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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001
Here's what I'll do when they invent the first working practical time machine and sell one day trips for less than a grand (you thnk this is far fetched? tell it to the guys going up on the space shuttle).

I'm going to buy a day in 1941, probably in the summer so that the weather will be nice. Let's assume I can fly to upstate New York and jump in the time machine there, first thing in the morning. Like 4 am first thing.

I'll walk into a barn, just off a country road near the town of Clarence. Inside, under a weak glow of a 40 watt bulb handing from a rafter, there will be a 19 year old guy milking a cow. A whole row of cows, in fact. If I'm quiet and stay hidden, I could watch him pluck eggs out from underneath the chickens, feed the cows, clean the stalls and probably sneak a smoke out back before walking into the house.

There, a sweet faced woman with the bonnet of the Mennonite faith on her graying hair, and obviously his mother, will serve him a breakfast of eggs, thick sliced bacon and whole milk, which she pasteurized herself. No sign of the father yet, as he is probably on the other side of the farm tending to tractor repairs that the son is also capable of doing.

It might be a day for haying, gathering up the straw cut yesterday and strewn out in the fields behind the house. The son won't be around to help, as he has just signed on for a job working with an engine builder in the nearby city of Buffalo. The parents are noticeably uneasy about this, generations of their family have worked the land and banded with neighbors on Sundays for church service. I believe I could probably call on them while the son was at work and talk about it, assuming I'd worn a plain dark work suit similar to the fathers. If I showed no signs of a camera, or other 1940's style technology which hadn't been approved by the church. I'd excuse myself before the son arrived home from work in the family's only car, a black Ford Model A. The father will never buy a car in his life which is not black, plain, as the clothes he wears.

Having had a full day of work, the son will sit for dinner with a days worth of tales from the factory. There will be, of course, no one to tell it to. There is a noticable lack of talk about it. The son is leaving, little by little, and the farm is leaving with him. A way of life is dying, and the father can do little to stop it. And the mother leans on her kitchen counter, fanning herself with an apron, and watches the day slow down. There is a ticking of a grandfather clock in the corner. The father smokes a pipe and sits, planning his next day without aid of computer or telephone, without television or newspaper. The son sits for a while too, respectful if not totally in agreement with the man. He then rises, and goes outside to stand by the silent road, without cars, for it is dark now and there is little need to travel in a town where nothing is open, and all are at home and readying for bed.

I might think of approaching him for a minute or two. I have a little time. I might ask my Dad what he thinks about his life right now, here in 1941. We could stand, and grab a stalk of tall grass to chew on, kicking at the cobbles on the road to see the pebbles dart away. Talk about baseball, or the fellows down at the plant and he might grow a bit more animated than usual. He might like having someone to talk to about his interests and this life he has. I might even coax him into describing the girl he's been thinking of who lives 30 miles away, and without a phone, he can't talk to very often.

I don't think it would be fair to tell him that a terrible interruption was coming his way in December. That world events were shaping up to ever alter a future that he himself had painfully tried to change, in a small way. Dad, could I tell you that the Depression which you were climbing out of, that the family had weathered because of the farm and the food that it provided you as a boy, the only child of a Depression, was about to end? That the girl in the next county would soon enough be your bride, but only after a call from your country had nearly killed you?

Better let it be, it is peaceful here out on the road. The 19 year old boy grins a little shamefully and confesses he'd like a smoke, that the mother doesn't allow it in the house at his age. We stand, with a warm summer sun already leaving us and look at the clapboard house, the dark expanse of barn set close to the road so that the tractor can get right out onto the pavement without getting bogged in mud. I don't really have much to say, for all I'd like to, and he is a quiet fella to begin with, but we are steeped in each other's company. In another time, I might ask him to the watering hole for a beer but it seems so inappropriate here.

That's what I'd like to do with my time travel trip. Leave the famous and the earth shattering days for someone else. I'd just like to go see my Dad for awhile, in the days before he had to become a man.

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