H.D. MILLER: The Abernathy Boys Go for a Ride.

The point, however, is that, before World War I, children did things that we don’t think of as childish, which is how it had always been. Children have always been much more capable than we currently give them credit for being, for better (the Abernathys) or worse (like poor Shorpy). Yes, children should be children, free to do childish things, but they also need to be challenged and given progressive responsibility as they grow older. Our failure to understand this is one of sadder things about our current world.

The second sad thing, of course, is the closing of possibility. 1910 America was a wild and wide-open place. It was exciting, loud, grubby, glittering, frequently coarse and surprisingly refined, all at the same time. There were righteous causes to champion, and great injustices to fight. But, above all else, you could do things. It wasn’t exactly a frontier, anymore, but close enough for a pair of boys to mount their ponies and ride across. And that’s the biggest change of all, so many possibilities are gone, so much has been foreclosed to us and our children.

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