“Mabel! Mabel!” John excitedly jostled his wife in bed sound asleep as soon as he got to his home in Phillipsburg, Kansas. He hadn’t yet begun to undress this night in 1912. Though it was the middle of the night, he was too excited.

“You won’t believe what I just saw down at the train station,” he exclaimed. “I met the train, as usual, to see if anyone might get off and need a ride to the hotel, when this group of men, I’m sure they were men, some had beards, wearing long dresses, got off the train. It was the strangest sight! What were they doing on that train? Who were they? Where were they going? Where did they come from dressed likt that? How did they get on that train? Mable, you’ve got to listen!”

“Oh, John,” she mumbled half asleep. “Come to bed, it doesn’t matter. Go to sleep,” she turned over and settled back to sleep.

John was too excited to stand still, sleep was the last thing he was able to do. He went outside to walk off his excitement. Would the station master know anything about them? Would he still be at the station? John picked up his pace as he returned to the train station. There, he found the Station Master just locking up the door and about to return home.

“Scott! Scott!” John called as he hurried to catch up with him. “Did you see those people that walked the platform tonight? Those men in…dresses? Who…?”

“Don’t be concerned,” John. “One of them that speaks English came and talked to me. I didn’t have much time, as you know, when a train comes in for fuel and water, but he let me be about my work. He asked about the town and how long I’d lived here, nothing unusual.

“But, who…?”

“Oh. They’re Persians. They’re wearing their normal robes from home. They came to this country with their leader who was invited to speak at some peace conference back East. They were in Chicago for a conference of their people. There are more in California who begged them to come, so that’s where they’re going now.”

“They came all the way from Persia?”

“Well, no. They came from Syria. I guess their leader had been in prison there for some forty years, for his religion – was just released after a revolution a few years back that toppled the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. I remember reading about it, but didn’t pay no mind. Never thought any of it would end up in my back yard here, in western Kansas.”

The two had been walking the way to Scott’s house. Now, they stopped, John’s was in the other direction.

“But, who were they?” John asked again.

“Well, the elderly gent who’s their leader is Abdul Bah-something. I can’t remember. The others, I have no idea. Night, John. The misses is expecting me, probably wondering where I am already.”

“Sorry. Sorry,” John sputtered. “Mabel went back to sleep, but she’ll be wondering too. See you in the mornin.”

“See you.”

And the two parted ways for the night, or what was left of it.

3 thoughts on “Strangers Passing Through Town by Duane L. Herrmann

  1. Neat! Brings to mind the story in Earl Redman’s book Abdu’l-Baha in their Midst p.200 of William Sears being a small boy of one and a half years age waiting for a train at the station in Atkin, Minnesota that was carrying his aunt and seeing a stranger dressed in white, full length robe, turban & white beard. . . He never forgot that sight & didnt know who that stranger was until 28 yrs later. That stranger was Abdu’l-Baha!

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