Dedicating the MackRail Cabin Car

Note: This afternoon, at Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens, Spartanburg, South Carolina, we dedicated the MackRail Cabin Car, a caboose fashioned into a queen suite for lodging. This long has been Pontheolla’s dream, now, come true. She asked that I offer a meditation and prayer.


We, humans, born into this world, are set down in time and space. And, imbued with reason, that faculty of imagination and comprehension, to discern our surroundings, we, characteristically and necessarily, mark our life’s pilgrimage by the passage of seasons and by the consecration of places for commemoration and celebration.

It strikes me as fortuitous and propitious that we – in this tumultuous time of dual pandemics, one, novel and viral, another, ancient and racial – gather as one on this day, in this place to set aside this space, which appears to be a caboose. However, in truth, which we, through the lens of our reason to imagine and to comprehend, can see, it is a symbol of hospitality; that warmth of welcome extended by the host to the guest.

It is no accident that hospitality and hospital, at times of illness, a place of help for the healing of all that ails, are derived from the same Latin root, hospes, which can refer either to the guest or to the host or to both.

Yes, there is a distinction between hospitality and hospital, yet ne’er we forget the connection of healing and health, wholeness and oneness.

In that remembrance, that commemoration, we celebrate. Let us pray:

O God, You, in Your Wisdom, have created us, each and all, in Your One Image of one family, one race, whose name is human. May we, ever in that due awareness, honor Your Purpose in our embrace, our embodiment of hospitality. And may this MackRail Cabin Car, O God, Your MackRail Cabin Car be a sign for us of this Your Truth. Amen.

© 2020 PRA

3 thoughts on “Dedicating the MackRail Cabin Car

  1. Dear Paul and Pontheolla,

    Now that’s just the coolest news I’ve heard in weeks. I am so glad that the MackRail Cabin Car has been well and truly blessed and dedicated to its mission of true hospitality, the kind I know is always on offer at Clevedale. I can’t wait to someday visit and hopefully stay in it.

    When I was growing up in Inman, my family lived within rock-throwing distance of the railroad running from Spartanburg up into the North Carolina mountains, the Southern Railway, of course. There was a long, narrow field across the road between our little house in the country and the tracks that was serially filled with first peach trees, then a go-cart track, and finally, wheat or some kind of grain. Beyond the field, trains, both passenger and freight, ran all day and all night. My brother Bo and I never lost our consciousness of and love for them, and if we were in the yard and a train whistle blew for our tiny little crossing before the Hi Bridge, we looked up, ran, and waved at both the engineer and the men who always rode in the red caboose at the end of the train. The engineers mostly ignored us; they were busy driving the train, but the guys in the caboose, at least in summer, were mostly sitting by the windows looking out, and they almost always waved back. It was a connection we had with someone we didn’t know, whose work we kind of envied. We’d have loved to be in that caboose going somewhere, isolated from the world except to see it passing by outside.

    I can only think that the MackRail Cabin Car is a caboose that once or maybe many times passed our house and that Bo and I hailed its passenger and that he answered our wave with a cheery one of his own. And maybe I can one day fulfill for both of us our wish of spending a lovely stretch of time in that caboose. May it be not only a comfortable shelter for Clevedale guests but a refuge and a peaceful sanctuary for everyone who is lucky enough to stay in it.

    I’m so glad you have made your dream come true, Pontheolla. May it be a blessing to you and Paul, to Clevedale, to your guests, and to Spartanburg.

    Much love,



  2. Paul,

    So I responded to this yesterday but the sometimes wacky world of the internet in my current remote location chose not to post it. So I try again.

    Pontheolla is definitely proof that dreams come true! I pray that the MacKRail Cabin Car be a place where people arrive weary from travel but leave refreshed in body and spirit.

    God’s plans for us play out in many ways. The fact that Pontheolla has achieved this dream may bring countless souls to Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens and may all involved be united in love and peace.

    Much love!


  3. Thank you, dearest Karen and Loretta. Karen, thank you for sharing this growing up vignette. So lovely. And Karen and Loretta, yes, dreams do come true.

    At the dedication, Pontheolla shared the story of the…her inspiration for searching for a rail car (initially, she sought a passenger car, but the length and size of such made that an impossibility; hence, she turned her attention to obtaining a caboose)…

    In the summer of 2013, as we were nearing completion of the renovation of the house and the rehabilitation of the grounds, one afternoon a car appeared coming up the driveway. At the wheel, the caregiver for the passenger, Elizabeth Cleveland Welch. She introduced herself, telling us that she had heard we had bought the property and she wanted to see what we were doing with it. She told us that she was born in the house in the year 1915. On that very night, the train, which ran (and still runs) just west of the house by a stone’s throw, broke down. Her father, Conrad Pierce Cleveland, Sr., walked to the disabled train and invited the passengers to the house for rest and refreshments. (I digress… Such a welcoming gesture, yes, yet I wonder what Mrs. Cleveland, just having given birth, thought of it!)…

    Because of this wondrous story, Pontheolla associated the property and the house with hospitality. And, to come full circle, began her search for a train car. And, as the proverbial word has it, the rest is history.

    I thank you and cleave in my heart to your kind words that the cabin car, Karen, “(m)ay…be a blessing to (us), to Clevedale, to your guests, and to Spartanburg” and, Loretta, “that (it) be a place where people arrive weary from travel but leave refreshed in body and spirit.”

    May it be so.



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