My Legacy

The excerpt below is from my book, “Tracing the Arc, Two Men Who Helped Build Montana”. The writers group has been discussing the subject of legacy, so the following is my contribution to that subject.


            Each of us carries in our DNA genetic markers that are similar to barcodes on articles of commerce. Generation after generation, the genes that make up our DNA are passed along from our forebears. So who were these old men and old women? Especially those a couple of generations back. They looked so stern in the tintype photography of the day. The shutter had to be open so long no one could hold a smile. For those related by blood, if you could go back in time and meet these relatives whose genes you carry you might get some insight into how you relate to the world around you, why you have certain likes and dislikes, what drives you to do one thing and not another, and why God-given talent emerges in one heir and not another. So let’s meet two of them based on what we know and extend by speculation what we don’t know for sure. They had many of the challenges that we have growing up, of school, of girlfriends and boyfriends, finding first jobs and leaving home, coping with varying economic circumstances, and marrying and having children, but certainly with moral and ethical challenges along the way. Environment plays a part in the process, yet unseen are the genetic influences.

This is a story about two men, Starratt John Burgess and Louis Thomas Gainor, who heeded the call that said, “Go west, young man.” Neither of them could have imagined where fate would lead them. They built the West, not as stereotypical gunfighters or cowboys, or mountain men, but as solid, reliable citizens who did it the old-fashioned way. They filled the needs of the people migrating west by providing the basic necessities of milk and meat. They married, and I have attempted to bring their wives into the story to the extent there was surviving credible information. Of this I am certain: They did what they did with the support of strong mates at a time when women were just beginning to assert their individuality.

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