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Editors note: This is the original Part IV: Remembering The Trail of the book


The heart that's never old! Oh the heart that's never old!--'Tis a vision of the lavender, the crimson and the gold Of an airy, fairy morning, when the sky is all ablaze With an ever-changing splendor, driving back the gloom and haze!

 
 'Tis the vision of an orchard in the balmy month of May, Where the birds are ever singing, and the leaves are ever gay; Where the sun is ever shining with a glory never told, And the trees are ever blooming--for the heart that's never old!
 
 --JAMES E. HILKEY.
 
 
 The summers and winters of fifty golden years have brought to the plains their balmy breezes and blazing heat, their soft, life-giving showers, and their fierce, blizzard anger. And down through these fifty years Eloise St. Vrain and I have walked the love trails of the plains together.
 
 In the early spring of this, our "golden-wedding" year, we sat on the veranda of our suburban home in Kansas City, above the picturesque Cliff Drive, rippling with automobiles. The same drive winds in its course somewhere near the old, rough road that once led from the Clarenden home, above the valley of the Kaw, down to the little city of great promise--now fulfilled.
 
 "Eloise, youth may have a charm that is all its own," I said to my wife, "but I wonder if it really matches the enduring charm of age when one looks back on busy years of service."
 
 Eloise smiled up at me--the same gracious smile that has lighted all my days with her.
 
 "You are a dreamer still, Gail. But dreams do so sweeten life and keep the fires of romance forever burning."
 
 "When did romance begin with you, Little Lees?" I asked.
 
 "I think it was on that day when I came bounding up to the door of the old San Miguel church," Eloise replied, "and saw you looking like a big, brown bob-cat, or something else, that might have slept in the Hondo 'Royo all your life. But withal a boy so loyal to the helpless that you were willing to fight for me against an assailant bigger than yourself. You became my prince in that hour, and all my dreams since then have been of you. When did romance begin with you, or have you forgotten in the busy years of a life swallowed up in mercantile pursuits?"
 
 "My life may have been, as you say, swallowed up in building trade that builds empire, but I have never forgotten the things that make it fine to me," I answered her. "Romance for me began one day, long ago, out on the parade-ground at Fort Leavenworth. I've been a Vanguard of the Plains since then, bull-whacker for the ox-teams that hauled the commerce of the West; cavalryman in hard-wearing Indian campaigns that defended the frontier; and merchant, giving measure for measure always, like that grand man who taught me the worth of business--Esmond Clarenden."
 
 "On the parade-ground? How there?" Eloise asked.
 
 "It came the day that I first knew we were to go with Uncle Esmond to Santa Fé--for you. We didn't know that it was for you then. I think I was born again that day into a daring plainsman, who had been a sort of baby-boy before. I sat with Mat and Beverly on the edge of the parade-ground, when I looked up to see, with a boy's day-dreaming eyes, somewhere this side of misty mountain peaks, a vision of a cloud of golden hair about a sweet child face, with dark eyes looking into mine. That vision stayed with me until, one morning, fifty years ago, on the rim of the Grand Cañon--you looked into my eyes again and I knew my life dream had come true."
 
 I rose and, bending over my wife's cloud of beautiful silvery hair, I kissed her gently on each fair cheek.
 
 "Gail, why not take the old trail for our golden-wedding anniversary--a long journey, clear to the mountains?" Eloise suggested.
 
 "There is no trail now; only its ghost haunting the way," I replied, "but, Little Lees, I don't believe that we who look back on so many happy years, after the stormy ones of early life, could find any other path half so dear to us as that long path we knew in childhood and early youth, and the one we followed together in our first years of mature womanhood and manhood."
 
 And so we did not celebrate one October day with all of our children and grandchildren and friends coming to offer us gold coins, gold-headed canes--which I do not use--and gold-rimmed glasses for eyes that see farther and clearer than my spectacled grandsons at the university can see to-day. We made a golden summer of the thing and followed where, like a will-o'-the-wisp of memory, the Santa Fé Trail of threescore years ago reached from the raw frontier at Independence on to the Missouri bluffs, clear to the sunny valley of the Holy Faith.
 
 Only a headstone at long intervals shows the way now--a stone that well might read:
 
 Here ran the old Santa Fé Trail. This stone, set here, is sacred to the memory of the Vanguards of the Plains who followed it.
 
 They stand, these "markers" now, on hilltops and in deep valleys; by country crossroads and where main streets cut each other in the towns and villages. They ornament the city parks, they show where splendid concrete bridges, re-enforced with structural steel, span streams that once the ox-teams doubled and trebled strength to ford. They gleam where corn grows tall and black on fertile prairies; where seas of wheat have flooded barren, burning plains, and perfumey alfalfa sweetens the air above what was once grassless desolation. They whisper of a day gone by among the silent mountains, where tunnels let the iron trail run easily under the old trail's dizzy path. They nestle in the shadows of gray-green cliffs and by red mesa heights; until the last monument, sacred to the memory of a day forgotten, speaks at the corner of the old Plaza in the heart of Santa Fé.
 
 That was a journey long to be remembered--the long, golden-wedding journey of Gail Clarenden with his wife, Eloise St. Vrain, and all of it was sweet with memories of other days. Not in peril and privation and uncertainty did we follow the trail now. The Pullman has replaced the Conestoga wagon, dainty viands the coarse food smoke-blackened over camp-fires, and never fear of Kiowa nor Comanche broke our slumber. The long shriek that cuts the air of dawn was not from wild marauders on a daybreak raid down lonely cañons, but from the throats of splendid, steel-wrought engines swinging forth upon their solid, certain course.
 
 The prairies still lap up to the edges of the little town of Burlingame, whose main street is still the old trail's path. The well has long since disappeared from the center of the place. Where once the thirsty gathered here to drink, there stands a monument sacred to the memory of the old trail days. And sacred, too, to the memory of the one far-visioned woman, Fannie Geiger Thompson, who first conceived the thought of marking for the coming generations the course of commerce that built up the West in years gone by.
 
 We never lived in Burlingame, where once--a heart-hungry little boy--I longed to have a home. But the Krane children and their children's children still make it an abiding-place for us.
 
 To Council Grove, and old Pawnee Rock, the Cimarron Crossing of the Arkansas River, the open plain about the site of old Fort Bent--where only ghosts of walls and the court remain, and on to Santa Fé, dreamy and picturesque--hoary with age, and sweet with sacred memories, we wandered on our golden-wedding trail.
 
 The name of Narveo in New Mexico still stands for gentleman. The old church of San Miguel still shelters troubled hearts, and in the San Christobal valley the Pictured Rocks still build up a rude stair for feet that still may need the sanctuary rim of safety set about them. Along the length of the old trail a marvelous fifty years have enriched a history whose epic days record the deeds of vanguards, who foreran and builded for the softer days of golden-wedding years.
 
 The last lap of all that wondrous journey bore us in ease and comfort beyond the desert--the Africa, of Aunty Boone's weird fancy--to the Grand Cañon of the Colorado. Here, as of old, the riven crust, in its eternal silence, and sublimity, and beauty indescribable, calmly, year by year, reveals its mighty purpose:
 
 To quarry the heart of earth, Till, in the rock's red rise, Its age and birth, through an awful girth Of strata, should show the wonder-worth Of patience to all eyes.
 
 Amid luxurious surroundings we lived the October days upon the cañon's rim, where, half a century ago, we had gone in hardship and looked on tragedy. We crept down all the dizzy lengths to the very heart of it, and ate and slept in easy comfort, and gazed upward at the sky-cleaving edges thousands of feet above us; we stood beside the raging Colorado River, which no man had explored when we first looked upon it here. In the serene hours of our sunset years we went back in memory over the long way our feet had come. Life is easy for us now, made so by all the splendid, simple forces of those who, in justice, honesty, and broad human sympathy build enduring empire. Not empire gained by bomb and liquid fire, defended by sharp entanglement and cross-trenched to shut out enemies; but empire builded on the commerce of the land, value for value; empire of bridged rivers, quick transportation on steel-marked trails that girdle harvest fields and fruitful pastures; empire of homes and schools and sacred shrines.
 
 Our fifty golden years have seen such empire rise and grow before our eyes, made great by thrift and business sense, swayed by the Golden Rule. An empire rich in love and sweet romance and thrilling deeds of courage and self-sacrifice. Glad am I to have been a vanguard of its trails upon the Kansas prairies and the far Western plains, sure now, as always down the years, that its old law is still a righteous one: To that which is good--
 
 "HOLD FAST."
 
 
 THE END