42. In a field of blood and stone

 

“No I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind
When I left my two fine legs behind.
For a cannon ball on the fifth of May
Took my two fine legs away.”

“Now Teddy me boy,” the old widow cried
“Your two fine legs was your mama’s pride
Them stumps of a tree won’t do at all
Why didn’t you run from the cannon ball?”

Springsteen, Mrs. McGrath (Irish folk song)

 

History draws me in. I’ve always been a strong adherent of the maxim those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. I’m aware that, due chiefly to the appalling way in which it is taught in our schools, most people do not grow up to share my passion for understanding where we all came from.

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Our visit to Washington’s crossing on that cold February day in 2014 had left a lasting impression. I’m quite familiar with the events surrounding the birth of America and that experience, standing in the snow by the iconic Delaware, watching chunks of ice floating by just as they had on that fateful night in 1776, had written itself into my emotions.

I wanted to share the experience of the place with the kids; wanted to see if something like that could still make an impression in the minds of the video game generation. I was, of course, fully prepared to be disappointed on that score.

As has become our habit on these drives, we started our day with lunch at the Bridge café in Frenchtown. The food was good, but we made the mistake of sitting in the tin-roofed porch section out back which gets pretty unpleasant on a hot day as it turns out. It actually got steamy enough in there to drive us out of the place before we would have otherwise chosen to leave.

It was all fine and dandy, though. We were quickly across the bridge and driving in air conditioned comfort along one of my favourite stretches of road. The scenery was as gorgeous as always and we were all soon really enjoying ourselves.

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The whole area really does look very different in the summer time. The ominous ice-filled river becomes a somewhat tamer affair when a warm sun is beating down upon it from a cobalt sky. As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, the icebergs had now been exchanged for slow drifting ‘tubers’ in their brightly coloured inflatable bum-boats.

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At the crossing, all that had once been white was now lush and green. And the ordered, presentational nature of what was after all a State Park was far more apparent. Still on this particular day, the population of sightseers was greatly outnumbered by the Geese that wandered about en masse all over the riverbank.

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It was a pretty warm day, but fortunately not oppressively so and we wandered about the pristinely preserved buildings and cottages happily soaking up the energy all such places exude. I dropped a few historical factoids in the path of the kids, but they were mostly engrossed in their sketchbooks and so I left them to enjoy the day as they saw fit.

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Who wants to be a history nazi, right?

I found my own fun in a large barn filled with replicas of Washington’s boats and even an 18th-century cannon (also a replica I assume). I don’t know why such artifacts draw my interest, but they have since I was a small child and I suspect they always will.

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Winter.
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Summer.
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Winter.
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Summer.

We wandered around for some little time and the kids must have been enjoying it because nobody thought to ask for food until we were back in the car and headed for home. And thus began an ultimately fruitless quest for an ice cream parlor. I’m sure there were some in the area, but I’ll be danged if we could spot one.

Despite the kids’ imminent sugar withdrawals, we drove home in high spirits. It had been, in most regards, the day I’d hoped for. Were the kids inspired by all that history? Perhaps only a teeny bit, but I’m pretty sure it was a memorable day for them regardless and that’s good enough for me.

For reasons best known to itself, WordPress originally chose to publish my uncorrected draft of this article rather than the finished version. I generally write the first drafts on my tablet device (usually on a train) and they tend to have many fat finger issues which I later need to correct in WordPress. Frustrating to make corrections only to discover the next day that none made it to the published draft. My apologies dear readers.

All images used in this post (except the cartoon) are mine.

©2016

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