For months afterward, August lay in bed, refusing to give in to either pain or death. Because he was poor and isolated, with no medical care beyond an unlicensed and itinerant doctor, nothing could be done for him. When he was finally able to stand, he demanded to see his lost limb. Four-year-old C.A. brought it to him. Entwining the healthy fingers of his right hand with the stiff, dead ones of his left, August said to his arm, "You have been a good friend to me for fifty years. But you can't be with me anymore. So good-by. Good-by, my friend."
After placing his arm in a blanket-lined box, he buried it in the garden.
Then the stubborn farmer rigged up a belt with pockets and rings into which he could fit the handles of his plow, and got on with harvesting his crop. Soon he was doing as much with one arm as he used to do with two.
* * *
Charles Lindbergh never knew his paternal grandfather. August died ten years before his grandson was born. But the story of the old man's extraordinary gumption, told to Charles time and again by his father, made a deep impression on the boy. He never heard it without wonder. And as he grew, he came to develop a much clearer, broader understanding of the story's importance. He saw himself as coming from exceptional stock, being shaped by the inherited traits of courage, physical toughness, stoicism in the face of adversity, and stubborn individualism. This "genetic composition," he later said, explained his "individuality and extraordinariness." It left him with an unwarranted belief in his superiority, as well as an exaggerated confidence in his own capabilities that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
IN THE BEGINNING
"I was born a child of man, in the city of Detroit, on February 4, 1902," Charles Lindbergh wrote nearly seventy years after the event. "[H]orses still dominated the streets and Orville Wright had not yet made the first power-sustained airplane flight."
His mother was Evangeline Land Lindbergh. Raised in Detroit by a science-minded family, Evangeline Land had been encouraged by her parents to attend the University of Michigan. It was rare in those days for a woman to go to college, even rarer to graduate with a degree in chemistry, but that was exactly what she'd done. Always unconventional, she'd then accepted a job teaching high school science in faraway Minnesota. Within months of her arrival, she married Charles August Lindbergh—still known as C.A. Yearning for independence and adventure, she'd found love instead.
Seventeen years older than Evangeline, C.A. had grown up to become a successful country lawyer and real estate investor—and one of the wealthiest men in Little Falls, Minnesota (population five thousand). He was also a widower with two daughters, fourteen-year-old Lillian and ten-year-old Eva, whom he rarely saw. Soon after his first wife's death, grief-stricken and craving solitude, C.A. had packed the girls off to a boarding school in Minneapolis. The girls would return to Little Falls only for an occasional visit. (Years later, when Charles reminisced about his boyhood, he never mentioned his half sisters. As far as he was concerned, they hardly existed.)
It wasn't long before Evangeline became pregnant. As soon as she was aware of her condition, she insisted on returning to her parents' home in Detroit. She absolutely would not give birth anywhere else, she declared. And she would have no other doctor but her uncle Edwin Lodge at her bedside.
C.A. had no choice but to agree. Three months of marriage had taught him that there was no arguing. What Evangeline wanted, Evangeline got.
And so, in the ninth month of her pregnancy, in the bitter winter of 1902, the couple traveled by train to Detroit. Once there, Evangeline was tucked comfortably into the front bedroom of the family's house on West Forest. Pampered and petted, the center of everyone's excited attention, she settled in and waited.
Less than a week later, in the early-morning hours of February 4, her nine-and-a-half-pound baby was born.
"Is it a boy?" asked Evangeline, who, along with C.A., had been hoping for a son.
"It is," Uncle Edwin replied.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Dead sure!" he exclaimed. "Just look at the size of those feet."
The baby also had startling blue eyes, a fuzz of light hair that soon grew into golden curls, and the same dimpled chin as his father.
His mother named him Charles August, after his father. But Evangeline was determined he would have his own unique identity. And so she added an extra syllable to his middle name, so he would not be a "junior." Then she bundled up her newborn and laid him on a chair beside an open window. After all, it was never too early to make a man out of a boy.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh took his first breaths of fresh winter air.