We were far from his home and mine when we strolled the asphalt parkway along the Mississippi River northwest of the Twin Cities. Born at Lake Itasca, the River was still and in its adolescent stage. When it takes on the big boys, like the St. Crois, locks are needed to keep it and its gang in check.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, will be 200 in 2009. At 6' 4" and 180 pounds in his early life, he looked like a pencil in a big hat. He has improved with age, is better looking, better fed, still chivalrous. A gentleman. Gentle man.
Never have I walked so with living history. The only sound the scuff of our shoes. Even the trees were silent, listening, eager to know. I had to ask, "So, Abe, tell me something about your childhood."
Anguished, he replied, "My mother died from milk disease when I was nine. The cows ate a weed that was poisonous and passed it through their milk. Others died too. I stood at her cold grave crying; I couldn't leave her there." We walked a spell in silence, mulling his predicament.
The River is outlined by woods on either side. Excited I asked, "Abe, could you help me build a raft? I could surprise JB. Can I get to Louisiana in a week?"
Recollecting his river memories, he frowned, "I think it's too many twist and turns for a week's journey." A foolish hope. A brief imagining of a long pole, a sack lunch, and adventure dissipated.
Eager to extract all I could from his memory bank, I proceeded, "Tell me something funny from back then."
In a grownup, tired voice he replied, "Well, I was walking down a dusty road one hot August day on my way to a trial, when a fellow driving a buggy happened along. I sure needed to get off my feet. I waved."
"Need a lift?" he asked with a smile.
"Could you take my coat to the next town, Sir?" I asked politely.
He took his hat off and scratched his head, "Yes, but how would you get it?"
"Why, I intend to be in it."
The walk ended too soon. But I must tell you, I met his wife. She is beautiful, kind, capable, accomplished, mentally sound. And the children are fine.
Lee Williams is an offical Abraham Lincoln presenter. The first time I saw him I noticed the natural resemblance. He speaks at schools and reenactments, and has presented in Dubai. You can contact him at abelincoln.org
2008 Red Convertible Travel Series