no good. Parents then generally left the school discipline to the teachers, and with very few exceptions the plan worked well. If we got into mischief we took the consequences if we could not justify ourselves, and as we were all not George Washingtons we might tell a fib once in a while if it were not too big and better ourselves without the physical corrective. Talebearers were not common, so things usually smoothed themselves over.
We were patriots also. The Fourth of July always found us ready with flags, firecrackers, toy cannons to show our American spirit, but I guess it was rather to have a good time at some of the lakes fishing and swimming and making up some picnic party. The more serious part of the program was left to older heads, and there was no lack of zeal among them in making the whole affair a success as planned. It all did not mean very much to us youngsters, nor to the older ones either in many cases, for with all our guns and flags and warlike speeches that memorialized Bunker Hill and Valley Forge and Yorktown, etc., there was not much enthusiasm over Bull Run and Pittsburg Landing, and even Gettysburg was not understood yet. Lincoln’s speech on that famous battlefield was looked upon as a miserable failure, England found out and told us that it was a classic that would live and ring true after other tributes would be forgotten. That erudite and elegant Edward Everett spoke for an hour before Lincoln rose on that sultry day, but who remembers now what Everett said, or who seems to care.
Lincoln was not a popular hero in those days, and it was the desire of the politicians for a continuance of power that made them coin the slogan that helped so effectively in his re-election: “We should not swap horses while crossing a stream.” If McClellan had been elected in 1864 it is possible that the war would have been settled by compromise. Both sides were tired of the conflict, and when the draft was ordered there was a great rush of citizens of both parties to prove themselves beyond the limit of forty-five years of age. They tried also to conjure up all sorts of ailments which no one ever knew they had then or before. Less than a week after the death of Lincoln I was on the road with our family to the West, and the West then was almost beyond the limits of civilization; certainly beyond the centers of politics, and the old order of things passed without my knowing much about the changes that ushered in and gradually gave form to new modes, new customs and new standards.
My boyhood days were over; the last of them (1864) saw me doing the work of a man on the farm like most of those growing up about me. Such was the past. What would the future be? There had been nothing to single me out as different from the general run of boys. I may have been a little more studious in school; I never led in sports; I was not quarrelsome; I never cared for sweethearts or their games of play, and I took a good deal of bossing from my older brothers and did many chores for them because there was not one younger than I to pass them down to for execution. Now if there was anything to indicate a vocation to any particular state
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