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fl fl fl TheLifeandTimesofIkeGarrison Because he was the kind of guy born to believe in larger purposes, Ike decided, in 1894, to put Republic, Missouri, behind him. He meant to seek his fortune out in Grover Cleveland’s America—which wasn’t at all a bad idea, apart from how it worked out. We have to consider the times. In the last ten years of the nineteenth century, it was new notions the country went wild over, not the fate of poor country boys. In 1894, the debuts of Cracker Jacks and Shredded Wheat drew more attention than the campaign of Jacob Coxey, who threatened to storm the nation’s capital with one hundred thousand unemployed men, but showed up with only five hundred, and got arrested for walking on the grass. The spring of 1894 hit with record-temperature lows and highs. By night, flowerbeds froze. By day, the parlor windows of the well-to-do flew open, emitting player-piano versions of two new hits, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “Sidewalks of New York.” It all made a person aspire to own a parlor with a mail-order horsehair sofa, Persian rug, polished oak rocking chair, and sideboard. Anyhow, one day, Ike is boarding a train, checking his baggage claims, and guiding his new wife by the elbow to a seat. They stow a large picnic basket. They sit down. Maybe Ike is whistling one of the year’s shorter-lived tunes—“And Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back,” or “O That Gorgonzola Cheese”—but certainly he has plans. At that moment, Grover Cleveland was living proof of just how fast a man could improve his condition in this country. Three years after getting elected mayor of Buffalo, he found himself in the White House, where he promptly married a woman twenty-eight years his junior and begat Baby Ruth, of candy-bar fame. A lawyer with jowls and a walrus mustache, the president weighed 250 pounds, and snored, and suffered from gout. A century later, what we recall is Cleveland’s indifference to popular discontent. He called up federal troops to suppress the Pullman Life and Times of Ike Garrison 31 strikers, after all, and left seven dead. But Cleveland was one tough bird, as well as a public servant devoted enough—when he noticed a rough place on the roof of his mouth, on the cigar-chewing side—to have half his jaw cut away in secret aboard the presidential yacht, so as not to panic the country during the economic jitters of 1893. And now it was 1894. A thought balloon drawn above the nation this spring would include the recently closed World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago. People of Ike’s generation saw it as a saucy response to the 1889 Paris Exposition, and especially to the Eiffel Tower. For a whole year, out on the shores of Lake Michigan, people studied that huge wheel designed by young Mr. Ferris, and frankly, something about it made you think. While it rotated thirty-six carloads of people—at fifty cents a head—264 feet in the air, offering a long look at Chicago, it also said something about getting to the top, and even more about staying there. Anyhow, with his new bride at his side, and accompanied by his friend Bert and Bert’s new wife, Ike left behind a Missouri town that now survives only in a handful of photos: clapboard, brick chimneys, front-porch railings. The train yanks and clanks, and then pulls out of the station. In a photo from three years after they leave, a young fellow about Ike’s age balances—with mustache, knickers, and fierce concentration —on a bicycle that is teetering atop the rails in front of the train station. One sign says Republic, and another, 231 miles to St. Louis. Below the signs, hollow cheeked, in lace collar, muttonchop sleeves, and a felt hat with ribbons, clutching gloves in her left hand, the kid’s mother fixes the camera with an iron gaze. The train ride takes three days. The newlyweds cuddle and doze and, each time they change trains, check that their belongings get transferred . People talk in low voices about the Pullman Strike. Ike has a window seat, and what he sees makes him think of a stereopticon: steep, green, and shaggy, with creeks flashing around boulders, and towns you can’t pronounce the names of. The newlyweds stretch...


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