Excerpt from Chapter Ten – “Mennonites, Moravians and Mullein”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Ten – “Mennonites, Moravians and Mullein”:

Sunday evening’s dinner for Winston and Clio was simple enough.
Quick and easy. It entailed walking the length of the town again to its
only fast food restaurant and the only one still open. Both ordered a cheeseburger,
fries, a thick chocolate malt, and both, subsequently, spent a considerable
amount of time in the rest rooms cleaning up. Finally, with their
dinner eaten, teeth brushed after an encore visit to the restrooms and an
uneventful walk back to van, they agreed to call it an early evening.

Their serendipitous Sunday in Intercourse turned out to be one of the
most genteel days of their entire trip. It had a quality of light-hearted, lazy,
coziness to it. Both Winston and Clio remained relaxed, comfortable and
clearly getting used to each other. And, as if to seal their bond for that day,
they resolved to retire early but not before a game of cribbage—a family
favorite and a game Clio had mastered since her ninth birthday.

Excerpt from Chapter Nine – “Making Perfect Sense”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Nine – “Making Perfect Sense”:

Aside from the few cars moving up and down the main drag of Intercourse,
Pennsylvania, stillness and cold seemed the dominant characteristics
that both helped and hindered the exchange between Winston and
Clio that evening. The stillness had allowed them to focus, concentrate on
each other’s words. The cold forced them to turn back. At conversation’s end,
they found themselves at the other end of town, cold, and without having seen
any of it. When they realized how far they had walked and how little they had
seen, father and daughter thought it pretty darn funny and began to laugh.
They laughed harder when they both recognized that they had “experienced
Intercourse” together but not realized it. They decided it might have been
easier had the town’s founders simply named it Trade or Commerce rather than
Intercourse. Clio volunteered that the name pretty much took her breath away
and left a perpetual smirk. That, in turn, led to a round of potty humor, more
guffaws and a scene more reminiscent of the raucousness of Bourbon Street
than the solemnity of the Old Pennsylvania Pike.

Excerpt from Chapter Eight – “Stuck in Intercourse”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Eight – “Stuck in Intercourse”:

Winston and Clio traveled “the scenic route” on much of their journey
east since its inception. It took them through the heartland of
the old mid-western farm country, a northern sliver of the Appalachian
Mountain chain called the Alleghenies and back into the farmland of south
central Pennsylvania. From Gettysburg, their map directed them eastward to
the town of York and then south along Interstate 83 into Maryland and, eventually,
to Washington, D.C. The southern descent into Maryland would have
taken them through more rolling hills with tall, fifty-year-old trees lining the
interstate. Unfortunately, they missed their turnoff at York. So caught up in
conversation and music, they continued for another 27 miles on old Highway
30 before Winston realized his mistake.

The “mistake” put them just past Lancaster, Pennsylvania, into the heart
of Amish country. With a quick jog to the left past Lancaster, Highway 30
joined Pennsylvania Route 340, the “Old Pennsylvania Pike,” a scenic road
connecting some of the most beautiful farmland in America with quaint towns
like Bird-in-Hand, White Horse, and Intercourse. While these towns clearly
had their attractions—good food, Amish and Mennonite handicrafts, historical
museums—it was always the farms that commanded Winston’s attention
and curiosity.

Excerpt from Chapter Seven – “At Gettysburg: Vision Place of the Soul”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Seven – “At Gettysburg: Vision Place of the Soul”:

The road opening onto the Gettysburg National Battlefield began almost
at the center of the old town. It was lined with souvenir shops, a wax
museum, motels and restaurants. But once on hallowed ground, it seemed as
though all the distractive signs of American free enterprise abruptly ended and the
focus of the morning’s journey became clear. Lying before them was a portion of
a twenty-five square mile battlefield, the site that marked the turning point in the
costliest, deadliest war in American history. Winston thought about the details.
From purely a human perspective, over 7,000 men were killed at Gettysburg,
33,000 were wounded and nearly 11,000 went missing. But hundreds of dead
horses, cows and oxen also dotted the battlefield after its three days of fighting,
adding to the stench of death. And as a quirk of fate, the casualty lists also
included a Miss Jennie Wade, a twenty-year-old woman who was kneading bread
in the kitchen of her mother’s home when a bullet passed through the door and
into her back. The young woman died instantly.

Excerpt from Chapter Six – “Lunch with Maude and Muir”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Six – “Lunch with Maude and Muir”:

It took a road sign, reading “Gettysburg—30 miles” for Winston to begin
re-focusing his thoughts on the road. Lost in his own personal world of
the past for over an hour, he said nothing. And Clio let him get by with it. It
was “quiet time,” like the kind Winston and Elizabeth insisted upon during all
their family road trips after their two girls had played and talked nonstop for
hours in the back of the car. Usually the combined parental hope was that
both girls would fall asleep quickly, leaving them to hold hands, softly caress
each other’s forearms, and touch in the simplest of ways; making love in
miniature, with finger tips and open, waiting palms.

But this “quiet time” needed to be a time to re-focus, not a time for
depressing self-indulgence. Winston discovered shortly after Elizabeth’s
death how easily self-indulging pity came. It was comfortable, secure, irresponsible,
easy, but, above all, sad. When it gripped him he could be excused
from anything: a faculty meeting, parental responsibilities, cleaning the
house, washing the dishes, showering, changing clothes, eating. He was a
mess. Had he ever a mind to murder someone, his mental state was so gripping
in times like these that no jury in the world would find him anything but
not guilty by reason of depression. Fortunately, murder was seldom on his
mind. Even more fortunate, Winston eventually discovered that time gave
him a sense of perspective on his life; that when he found himself slipping into
that great vortex of indulgent self-pity, he could use his knowledge of human
history to re-scramble his mind. In a practical exercise on the notion that
“misery loves company,” he would travel through time and become a witness
to the Great Plague of the fourteenth century, or a Native American along the
“Trail of Tears,” a survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Holocaust survivor
or a POW returning from Vietnam. Somehow the idea that life, or God, or
the fates had betrayed just him, alone, seemed idiotic in the face of such hardship.
All he needed to do was flip that switch. The sign to Gettysburg and the
history it conjured in Winston’s mind was just such a switch.

Excerpt from Chapter Five – “Playing Sherlock Holmes”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Five – “Playing Sherlock Holmes”:

A mid dew-studded grass and moist autumn air, Winston’s second sabbatical
day began. He found Clio’s sleeping bag empty. This startled
him. He threw open his damp bag and ambled to his feet. Quietly calling her
name, he stiffly walked to the van. Perhaps she wanted to sleep in the van
after all, he thought. But after opening the front door and peering throughout
the van’s rubble, he saw nothing, nothing out of place, nothing that resembled
a sleeping lump. Walking confused back to the sleeping bags, he began
to notice things that the vale of sleepiness had hidden before. He saw Clio’s
bag neatly closed and zipped, with a green flannel-covered pillow on top. He
noticed the candle with all three flames lit heating a small pot of water. He
noticed the book, Teddy’s autobiography, neatly placed on top of the cooler.
Then, before he could force the air out of his lungs, through his mouth, past
his tongue and teeth, which were just then forming the shapes that created the
word “Clio,” he saw her. Walking toward him between the gravel road and the
fence line, Clio had a big, wide-faced grin on her face. In her hands she held
clumps of green leaves.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Clio said, still smiling. “I got up with the sun. Read
your book. I re-read the part that put me to sleep last night and finished the
rest of the chapter. I put on some water to boil, or to see if it would boil, then
decided to walk the fence line to see what I could find.” She held up her leafy
hands for inspection.

Excerpt from Chapter Four – “Candlelight under the Stars”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Four – “Candlelight under the Stars”:

A reddish-golden autumn sun moved ever closer to the western horizon
as the old van passed alternately between ripened fields of corn, oats
and buckwheat. It bore down mightily throughout most of this first day on
the father and daughter team, though they scarcely noticed its power until
blinding light streamed into their eyes, reflecting through the van’s three
rearview mirrors. Whether it was the setting sun in their faces, the early start
to a fourteen-hour travel day, or Winston’s sudden asthma attack, both had
suffered enough from this day on the road.

The road, for most of the day, had been the old U.S. Highway 30, the
Lincoln Highway, as old-timers still called it. It originated in the years before
World War I during the tenure of President William Howard Taft, who
believed a transcontinental highway would improve communications among
the states. While improved communication among the states was probably
minimal, it most certainly improved transportation among the peoples of California
and New York and all the states in between along a line that included
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah,
and Nevada. Financed, in part, by the growing automobile industry, it was
certainly a boom to the long-term interests of Henry Ford and General
Motors, in particular.

Excerpt from Chapter Three – “Roosevelt and Muir with Chocolate Sauce”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Three – “Roosevelt and Muir with Chocolate Sauce”:

The “Bob’s Big Boy conversation,” as it would be referred to in the
future, was a breakthrough moment for Winston and his daughter,
and he knew it then and thereafter. It had taken only twenty minutes from
start to finish, but it cleared the air between them as well as everyone within
the cafe in earshot. It finally ended with Clio ordering a hot fudge Sunday to
go. A good sign, Winston thought. It was something she had always ordered
when she was a kid, happy and content. As for his last question, Clio put him
off until they were both back in the van and ready to roll. Another good sign.
“So you ready to hear about the sabbatical now?”

Spooning some chocolate sauce into her month, Clio responded with
something that sounded like, “Yeah, surrrr, mmmmmmmm!”

“Okay,” he started off, “you remember what I taught you about President
Roosevelt?”

Excerpt from Chapter Two – “A Conversation at Bob’s Big Boy”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Two – “A Conversation at Bob’s Big Boy”:

Since Clio had not relieved herself au natural since she was a kid held
securely by her father with her two feet resting on top of the front
passenger-side tire of their old Volvo, and since Winston was unexpectedly
hungry, the next Bob’s Big Boy and its gas station affiliate became their pit stop
of choice. Characteristically, Winston pumped the gas while Clio quickly disappeared
inside. After a quick check of the oil, an obligatory cleaning of the
windshield and credit card scan, the two were reunited at a corner table for
breakfast.

Despite the fact that it was three forty-five in the afternoon, the Dash
on-the-road protocol always called for the breakfast menu. For Clio this
meant two waffles, preferably mixed with pecans, plenty of syrup on the side
and orange juice. For Winston, it was two over-easy eggs, bacon, hash
browns with catsup and coffee, black. Their roadside routine was so predictable
that one could order for the other and usually had in the past. It was
one of the few things warranting little discussion in their relationship. And
that, additionally, turned out to be a blessing for most unsuspecting waitresses.

After the food finally arrived and Clio had sufficiently awakened, she
informed her father: “I have questions.”

Excerpt from Chapter One “Going East”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter One “Going East”:

Winston Dash was driving to D.C. It was his first time east since his
wife had died, leaving him in charge of their two teen-age daughters.
Memories flooded through his head as the highways turned into freeways,
the freeways into toll ways. He thought of their last East Coast family
vacation, to Philadelphia, Gettysburg, to the Shenandoah River Valley,
Williamsburg, and Washington D.C. It was the bicentennial year, and everywhere
there seemed to be a party. For a young historian and his family, this
was the trip of a lifetime. He smiled. Then he laughed out loud as he remembered
how the summer heat of Philadelphia had won for him a trip to a second
Civil War battlefield in one vacation. Elizabeth had not liked the crowds
of Philadelphia, especially with two little ones in tow.

She said, “The city is dirty and cramped and hot, and if you don’t take us
back to the motel right now, I will puke right here.”

The idea of Elizabeth puking was always an unwelcome one, especially
at that moment given their location. For at that moment, they were all sitting
in one of the oldest churches in the oldest part of Philadelphia; specifically in
a pew marked, “George Washington worshipped here” or something to that
effect. Still, Winston resisted.