Fun fact: During the beginning of the Great Depression, my great uncle Jack took his family home to meet his parents for the first time. On a motorcycle with a sidecar, they traveled from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Bloomington, Kansas. Their dog accompanied them on the journey. It was a trip of 700+ miles on unpaved roads. Wife Zola and daughter Betty Lou met the in-laws and grandparents after a dusty, dirty journey. Can you imagine?
If Uncle Jack could be interviewed, here are some questions for him. What planning went into this trip? How did you plan what roads to take? When you stopped for the night, in what kind of places did you stay? What did you do when you ran into bad weather? What provisions were taken along? How did you convince Zola that this was an important trip to take? What unusual wildlife did you see along the way? How long were you on the road? How did it feel to be back in Kansas after all this time? What did Betty Lou enjoy the most about meeting her cousins and grandparents?
All in all, Uncle Jack lived quite a life. His jobs ranged from cowboy, roustabout on an oil field, hunter and fisherman, game preserve manager, Army wagoner during World War I, and designer for the Remington Arms company. He loved adventures and challenges. He never put down roots. He never had a permanent home. I wish I could have met him to get his real story…not just a fun fact.
What made them who they were? How did they see themselves? Were they complex personalities or simple folk?
He was a victim of religious persecution. He was an indentured servant. He dared to come with the family that held his contract. The voyage was long, and the ship on which he traveled was blown off course. He and his fellow passengers were not headed to the Virginia colony as planned. Instead, they landed offshore in Massachusetts. No form of civilization awaited them. They would begin anew. His identity…George Soule, one of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.
He was born in Massachusetts but had moved on to New Hampshire. His country was in crisis, and his ideas and beliefs would be considered treason to the Crown. Would he stand with his fellow patriots and sign an association test to proclaim his allegiance to a new idea of government? His identity…Joseph Story, patriot during the American Revolution.
He had previously enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of nineteen. He had served his country as he came from a family that willingly gave of that service. Then, his country needed him again at the age of 43. His country was divided by Civil War. His president asked for volunteers. He had a farm and a family that would be left behind. He had a talent for caring for horses as horses were paramount to the battles. His identity…Amos Howell Boultinghouse, 55th Illinois Infantry.
She was an orphan from a small Polish village. Her brother had immigrated to America. He invited her to join him. Could she travel to Italy to board a vessel headed to New York? With three other girls from her village, she made the weekslong trip. She had very little that she carried in her knapsack. She had $9 in her possession. She knew no English. She was an unskilled worker. Her brother met her at Ellis Island to escort her to Connecticut and a position as a domestic in strangers’ home. Her identity…Anna Mroz, a new American.
None of these left behind letters or diaries so future generations could discover their inner thoughts. They were simply souls longing to create new lives with new ideals. Their identity…they left legacies for their people.