Friday, January 09, 2009

A restricted life?

kw: musings, acquaintances

My high school years, the early 1960s, we lived in Sandusky, Ohio, one of the nicer small cities of the time. The man next door had a life story that I found fascinating. At the end of our street, just two blocks from our house, was a small tin shack similar to this railroad model. It really was quite close to the tracks. He said he was born there and grew up there.

On a visit to Sandusky a few years ago, I found that the tracks have been ripped out and the railroad right-of-way is now just a berm. The shack is gone. But the other houses are still there, though many have had updated siding and windows installed.

When our neighbor got into his teens, in the 1880s, he was an apprentice bricklayer and boarded with his master. Later, in business for himself, he prospered so that when he married, he was able to build a house. He married a little late, so it was shortly before the Great War, perhaps 1912.

This house, built in 1928, is similar to my memories of the old house he showed me, right across the street from the tin shack. He lived in the new house until the late 1950s, when his wife died. He said their honeymoon trip to Huron, Ohio, just ten miles East, was the only time he'd been outside Sandusky city limits. My dad offered to take him along on one of our drives, say to Cleveland or somewhere, but he really didn't care to.

After his wife died, to put some of the memories behind him, he bought a different house and sold the first one. The newer house was two blocks from the other one…it was the house next door to us. He was pushing 80 years old by 1965.

Sometimes I think about that. 80 years in a world no more than five miles across. Even today, you can cross the city on foot in about an hour and a half. He was a cheerful old gent, and didn't seem to care that there was a lot more world out there. Some people get a wandering craving, and some don't.

Abe Lincoln said, "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Our neighbor did the things he wanted. What more can you ask for?

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