By William Towner Morgan
Booklet via Morgan, William Towner
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Additional resources for Salt Lantern: Traces of an American Family (American Land & Life)
Stannard (Stan), twenty-one; Mary Courtenay (Court), nineteen; George Alan (Alan), seventeen; and Loran Brown (Bud), fourteen. I was born in the middle downstairs bedroom, my mother's bedroom and private retreat. Our hand-wound, floor-model 1913 Edison phonograph once stood in that room. " When I think of that room I can smell the machine oil from the inside of the Edison. My earliest memory is from my creeping stage. When I was eight months old, I struck my head very hard against the sharp end of one of the feet of our large oak rocker.
I remember anticipating the scary thrill of falling through space. This kind of sibling bonding was extremely rare after my sister and brothers left home, but Grandfather Brown and I were inseparable friends. While tree frogs sang in the giant elms and cottonwoods that he had planted before the turn of the century, Grandfather and I passed long summer afternoons on the lawn that separated his house and mine. When the noon sun forced us indoors, we retreated to the squeaky swing on the screened porch, where Grandfather promised to take me "up north" on a horse-pulled lumber wagon.
It more pertinently speaks to all of us, describing a search we long to make, an effort to locate ourselves in the landscapes of this actual world. Unlike most of us, Morgan had the will to begin and the grit to finish. He consequently gives to all of us a metaphor for how we also fit in, how we, too, belong to the surfaces of this extraordinary planet. As it is lighted in the prose of his fine memoir, the lantern that has served as a peculiar icon of his family's journey illuminates the world at large.