It was like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, an idealized version of an America that might or might not still exist — if it ever did at all. And it can be found in Abilene, Kan.
Now, Abilene is known for many things, or at least as many as any other town of 6,200 people. It once marked the end of the Chisholm Trail, used by Texas cowboys to bring cattle to the railroad. And it once was marshaled by Tom “Bear River” Smith, but he was murdered and decapitated. And it once was home to United Telephone Company, which now is known as Sprint.
These days, however, Abilene is best known as the hometown of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who grew up to be the 34th president of the United States. That came after he graduated from West Point and led the D-Day invasion and served as president of Columbia University. In other words, he was pretty accomplished.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is in Abilene, on the grounds of Ike’s childhood home, which is still there. And if you didn’t know that, there are plenty of billboards along Interstate 70 to inform you.
So, while making a five-day drive from St. Louis to Vancouver with my daughter, we recently stopped to take a look. The buildings are closed because of the pandemic, but the grounds are bucolic and a 20-foot-tall statue of Eisenhower is still standing sentry.