Homeward Bound – From Germany Back To Ohio

In the morning we were in Holland, coming through quaint and picturesque villages and fields. At Vlissingen we took ship and crossed to Queensboro on the Thames. I remember that it was a happy ride across the channel; the water was like glass. I was to sail the next day on the Minnewaska. The last entry in my journal reads thus : “It was a hot night in London; it is cool this morning (7:30 o’clock). My train leaves for Tilbury Docks at nine. I fear I shall miss the train. Can there be any mistake as to the station from which it leaves? Oh, I am so happy and excited. I think I will call a taxi and get started ; the train may leave earlier than it is advertised.” What a happy thing it was to find at the railway station the Americans assembled ready to go to ship. We sailed. The Minnewaska was a good ship. Her passengers were more than ordinarily interesting and agree-able, but still did time drag as we plowed the great waves that sprang up to try unsuccessfully to hold us back.

The Minnewaska passed Cape Race. Up to that time I had been able to restrain my mind from dwelling on the fact that I was coming home. I did not dare think of it. Then, next day, we passed Nantucket lightship. Even yet I managed to think of other things, to talk with pretended interest of Patagonia. and Peru, of Macedonia, Madagascar and the other seaports that I had visited and pretended to enjoy. That night, however, all sleep fled from me. I lay hours in my upper berth; hearing good Scotch snores below nie and opposite me, saying to myself, “I will not think of home; I will not; I will think of the cost of wool in Iceland and the problem of liming the peat bogs near Ben Nevis.” Even these entrancing subjects did not bring slumber. A sudden inspiration came to Me; I slid silently off my perch, grabbed the covers and in my pajamas fled to the deck. The soft air of America was out there, coming from Long Island farms or New Jersey pine forests. I stood at the rail and looked at American stars and said over and over, “Thank God! Thank God ! ” Then I lay down on the soft white pine deck. “I don’t care whether I sleep or not; we will see the lights of America before day,” I cried to myself.

THE COMING OF THE PILOT

Then it was that sleep came—sleep happier and more restful than I had had for a long time. It was American air out there, American and enough of it. We were so near to America that I could almost swim ashore. I was awakened by another American of the cornbelt who was prowling around the decks in his bath robe. “Get up, Wing ; the pilot is coming aboard!” We leaned together over the rail; we saw the electric lights ashore, the great flashing lights of the lighthouses. The pilot boat was near by; the little dory rowing toward us over ‘ the long, glassy swell; we felt the warm, fragrant air of America. Heaven is no doubt a very good sort of place. America seemed good enough for me just then. “Is America all right?” we asked the pilot as he came clambering up the ladder over the ship’s sides. “America is always all right,” was his gruff but good-natured reply. The stars shone warm, bright and friendly. What good shore scents came off to us. Below horses neighed in their stalls, thinking, perhaps, they were once more nearing France. I lay down and slept again a little nap. There was no need for more anxiety; the American pilot was in the wheelhouse; no disaster could hap-pen now; all good events possible would happen in due course of time. When the stars paled we were near to the Jersey coast. How green the grass on the slopes, how beautiful the trees, how good the familiar architecture of the homes looked. Oh, what is the use? I cannot make you feel what I felt unless you will go first to Cape Horn, tarry a while in Patagonia, daily in Argentina and Uruguay and Brazil, live in London, Edinboro and Great Grimsby, exist in Paris, eat and sleep in Berlin, Dresden and Boppard—do all this continuously for nine weary months, then you will know whether you love America. Then ask yourself, as you see the statue of Liberty looming up before you, what you would ask to set your face in the opposite direction and go away from America rather than to land?

Just for the looks of things, though, and because critical Europeans who do not know us come along our railways in the East, I do wish that some one would buy up a lot of land along the Pennsylvania Railway in New Jersey and make farms there. Between New York and Philadelphia and Washington one sees so little of agriculture that one gets no hint of the meaning of the American continent.

How I luxuriated in an American sleeping car.

Early the next morning I was up; we were in eastern Ohio; the (hills were beautifully green with grass; the forests were rich and glorious; the corn-fields touched my heart. I had not known how tremendously true it is that I am an American; that all of these things, the bluegrass of the roadsides and the hills, the trees, the tall maize stalks, the orchard-surrounded country homes, were so much parts of me.

Corn in the shock! It startled me. “The summer is past, the harvest is ended and gone.” I had existed away from my friends this weary time. “Never again,” I declared. At the railway station my wife and two of my boys met me; the third was in college. A neighbor had lent his automobile. We drove a circuitous route home, just to be longer out in the glorious country of central Ohio. We crossed Darby Creek. We, saw cattle on the blue-grass, corn in the shock, green lawns rich with fall flowers and the wild things along the fence rows. It was borne in on me with increasing wonder, in all the world there is but one America, in all America there is nothing- quite like the cornbelt, and in all the cornbelt there is nothing quite like—there, I must not boast of the region that some of us chose in which to be born.

And yet my happiness of home-coming was not quite unalloyed. What a lot has been lost from my life. David had grown more than an inch since I saw him last, and little William had stretched appreciably. Think of all the days when, had I been home, I could have enjoyed the companionship of wife, boys and friends. What good neighbors I have. And now, as I write, I have been at home for three days (incredible as it seems), and have only wandered around as I did when a boy, wandered in the old orchards, marveling at the wealth of fruit, and in the fields at the tall, heavily-eared maize, and marveling also at the alfalfa, the great oaks and walnut trees of Woodland Farm, and the love and kindness showered on me from every hand. I guess it is worth the cost, being so long away and getting home again. I do not know.