Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Man in Charge, continued

Last January 12, on my other blog, The Whodunit Photographer, I posted this photo of
an Amtrak conductor aboard the eastbound California Zephyr at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. In the following letter Ben Moffett, who was longtime sports editor at the Albuquerque Journal, tells the story behind the Man in Charge:


As one old newspaper warhorse to another, I'd like to thank you for putting a sparkle into the eyes of the Mount Taylor Moffett family for the conductor photo, Jan. 12, 2009. His story is very much worth telling in my view and perhaps I can expand on it.

Mount Taylor Moffett II was named after his father, who was believed to be the first Anglo child born on the 11,300-foot mountain of the same name in central New Mexico. Mount Taylor II was diagnosed with prostate cancer some months ago while on the road as a conductor, where he became ill with back pain. At that time the doctors said his cancer was too far along to be treated. If you look into the eyes of this fellow, you might see the pain in his face, which you say disappeared the moment he saw you taking his picture.

The tragedy is he didn't have enough time in as a re-hired railroader to qualify for insurance and continued working after he was told by doctors of his condition. To double the misery, he was "bumped" -- railroad parlance for being moved to a new assignment because someone with more seniority had the rights to his job. So after the cancer diagnosis he moved from his lifetime home to live alone in a small trailer in Denver and continue his railroad career there. His wife and family stayed behind at his boyhood home in Belen, N.M.. She found it necessary to continue working in her current job in Belen.

So here Taylor was, a train conductor between Chicago and somewhere in Colorado, for several months, alone, when he was running short of time, according to the doctors. He finally quit and decided to try chemo in the last week or so, just as he learned of the photo from someone who sent it to him, and which he re-distributed by sending the address of your blog to his close family and friends. He is still strong and shows no outward trace of the disease, however, although that may change as he has started taking chemo.

I find the photo remarkable and, along with the caption you wrote, a tribute and summary of the way people think of him and how he conducts his life.

Taylor's currrent situation is an example, I believe, of the health care problems that even gainfully employed folks can have in America today, and also shows the need for health care for everyone.

Thanks, Ben. Mount Taylor Moffett's story is a powerful answer to all those ignorant and ill-mannered protesters who in the last couple of weeks have disrupted "town hall" meetings on the subject of federal health insurance.


  1. What a courageous man -- and what an outrage that he fell between the health insurance cracks.

  2. Great picture; sad story that's all too common. Heroes are everywhere.