Havre, Montana, population 9621. An oft-photographed sign near the station explains that the city was named after two men had a fight over a woman, one lost, and said to the other, "You can have-'er." Talk about 'er jokes.

Havre is another service stop. The squat rectangular brick station feels 1970ish in decor, and is mixed-use between Amtrak and the host railroad. In a contrast of fortunes of freight and passenger rail, the host railroad has a large banner with its new logo, but Amtrak has a small sign with the old pointless-arrow logo that has already been phased out. Only this one passenger train passes by per day in each direction, so the ticket counter is small and the train status board is a cardboard sign. A far cry from the bustling passenger railroads of Chicago or the Northeast.

Havre is only about thirty miles from the Canadian border. A pair of Border Patrol agents approaches me and asks if I am a US citizen. "Yes, I am." That seems to satisfy them. But answer "No" and you'll have to show all your immigration documents. And if there's anything wrong with those documents, or even if there's nothing wrong and the agents misunderstand, then off to jail you go [Terror on the Inner Border, The Nation, September 8, 2005]. Evidently, there's no better place to spend our taxes than catching illegal immigrants on a train between Chicago and Seattle.

Reflecting the red-state/blue-state divide (or perhaps just a coincidence), two sixtyish women, both Caucasian, witness this incident. One from Washington state feels compelled to chime in and soothe my feelings. She explains that, from observations on her previous trips, it appears the Border Patrol agents really do select people more or less at random. While discussing this point, a woman from North Dakota opines, "Do we look like we're not citizens?" The red-state woman seems to be correct. I was the only person questioned among the group.