The five short stories that follow are based on the lives of the author's father and maternal grandfather. Most of the events in these stories really did happen according to family lore or as observed by the author himself.
However, the circumstances surrounding these events are created by the author to reflect the principles by which these men lived their lives. Their determination and ambition, their love of family, and their sense of duty and honor were not only reflected in their lives but were the bedrock of the American culture at the turn of the twentieth century.
Both men grew up on homesteads on the Great Plains…Skillman in west Texas and Hartmann in western Kansas. Skillman was a young cowboy and participated in the last cattle drives to Montana but circumstances took him back to his birthplace in Ohio. There he enlisted in the army to fight in the Spanish/American war. Hartmann ran away from home at about the age of eleven. He finished elementary school but opted for a tool-making apprenticeship instead of high school. However, his mentor died before he awarded Hartmann his papers. The widow gave the boy her husband's tool kit, so Harold moved east to Memphis and hired out as a tool maker.
Eventually, Hartmann migrated to Dayton, Ohio, where he rented a room in a boarding house owned by Skillman. Both men started their own businesses. Skillman began a foundry, and Hartmann built a manufacturing company. Their stories are the quintessential story of twentieth-century America.