Not forgotten in thought

Written By: John  Roarty

As a youth, I was always fascinated in great detail with the civil war and the time period of the late 1800’s. Influences fostered perhaps of the film, Gone With the Wind and the television series, Little House on the Prairie. Life was simpler then, but not devoid of it’s turmoil. I was 10 years old in 1973 and am now 51. But as a very young child and even now, I am aware and observant of great details in even in minor everyday objects. What makes things the way they are? How and why were they are manufactured a certain way by either God or man? Questions I’d ask myself then and continue to ask myself now about objects in this world, both animate and inanimate. While researching the civil war archives related to Long Island, I never realized how many men from the area were active in civil war duties. Many were called to volunteer for it. One was the 11th Cavalry Regiment. Which consisted of men from various towns in New York state and some from New Jersey. While going thorough the archives, my eyes took in so much information and the photographs were very sobering. My eyes stopped on a photograph of young Corporal Robert L. Kane of the 11th Calvary, Company D. There was very little information about him, other than his name, rank and his photograph. Not even his fate was mentioned. I thought of this man. I wondered what type of life this Mr. Kane might have had. And if forgotten, how might I memorialize him in my thoughts. Was he married or a single? Perhaps he was a farmer. If so, I’m sure he must have been frightened and overwhelmed with the war surging in the southern states and this man named Colonel James B. Swain seeking volunteers for the cause. If he were a farmer, I thought of what life must have been like in Southampton and the surrounding territory at that time. Pure, clean, sparsely populated. Simple sprawling farms, it’s beautiful shorelines, pine barons mingled with scrub oak, thick and dominating. In thought, I placed myself there in that time period, as if overseeing him invisibly. As a writer, one paints with words and details as a fine artist does with oils or other mediums. I thought of what it would be like to work a long day in the fields surrounded by a panoramic view of the farm acreage all about. The warmth of spring sunlight beating overhead. A scene outwardly beautiful, but one observing would never notice the inner turmoil within the heart of this man. Perhaps he would be thinking what I would be thinking if I were in his place: “How can one try to understand this man made world system? All I wanted was to have a simple life as a farmer. To raise a family perhaps, or find the companionship of a good and trustworthy comrade to tend to the homestead with. To follow in my father’s footsteps, growing potatoes and corn.” I think about the worry he must have for the farm and a war starting right at the season of sowing the crops. How would it survive without it’s master to care for it? The altering of a young man’s life by others in power over him in society and government both. I imagine him standing up and allowing the soil to fall from his hand. His frame, large and bulky, that of a strong farmer in his mid 20’s. His well worn trousers dusted and faded but neatly held in place by his suspenders. His union suit shirt portion, wet with sweat and dry soil. A tear at the sleeve. “What will my future hold? What will I encounter I encounter in a strange land once I’m enlisted as a union soldier in the infantry? For I am a peace loving man. A man of earth and nature.” While speaking softly to himself, I see him scoop up a handful of tilled earth in his large calloused hand. His team of strong oxen, yoked with steel plow, standing still and paused, waiting for his command. He whispers to God ever softly in the private moment. His thick mustache and woolen beard move gently as he murmurs, spouting the inner thoughts of his strained mind and troubled heart. “For this is where the life is.” He looks upon the clumpy soil piled in his cupped palm, some soil falling in slow motion through thick calloused fingers to his large dusty boots below. “For this is the beginning of nourishment for man and beast alike. The sandy, clay of Long Island where I was born and raised. My home for so long. Now I am to be uprooted, just before the planting season. I don’t understand your timing and I never will Lord. I hope to return, for I love this place of peace.” Although this man is unknown to me. I am honored that I can remember him in the manner that I have written. And if a war can bring about freedom born from great sacrifice, then I am glad that Mr. Robert L. Kane is not forgotten in thought, so many years later.