Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 28

The records harden later, retiaing [retaining] the lines as a phonogram. Cares and occupations of succeeding years are super-added, filling the depressions like layers of dust on an etching, but remove the dust and the lines on the old petrified record appear and the old music will come forth again - the intervening cares forgotten and the sequence is but the repetition of the harmonies of the beginning. 

          Early friendships need not be deep in order to make our looking backward a source of interest, although the interest increases with the number of points of contact. There is a human brotherhood which pervades even those loosely drawn associations of youthful acquaintances which makes them closer than twin brothers when an accidental meeting brings them together in the afternoon of life’s day.

          However, looking backward is not the exclusive privilege of old age, nor is its pleasure confined to old age, but we can say when it loses its power of interest and pleasure we are certainly growing old. For illustration, let me relate an instance or two:

          In the winter of 1864-5 we had our spelling schools and wrestling contests between the different districts in Howard Township. One night a party of us boys, consisting of our best spellers and our best athletes, filled a big sleigh and drove about five miles to brave the champions of another school on their own ground. We gave a good account of ourselves and flushed with at least a partial victory, we started home in high spirits. 

          We cheered at every house we passed, and hurrahed for everybody. One house was that of Mr. Colin Thomas, and it happened that a boy had been born to the family just a day or two before. We gave a double cheer for the latest arrival and wished him long life and happiness. Forty-five years later (1910) I was a passenger on a train from Denver to Kansas City. Occupying a berth across the aisle of the Pullman from me was a man of middle age who smiled and remarked favorably on the warmth of the car as we came in from the raw cold evening air and began to remove our top coats. This opened a conversation which lasted until bedtime. The following morning we breakfasted together in the dining car, and it was only then that we exchanged names and addresses. Then I found that he was the identical baby whose entrance into the world we had boisterously hailed on that winter night in far-off Michigan! Needless to say we were quite chummy during the rest of the trip. It was our first and last meeting, and we felt reminiscent but not old. We were living our youth over again.

          At present only a few of all those whom I knew in my early days are in life, and when I hear a word recalling old times I look around to find someone whom it would also interest, and finding none I then feel old. Then too, I like to do some thinking while I am “settin’ around,” for I believe there is no loneliness like that of the man who has nothing to do and nothing to think about. Then let me reminisce, and be happy.

          Some time ago in my leisure moments I wrote my recollections of the village of Niles and its surroundings in the State of Michigan, and gave some copies to friends, who, I thought, would be pleased to know how the place appeared in the days of their fathers. I received

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