Mr. Tridden, the town trolley conductor, lets all the kids ride on the trolley for free because it is the final ride. He explains that a bus is going to replace the trolley. Douglas is upset because he feels that a bus will not be the same as a trolley. No bus could have the sounds and sights of the trolley that he treasures. Mr. Tridden takes them for a picnic and then brings them back to town. Douglas and Charlie leave the trolley reluctantly and as Charlie bemoans the fact that the bus will make it impossible to be late to school, Douglas thinks that he will never forget the sound and sight of the tracks. They agree to play kick-the-can later that night.
John Huff is a hero to Douglas. He is the fastest runner of all the boys, the best baseball player, and the best at everything athletic. Beyond all that, he is the most knowledgeable about nature and a nice kid. So when he tells Douglas that he is leaving that night for Milwaukee, it comes as quite a shock. Douglas is worried about losing his friend, and they sit down to talk. John is worried that he will not be able to remember anything. He points out to Douglas how even in town he cannot really remember what things look like even though he walks by them every day. Douglas tells him that he is wrong, that he will remember what he wants to remember, but then John asks him what color his eyes are, and Douglas does not know.
Douglas and John sit for much of the afternoon, just enjoying each other's company. Then they race home with the other boys and after supper they play one last game. Douglas tries to get John to stay, but he has to leave, and so he runs off to get on the train. Douglas is angry and as he gets to his house he yells to John, who is already too far away, that they are no longer friends.
In their bedroom, Douglas makes Tom promise that he will not go away. Tom asks if that means he can go on hikes into the wilderness with Douglas and the other guys. That is fine with Douglas, but what he is really worried about is Tom leaving. Tom tells him that he will stay, and he is surprised that Douglas would doubt him. Douglas says that it is not really Tom that worries him as much as the way God runs things. Tom thinks for a minute and tells Douglas not to be angry with God, because he tries.
The end of Mr. Tridden and the trolley shows that even for a kid like Douglas, change is impossible to avoid. Things move on in life, and you are forced to move with them. Douglas is already nostalgic for the trolley and imagines that he will always remember it, even when the bus runs over the same ground. Often change is viewed as something easier for younger people and more difficult to older people, yet it may be that all that matters is how important the change is to each person. To Douglas, the trolley means something. It is as important to him as the lawn mower is to grandpa. Yet while grandpa is able to delay the new grass, Douglas can only to his best to keep the trolley in his mind forever. When he and Charlie agree to play kick-the-can later that night it is satisfying to both of them to know that they still have some things they can count on.
When John tells Douglas that he is moving, he proves that it is not always so easy to remember everything. In that conversation the boys learn how contextual everything is in our lives and how much we take for granted every day. John points out that you can live in a town and walk through it your whole life and then one day notice something for the first time. Then he points out that even those things that are of personal importance become blurred in your mind if you do not see them all the time. John is afraid that he will not be able to remember any of the things that matter to him, and Douglas gradually begins to share his fear.
Douglas has to let John leave, but it is hard for him, and he ends up getting angry with his friend, even though he knows that John cannot be blamed for leaving. A bus coming to replace the trolley was a major blow to Douglas, but he was able to make do because he knew there were certain things he could rely upon, such as playing after supper with his friends. Now it turns out that even his friends will not always be there, and Douglas feels that he cannot count on things remaining the same. This is painful for him, because he has no control over any of the changes that occur. Douglas learns that sometimes we accept things that we do not like because we have no choice, but he is not happy about this fact. So he asks his brother to promise him that he will not leave him. Tom assures Douglas that he will always be around and wonders why it was necessary to ask. Douglas then points out that it is really God whom he is questioning. He understands that events will occur that he has no control over, but Douglas is troubled by the fact that those events seem to bring him only sorrow. Tom, with the wisdom of a ten year old, points out that God is doing his best, reminding Douglas that sometimes there is nowhere to fix the blame and one must simply move on.