–Illustrator Garth Williams on Laura Ingalls Wilder
She understood the meaning of hardship and struggle, of joy and work, of shyness and bravery. She was never overcome by drabness or squalor. She never glamorized anything; yet she saw the loveliness in everything.
A pity there are no epitaphs for the vast majority of her fellow prairie settlers, to compare against. How poor history is for only being told by that and those which survived, which inherently favors that and those which had the best luck or chances.
Actually, I think one can probably find a lot of "we just up and died" epitaphs around the West. They're also in all those places with names like Bad Draw and Hard Luck and Jornada del Muerto ("Dead Man's Road," I think, captures the flavor if not the literal meaning of that one). They memorialize all those thousands for whom the meaning of hardship and struggle was the escaping of it.
You can also hear it in some of the old songs. All the way through this LIW discussion, I've been thinking of the opening lines of the old standard, "Wayfaring Stranger"
I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go
Of course, there's another sort of epitaph, that of the hard narcissists who found the meaning of life in dominating everyone and everything around them and who really made the place. You can find it in a line from another old song, which became the title of one of the best histories of the West: "It's your misfortune and none of my own."
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