How strange to now realize that the end of World War II and my early boyhood years were both an exit and and entrance in American history. As a nation, we were just then losing our fingertip clasp with America's pioneer past and its slow-to-change lifestyle, like young men on a troop train losing their grasp on the hand of a loved one as the train pulled away from the station, bound for some dangerous and faraway unknown. In the Indiana farm village of Linnsburg when I was but four years old, America's journey from its nineteenth century outlook into the hard-earned modern world was almost complete.
The past was fading, but really not that far behind us. My own father, after all, was 14 years old at the death of the statesman and millionaire businessman, Robert Lincoln, the last living witness of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, who also happened to be the elder son of President Abraham Lincoln. The past was not so far removed, even from me. As a small boy, I could still catch glimpses of the long road behind us, while the future was slowly at first, and then with increasing rapidity, coming into view.
The road in front of our house in Linnsburg was cement paved, and automobiles traveled on its surface. Local farmers all had tractors instead of mules. Yet, standing at the entrance of Mr. VanCleave's blacksmith shop, where two or three old-timers sat perched on a sagging buggy seat just inside the doorway, my brother and I were actually staring wide-eyed at a living tableau of rural America 100 years before our time. We had no way of knowing that our generation would be the last tenuous, breathing link to an epic of our country, fading now, like the final flashing glimmer of a summer day in our early boyhood. Traditions within families linger, of course, and shadows of that bygone day can still be found in rural America. In not many years, though, the living memory will fade, and then stories like this will be all that remain of that time in America.