, but Shawn turned around to look toward the west.

“That’s a funny looking cloud,” Shawn said.  I turned around to see it for myself.

“Yeah, it’s got no shape,” I said.

I don’t know how long it took for us to really realize what was happening, but I think I might have been the one who said, “that’s not a cloud!”

And Then, The Dust Came

I seem to a remember a slight panic which included the securing of items, and specifically making sure that the windows were rolled up on vehicles and camera bags closed.  Soon, we were greeted with this:

The photographs do not do the scene justice, but this was hard on our eyes, and the shower that night was extra refreshing, as it felt like I had been rolling around on a beach.  Keep in mind that we had gotten quite wet earlier on this day, and now this was happening.  We got word that a northbound train was preparing to leave; so, away to the South Howe Hill we went.  While waiting, I pointed my camera straight at the sun.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but it surely wasn’t blue either!  This is the first time I had experienced a real dust storm, and the locals whom we later asked said that something like this happens here about twice yearly.

Here at the South Howe Hill, we see The Shadow Warrior, his truck, and The Mid-City Marine’s rental car.

Keep in mind, too, that we really hadn’t seen any other foamers after the late-morning rain.  Here’s our northbound train and a dust storm.

That’s actually what the shot looked like after I did the standard and simple “Auto Levels” adjustment in Photoshop, and I’m surprised how clear the image is, since this is what the shot looked like without the Auto Levels adjustment.

I guess all we really are is dust in the wind.  And that was it for this day.  We all needed showers quite badly after that!

I hope that you have enjoyed the pictures.

A Few More Thoughts

The day after Shawn was laid to rest, our mutual friend Kurt came over to my place so I could help him remove a dust spot from his camera, and he showed me plenty of old train pictures he took in the New Orleans area.  Kurt knew Shawn before I did and remained friends with him until the end.  So, his well-timed visit was a small way of healing for me.  Thanks, Kurt.

I was talking to a friend whom we will call Maggie about my awkward feelings about Shawn’s death, that I was reading all of these great praises of someone with whom I had had a falling out and whose nastiness I had occasionally experienced in addition to his very good qualities, and she told me that it’s hard when you’ve had a falling out with the person, that she had experienced the same things.  I told Maggie that it made me wonder what people are going to say about me when my time comes; she pointed out that it won’t matter, since I’ll be dead.  Damn, she’s right, I guess, but given the choice, I’d much prefer people to say nice things about me, that I had enriched their lives in some way.  So too it was with Shawn, regardless of what happened afterward.

Maybe there really is ultimately no point to anything at all, but such knowledge is not always useful when trying to decide how to live one’s life.  I think of myself as a very real person, not going out of my way to merely “be nice” at the expense of being honest, but I also never try to deliberately harm or vex anyone, offend anyone; that, however, doesn’t stop people from “taking offense,” which, as the phrasing suggests, is the choice of the person “taking” the “offense,” as I can more clearly see now.

Still, Shawn’s death, people’s reaction to it, and my own recent back problems have been a perfect storm of humility for me, reminding me that I’m not young and invincible, that I will one day breathe my own last breaths too, and what will be the point of anything I’ve ever done?  Will I have made the world a better place?

I was corresponding with Catina over at Lovin’ Louisiana last week, and I told her this in response to the most recent posting of Chip pictures:

I’m glad that the Chip pictures have resonated with you and affected you so positively.  As analytical of a person that I am, I sometimes don’t really have much of a clue as to why I do the things I do, more specifically, why I invest so much resources into it, but maybe the anticipation that it will resonate with people is part of it.  As much of an “I really don’t care what you think of me” kind of person I can be, it is truly good to be appreciated for who you are.

My statements to her there are as much inspired by the “Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas” mentality as they were by a nine-year-old post from Grumpy that has taken on new meaning for me lately.  Did you read that one?  It’s really great!

Anyway, here’s what Catina responded to me, posted here with her expressed permission.

Ironically, I believe both to be true of you:

You generally don’t care what people think of you, you are you and that’s that.  Yet, You want what you do to have meaning in some way; you inform, teach, see/show people things in ways they may not see it. You work hard to give insight into many things.  Whether that be your original goal or not, it seems to be why you do what you do. At least in part.

While we, you & I don’t always see things in the same light or even always agree, I see that you generally have the  “greater good” on your mind. Whether you intend it or it’s just who you are, that I don’t know.

That, I thought, was a great insight, and, as was the topic being discussed, it’s good to be appreciated for who one is.  That’s why I asked that question on Facebook recently to my readers.  While I want to be genuine and real, and while conformity would cause me existential death, I really do want to be appreciated for who I am, but having that desire makes me, like Grumpy’s post said, just like everyone else.  Last year, I just simply walked away from two friendships that I had had since my teenage years.  I finally had the courage to just realize I was better off without those two, and maybe they were better of without me.  That’s why I can accept that things happened the way that they did with Shawn, be okay with that, and still be supremely grateful that I knew him and that he affected me the way that he did.  I close this post with the faith that Shawn was and still is recognized and appreciated for who he was, the hope that I am and will be appreciated for who I am, and the hope that all of you can be appreciated for who you are.

Shawn served in the Marine Corps reserves for a few years after his active duty time, earned a degree in geography from the University of New Orleans, and offered his time, talent, and effort to causes such as the KCS Holiday Express, the Meridian Railroad Museum, and the Kansas City Southern Historical Society, of which he was the current president; he was a friend to many and is already missed by many.

With gratitude to Shawn, The Mid-City Marine, Kurt, The Godfather, The MEXLIST Man, Maggie, all of my family, friends, colleagues, and all of you readers,


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maggie April 9, 2013 at 23:53

The people who matter will say the right things about you when you die. If they don’t they don’t respect the loss of a human soul from this earth. We are all nothing but contradictions, our perceptions of ourselves and each other change over time, with learning, loss and knowledge.


2 Mid City Marine April 10, 2013 at 11:47

Well spoken. One of the things about Shawn that I recognized quickly and admire as a personality trait or quality was his self respect and the refusal to compromise himself as you mentioned. I remember him telling me about his job at the Hilton, and being asked to things outside the scope of his job, and of which he objected to. He spoke up and then let the chips fall where they may. He told me “You got to do a lot of crap to get by in life, but never be untrue to yourself. F— all those people who don’t understand my principles.” True to himself, this is how he lived his life.
Nice to see that you have a few shots of him and I together.


3 Kurt Hampton April 10, 2013 at 14:31

Very kind words. Wish I would have had more time to go through those old pictures. They all are duplicates of stuff I already have labeled and filed (what I used to do back in the day) Still good stuff though.

Shawn was a great guy. I am going to miss him.



4 Tom Beckett April 10, 2013 at 15:56

Thanks for the heads up on the new post. Always enjoy reading them.

I did not know Shawn. Never met him, though I recognized the name from the KCSHS and the list. I’m in a poor position to pass on the merits of his character. That said, seems he had some integrity, passing on the BNSF job and the Marine commission for the reasons he did. I don’t think less of him for having done many things in life, vs someone who has the same job for 45 years. For one thing, in today’s world, the notion of working for the same place that length of time is probably unlikely anyway, given the way companies treat their employees as commodities. I seem to last 5-7 years in any one job myself(I’m in my present position 6 years next week), and I know others in similar situations, so it’s not that unusual. Working a variety of places also widens one’s experience, and there is always something to be learned no matter where you go.

It’s always hard to lose a friend, even more so when there has been something that distanced you-there’s that feeling of unresolved issues that now will never get worked out. There’s nothing like losing someone to get you thinking and reflecting on all the things you mention. I’ve lost both parents in the last 4 years, my mom in Sep 2009, Dad about a year ago, both events got me thinking about my relationship with them, and things untended. In my dad’s case, the only real regret is that I did not contact him more often. He lived 1000 miles away in North Carolina the last 10 years or so, seeing him was not convenient, but we did not talk on the phone much, though we did email from time to time. We got a long well, and had no disagreements, so it was a pleasant relationship. He was active, and sometimes I’d call and leave a message, only to find out he had been in Europe for three weeks. He also had a lot of lady friends, which tended to take his time. Pretty busy for a guy in his late 70’s!!

Mom, on the other hand, was problematic. She was unqestionably one of the smartest people anyone will ever meet, truly a Mensa candidate. She was quite accomplished, having completed a law degree at 39, then on to a successful career as a trial lawyer and law professor, still teaching until the cancer finally stopped her at 73. But she could also be manipulative and deceitful, and personal relationships within her family were erratic. She and my dad had a bad split in 1974; I don’t think she ever forgave him for some of the things that took place then, though some of that lack of forgiveness was well justified. Like many things in that realm, it’s complicated, much more so than I can get into here, it would just take too long. One of the problems I had was that in many ways, I’m like my dad in demeanor and mannerisms(that’s the wonder of genetics, eh??), and I think she held that against me. Needless to say, I was conflicted when she died, and to some degree still am, almost 4 years later. Some had advised approaching her on various things, but I could never see the value in it, after all, in the end, it was just going to be a wasted effort. She was not going to change, or even see things from my perspective-oddly, things she did every day in her professional life. In the end, I came to the realization that she was a flawed human being, like the rest of us, and these were her particular issues.

And so it is with friends…..they also are flawed individuals. It is said that your friends are people who know all about you, and like you anyway. We accept them even with the things that are not always attractive. Sometimes these things pull us apart, sometimes they even kill the friendship, as you have noted. If we feel the friendship is worth the effort, we’ll reach out. If not, sometimes you just let it go, and sometimes that’s for the best; sometimes you look back and think maybe you should have done something different to save it, but did not for whatever reason, good or bad. Whatever the reason, for Shawn, it’s too late now. Seems we learn this lesson over and over, but we also think the people we are involved with will be around a lot longer. We know not the day, nor the hour…….it does make one consider his mortality a lot more seriously. Having lost both parents, and now in my 50’s, it hits a lot closer to home.

Interesting shots in the dust storm. The first shot looks like it was taken in the fog. The second, well, what a difference!!

And finally, a photo of the author. Good to see the face behind all this philosophizing.


5 Joey Thibodaux April 11, 2013 at 07:43

This has to be one of your best blogs. Humans were made to be unique, which is why we may never fully understand what motivates someone else. I only communicated via email with Shawn and admired his work from afar. I was somewhat surprised by the number of messages about Shawn, but each one seem to come from a place deep within the heart of the writer. These memories have given me a better appreciation of Shawn and will live forever, as will his photographs.

Your pictures of Chip have made me think about the many unsung people that we encounter every day. They are not driven by greed or success, but their happiness is derived from pleasing themselves. It has also made me think more about expressing myself more through the lens of a camera, but I feared that my pictures would lack the quality or impact of other rail enthusiast. Well, I cannot leave a memory unless I do something. Good or bad, those future images will be things that I appreciate and will put a smile on my face. Maybe, just maybe, someone else will smile too.


6 Chris White April 11, 2013 at 13:18

Great article Jimbaux!! I learned a lot from the article about Shawn, some things I knew and others I didn’t. He definitely seemed to be a man of great integrity and honor!! Thanks for sharing the adventures of y’alls trip and an insight of the life of Shawn Levy…he will truly be missed by all of us.


7 Marlowe Barnes April 11, 2013 at 21:45

Thank you for such a refreshing article! Even though I live way up in Maryland, and traveled a lot, I would ping Shawn for a critique of my photos and a few tips. He was always willing to share, but he also gave credit to one of his mentors, Chris Palmeri. I had the fortune to hook up with the Shadow Warrior during two trips to the Big Easy. He drove all the way down from Amite and gave me the royal tour of New Orleans rail network and we even venture into the back country in that Jeep of his on one trip. Man, he knew people damn near everywhere we went! Before he departed on the last trip he gave me a tip on where to go and who I should talk to in order to get some shots of the New Orleans Public Belt RR. Well, I venture down there one rainy day and dropped some names like he suggested, and man, I was ‘in like Flint’. Got the royal treatment complete with a tour of their business cars and amazingly tight shop/office complex. I left there with some great shots and was already planning another trip down that never happened. Little did I know was that this would be the last time I would see him.
I knew something was wrong when I saw his last post on Facebook on February 10th (I think), then his emails started getting kicked back. I really became worried when I called and his phone was disconnected. I had some sleepless nights thinking about him.
Damn, he will be missed, but definitely not forgotten !!!
RIP Shadow Warrior


8 JIMBAUX April 12, 2013 at 15:48

And thank YOU for sharing those stories!
Next time you come to New Orleans, let me know, and we can meet up.


9 JOE MORRIS April 12, 2013 at 15:47



10 Catina Laine April 16, 2013 at 23:50

Nice to finally see a pic of you… Enjoyed the post and pics!


11 JIMBAUX April 18, 2013 at 19:55

Well, sha, you should have also seen a picture of me in Day 2 of the spring 2012 road trip:

I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I’ve gotten plenty of feedback on it, much of it private, and all positive. Even if we stopped being friends some time in 2008, Shawn had a big effect on me, just like he had a big effect on others.


12 Catina April 19, 2013 at 07:56

I saw the pics FINALLY!! It’s the strangest thing to have such frequent dealings with you and yet I wouldn’t be able to identify you if you were standing right in front of me!


13 Catina Laine April 16, 2013 at 23:52

I almost forgot, LOVE the opening song!!


14 Claire Foster-Burnett April 19, 2013 at 13:07

Dear Jim, I am one of Shawn’s “play-mothers”. His mother ,”my long time friend”, Delores called to tell me last week of Shawn’s passing. I was able to see him at the Greenville (Tx.) Christmas Train Visit.! I love this post and I called her to tell her about it. But ,since she said she has disconnected all of Shawn’s media, she has no way of seeing this. I could print this out and mail it to her but as as artist myself ,I know that the photos won’t be available. She has already received a 31 pg. bound book from the Kansas City Society. She asked me to contact you . She would like to receive a printed copy of this blog ( including photos). Would you please contact me 2 the email add. listed above. I will give you her add. + phone. Thanking you in advance, Claire


15 Angeline February 24, 2014 at 19:55

Great post, Jimbaux.


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