Hush-a-bye, Indiana

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Indiana is not, of course, an isolated phenomenon in this respect. Such hubris as Copey held up to ridicule with his story of Prudence Goodchild is manifest everywhere. I have lived in seven states of the Union and have endured a heptad—if I may extend the official idiom for such celebrations—of tercentenaries, bicentennials, centennials, and semicentennials, and a quindecad of lesser decennials and quinquennials, and I have witnessed the same rapacious prevarication and exaggeration in each of them. Everyone knows that if all the New Englanders who claim ancestors on the Mayflower were telling the truth, that tiny ship would have sunk at its moorings from overloading before it left Plymouth Harbor; that George Washington did not live enough nights to sleep in all those cherished beds up and down the Atlantic Coast; that Daniel Boone must have been permanently and ubiquitously “bewildered,” it not indeed “lost,” if he wandered over all the western territory claimed as his stamping ground; that Fort Knox itself could not contain the gold nuggets reputed to have come from Sutter’s Mill; and that the Confederate colonels who populated the South for almost a century after the Irrepressible Conflict could have slaffed the combined armies of the First and Second World Wars. Human nature being what it is, Prudence Goodchild’s friendly Indian will probably never become a Vanishing American.