In general, the assumption of all of us, child or adult, was that this was a new country and that a new country had no history. History was something that applied to other places. It would not have seemed reasonable to any of the town’s founders to consider any of their activities history, or to look back very far in search of what had preceded them. Time reached back only a few years, to the pre-homestead period of the big cattle ranches.
The very richness of that past as I discover it now makes me irritable to have been cheated of it then. I wish I could have known it early, that it could have come to me with the smell of life about it instead of the smell of books....
I have sat many times all alone just inside the edge of one of the aspen coulees that tongued down from the North Bench, and heard the soft puffs of summer wind rattle the leaves, and felt how sun and shadow scattered and returned like disturbed sage-hen chicks; and in some way of ignorance and innocence and pure perception I have bent my entire consciousness upon white anemones among the white aspen boles. They were rare and beautiful to me, and they grew only there in the dapple of the woods—flowers whose name I did not know and could not possibly have found out and would not have asked, because I thought that only I knew about them and I wanted no one else to know.
One who has lived the dream, the temporary fulfillment, and the disappointment has had the full course. He may lack a thousand things that the rest of the world takes for granted, and because his experience is belated he may feel like an anachronism all his life. But he will know one thing about what it means to be an American, because he has known the raw continent, and not as tourist but as denizen. Some of the beauty, the innocence, and the callousness must stick to him, and some of the regret.