While in Santa Claus, Indiana, to cool off at Holiday World, the Tyree family took a side trip to tour the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in nearby Lincoln City.
“But I thought Abraham Lincoln was from Kentucky!” a co-worker objected.
True, Honest Abe was born near Hodgenville in the Bluegrass State on Feb. 12, 1809, and he would make a name for himself as a storekeeper, lawyer and politician in Illinois, before settling in Washington, D.C. as chief executive. But from 1816 to 1830, the Thomas Lincoln family lived in a pioneer community in Indiana.
This is billed as the 16th president’s “formative years.” Alas, I am still in my formative years – forming ear hairs, forming superfluous chins… and emancipating my tummy every night when I arrive home from work. But I digress.
Coincidentally enough, the Tyrees wound up making this excursion via a traditional presidential thought process. (“What do YOU want to do next?” “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do next?” “I don’t know. Let’s flip a coin. Ooooo…Luxembourg, you’re back on the Least Favored Nation list. And your ambassador has to cluck like a chicken!”)
It was well worth walking the scenic trails to see the working farm, the site where the Lincoln cabin once stood and historical rocks imported to represent major milestones in Lincoln’s career. Sadly, some people are so sedentary, their only connection with the ol’ rail-splitter is to grumble, “I’m driving this Lincoln around and around the parking lot until I find a space five feet closer to the donut shop!”
It was a somber feeling seeing the grave of Lincoln’s birth mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. If you listened quietly, you could hear other tourists speaking to the long-deceased matriarch, whispering sentiments such as “Thank you for giving Abraham a solid foundation in life,” “Thank you for inspiring a revered leader who saved the Union,” “Thank you for voting absentee last year…”
Because of a scheduled lunchtime shutdown, we had to hurry through the majestic visitor center, with its two memorial halls. We were nonetheless inspired by the numerous artifacts and Lincoln quotes, including those from his politically naïve period. (“West wing? What part of a chicken is the west wing?”)
There is something soul-satisfying about going to a site such as this and “stepping back in time.” Luckily, the stepping back in time is metaphorical, not literal, or the “butterfly effect” might occur. You know, a time traveler uproots one of the Lincoln family’s tobacco plants for a souvenir and instead of becoming president, Abe becomes a failed social media influencer. (“You’re canceling my gig because you got another fourscore and seven unsold stovepipe hats returned by merchants? I wish Gen. Sherman would make a march to the factory of that joker selling newfangled SOLAR hats!”)
It’s not a “bucket list” project, but I should point out that I have also visited Mount Vernon, Monticello, the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s hang-out) and the James K. Polk home in Columbia, Tennessee.
I encourage you to show your patriotism by learning more about our former leaders’ roots as well.
Remember: presidential homes/memorials are best if the plaques and tours are balanced, showing warts and all. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…oh no! The Secret Service just tackled Blair, Natalie, Jo and Tootie!
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”