The Little Fellow

Little Fellow Just over a hundred years ago, as pioneers worked to settle South Dakota, railroads rushed to provide transportation. Tracks were hastily laid over the prairies.

Each day, a small boy left his family's homestead near the village of Elrod to wait along the temporary siding. Whenever the work train whistled by, the youngster grinned and waved.
The engineer and brakeman always returned the greeting, and began to look forward to catching sight of their little friend.

Then one, two, three days passed when the boy failed to meet the train. The trainmen stopped at the homestead to ask about him and  learned that he had grown suddenly ill and died. The boys' parents took the men to a small grave near the railroad right-of-way.

Not long after, when the grief-stricken parents began preparing to move on to the next job, the trainmen offered to keep weeds off the trackside plot. Word was passed along from crew to crew, year to year. When the railroad started passenger service over the tracks, travelers watched from the windows of the train as the crew laid flowers on the small mound and "Big Bill" Chambers, the conductor, bowed his head in prayer.

"Big Bill" and his successors upheld the tradition until the passenger train was discontinued in 1950. Then the crew of a "way freight" train took over for a few years. In 1953, the Rotary Club of Clark,  South Dakota, held the first Memorial Day ceremony honoring "The Little Fellow." The annual ceremony salutes a special friendship to this day.

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