Thursday, April 24, 2008

Civil War Veteran Raises Questions for Old Lawyer

A cold wind blew up the valley from the Pacific some ten miles away as the washed up old lawyer wandered through the local cemetery. He looked down at the grave of John Steinbeck. It was a modest affair for an author of such importance and fame. His body lay in the Hamilton family plot. In death he was joined by his father, mother, sister and wife.

The old lawyer thought about all the books he had enjoyed years ago that Steinbeck had written. Then there were the movies that had come from those books. He could see Toro Mountain from where he stood. The valley below had been the setting for East of Eden. Both the book and the movie had been major events. Now Steinbeck lay there in near obscurity.

The old man walked on a few feet. He came across another family plot. The name McDougall was carved in granite. For some reason the oldest stone caught his eye. It was a small granite rectangle set into the ground. The stone read “Daniel Kirkwood McDougal - Born in Glasgow, Scotland 1838 – Died Salinas, California 1923 – Co A 2nd Mass Cavalry – Private - Civil War.”

Though the old man was tired and growing cold, he stopped and looked at the stone for longer than was necessary to absorb the meager information on the stone. The valley was full of graves of men and women who had come to settle this fertile place. Surely McDougall, this obscure Civil War private, was just one among many. But for some reason Private McDougall captured his imagination.

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