The Long Journey

At age 10 my grandfather was a mule boy on the old Pennsylvania canal. At age 14 my father graduated from the eighth grade and went to work on a construction project, doing a man’s work. My son has spent his adult life in front of a computer screen designing new methods of doing things I don’t quite understand. My grandsons are just entering the workforce after university, and will face challenges and opportunities not yet visible. And so it goes. Did my grandfather enjoy walking a towpath leading a mule pulling a coal barge? Probably never gave it a thought. His world was what it was, and the mule was just part of it, like the rain and the snow. One generation’s present is always someone else’s good old days.

The towpath ran for many miles
The pace was walking slow
The barges, boys and loaded coal
Arrived in rain or snow
The railroad came and the canals
Had seen their better days
The engineering marvels now
Just peaceful waterways
And so it goes in the first world
The all inventive West
Where new succeeds the newly old
And good gives way to best
Lament you for what you have known
But know that what succeeds
Will startle and confuse you
And you’ll know not where it leads
But rest assured the journey from
The first made cast iron bars
To mules and towpaths and canals
Will take us to the stars

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