A Really Truly Story by Robert Duncan-Enzmann
This is a story about an Enzmann ancestor. It is extraordinary.
Stories and tales abound that convey the human condition in colorful, eloquent, or even fanciful terms. Hans Christian Anderson told us of wicked trolls and goblins who long, long ago constructed a Mirror. It was a magical Mirror that had the properties of changing every reflection into its opposite. Beautiful landscapes looked like kettles of boiled spinach. Lovely landscapes looked like piles of rotting corn. Evil, diseased hags and mean old men looked like beauty queens and handsome heroes speaking in pleasant voices.
The trolls looked at everything with Mirror. They even carried it up to look at the angels, on the way laughing so hard at the wickedness that would be seen that they dropped Mirror. It fell and shattered into many tiny pieces which the winds still blow all over the world.
These tiny, wind-blown shards of wicked dust get into people’s eyes – even into their ears. When that happens, the people see and hear as though the cruel Mirror were theirs. Yet, like a little boy captured by the Snow Queen in that tale, something very beautiful – perhaps a picture, sometimes a song, possibly even a story – can make any of us cry, or if we are grown up, perhaps our eyes just water a little and no one even notices. Many, many years ago, Covered Wagon Annie saw such a picture.
On the front page of Die Bleed, Sept 1, 1980, there was a beautiful image. Americans – middle Americans – practically never saw an Afrikaans publication, certainly never a picture, and such a picture it was. At that time, Annie was an old, old lady. She still had her eyesight. Helped with spectacles and a magnifying glass, she enjoyed the picture for much of an afternoon.
As she sat looking, Covered Wagon Annie was well of one hundred years old. In a bygone century, a littler Annie, with flaxen braids, in a long cotton wash dress and a sunbonnet – usually thrown back off her head – traveled with the last of the American Wagon Trains. The railroads had not yet reached everywhere.
Covered Wagon Annie looked at the picture and remembered the high plains of the Old West. In the spring, these hills, flats, and even mountainsides were painted with wave after wave of flowers. It would last only a few weeks. Old Covered Wagon Annie was sure that it must have been the same way on the hillsides and plains surrounding the area in the picture.
Old Annie, remembering the days when she had little girls, commented: “I tried to make them keep their dresses clean.” Then, smiling, added: “I remember my little granddaughters of so long ago. I just wanted them to play and be happy. I would buy them new dresses so their mommies would not notice, and then wash the old ones.” She continued wistfully: “Now I am happy just to see my great, great granddaughters once in a while – especially the little ones.”
Looking at the picture she felt she could almost pick up the children in it.
Covered Wagon Annie recounted times of danger, two of them, hundreds of miles from the Northward extensions of the Sonoran Desert. The scouts had signaled to Circle the Wagons! Once, they had actually been attacked; it was only a skirmish. Old Annie sighed gazing at the beautiful picture, thinking that there must be someone somewhere, a person of these high plains called the Veld, who remembered similar things.
Annie talked of the difficulties of farming American drylands in the old days. There were no cars, and it was a long way to town on a wagon. Money was scarce. Crops often failed. Education of children was done at home with a reader, a few books, Shakespeare, and slate and stylus. Very few middle Americans had cars in the bitter-dry days before the First World War. Annie said, “it was not like in the movies.”
The first Great War came and went, followed by even bitterer-dry years of the great depression. Covered Wagon Annie was then a grandmother and the farm was profitable, but not yet prosperous. The picture brought back memories and she wondered, “Do they (in the picture) remember the same dry years in that country they call the Veld? They must,” she continued, “it looks just like our place did, and just like our place, the flower season must have been short.”
When asked if she might have been happier staying in the prosperous East, never facing the hardships of the Great West, it was difficult to capture the manner and spirit with which she replied. Her squinty old eyes opened wide, blue as cornflowers, and she said: “There is something about the frontier. In my America we called it Liberty, we called it Freedom. So strong is this that the Mormon men, women, and children crossed the deserts with handcarts. It drew us into the Yukon. I have talked with Australians who understood. And yet, it was not the only way. Some found the same beauty just staying in a cottage in New England.” She glanced at the picture in her aged hands. “But in either case, this beautiful picture from far away says the same to all of us.”
Today, Covered Wagon Annie is gone, but her pioneering spirit is not. Now, Once Upon A Time To Be, Liberty and Freedom call humanity into a different frontier. Vast and endless, the call to explore space is answered by the same pioneers who explored and settled the harsh yet beautiful wildernesses of Earth. They line up waiting to go, willing to struggle, willing to face the unknown. The ultimate frontier of human exploration is space; seemingly endless, rich in wonder and resources, big enough for all.
And so I ask you, when the Starships are ready to take flight, eager to pierce the wondrous heavens, would you go?