We find stories on the Texas backroads in a number of ways. Sometimes we just stumble upon something so good, we hop out and tell that story right then and there. That was the case with Herman “Train” Gates in October of 1986.
There he was, on a corner lot in Carthage, surrounded by bicycles, lawn mowers, plows, and lots of other stuff. A few elementary and junior high school kids were gathered around him as he worked on a bike.
After a few minutes of chatting, we learned that “Train” had, at one time, scattered his stuff all over the yard where he lived—that is, until “Mrs. Train” told him to get that stuff out of there. That’s when he went to the City of Carthage and got a proper permit to move his stuff to this corner where we found him.
Mr. Gates worked for the Carthage school system, but his heart could be found in all that stuff. He liked things he could “buy cheap or trade you out of.” He especially liked working on bicycles, fixing flats, and replacing spokes and tightening chains for kids whose bicycles had a problem. He didn’t charge for the work and sometimes would bring an old bike back to life so he could give it to a child who didn’t already have one.
In all our chatting, Mr. Gates was so quick to open up to us. But there was one thing we hadn’t found out: why they called him “Train.”
That’s when he cupped his hands around his mouth and made a noise that sounded like a train whistle. “That’s why!” he said.
Mr. Gates served the kids of Carthage until his death in 2004 at the age of 93, and we are told some of the bikes he fixed are still in use today.