Abraham Adams is not a famous person, likewise, no fruitful information Abraham Adams had the clearest blue eyes and the sharpest memory of any old man I'd ever known. Not that I'd known many, but Abe was an amazing man who'd lived an amazing life. He spent many winter afternoons sharing memories that life with me.
Abraham Adams was born in the first decade of the 1900s, in a large, rambling wood-frame house painted green sitting on a dusty street just outside the middle of a very small town. He was the last of seven siblings. It was a time before houses were wired for electricity, a time when outhouses were about to be replaced by water closets. Running water was imminent but for now there were pumps in the yard, or artesian wells, to fill the sinks and the washing tubs. The inhabitants got around on foot if they didn’t have a horse, a mule, or an ox. When Abe was growing up every boy had a dog, every house had a family of mousers, and most homes had a few chickens pecking at scraps and bugs in the yards. The more affluent chickens received a daily tossing of scratch from Tillman’s Feed Store.
In the small town people knew each other well, and could spot a stranger the moment he came into town from the south passage or off the river. That stranger's presence and business were known by everyone within a day's time, the news having traveled casually over neighborly fences, among customers coming and going in the commercial establishments, and for some, a first-hand look at the newcomer.
The cobble stoned main road leading into town from the north before it veered off to the west was surrounded by a small grid of similarly improved streets. Just recently the town had added to its fold a few more blocks, but they mostly consisted of hard-packed brown dirt. Civilization extended a few miles outside of town, but it was sparse and grew sparser still the farther it wandered from the river bluffs. Vast acreage of agriculture surrounded the city, where planters from sharecroppers to gentleman farmers put cotton and corn into the ground, lumberjacks toppled the hardwood and pine. There were cow farms for meat and dairy, and pig farms and chicken farms. Trails from this petering road led to other cities, and with a few judicial turns, could take a traveler seventy miles to the biggest city in the area. The trip, when it was necessary, was more often than not taken by train.
The crossroad nearest the river, and the road that ran alongside the river, was as far as the main street went. Where it butted the river road it offered only access roads down the sides of the...