Gettysburg. The flags snap in the bitter breeze as we quick step to the shelter of the breakfast cafe. Sweater weather that will warm when the sun gets above the Colonial rooftops.
Sweet potato pancakes and coffee, overhearing pieces of cafe gossip as a waitress starts in on the couple of odd ducks who just left. The usual small town chatter that never differs much where ever we travel. I smile at Paula as we eavesdrop. Phrases, overheard, “he had done some jail time”, “not quite right that one”.
“The family name?” followed by variations on McMillen, Miller, Mullen and then the shouted, “Thats it!”
I like small town folks, most times. Reminds me of a Newfoundland fishing guide from the port town of Cow Head. The fisherman had asked me, did I know Kenny Rogers? The singer? “Yes, the same”, he said and then told me his story.
“So I keep sayin to this fella that’s come fishin with us, ‘By, (boy) I know, I knows Ya’. So Mr. Rogers, he tells me his full name and I says, ‘that don’t seem right, I knows all the Rogers boys ’round here and I never knew a Kenny, but I knows I know Ya'”. Small town humor.
We are walking through the museum doors at 9 a.m. after guessing at the operating hours. The Museum is less than a month old and apparently they can’t bother posting their hours on the otherwise informative website. The truck is driven the short distance to the Museum since it will be used for the guided tour. I voice concerns over a stranger driving our wide bodied truck around the narrow streets of Gettysburg. Paula laughs and asks me if I plan on asking the guide about his or her truck driving experience. Its a big truck I say and silently I hope our guide is a retired truck driver, which turns out to be the case. I am relieved and happy.
The guided tour is arranged for 11:30 and with a couple of hours till then we start in on the Museum. Its apparent early on we will be back after the guided tour to complete the Museums longer movies.
The Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center is an impressive presentation of the Civil War as it existed at the time of this most significant battle. The Battle of Gettysburg is the most extensively recorded and documented battle in American history and the Museum does it great justice. The exhibits, videos, photos, paintings and letters affect me in a way I would not have expected. The battle happened almost 145 years ago and ended just the day before the country was to “celebrate” the 4th of July, but these “in your face” exhibits are somehow worse than todays news.
I see people wiping eyes and Paula asks me if it is upsetting for me as well? I stand poker faced reading of a Father who ran around the battlefield on that hot 4th of July. Surviving soldiers from his sons regiment have told him where to search. That battlefield area is so full of bodies that he regrets having to step on some of the bodies to reach his son. There are still wounded in the field and he has hopes of finding his son alive.
The Fathers letter to his anxious, waiting wife would tear the heart out of anyone. I turn to Paula and answer, “Does it upset me? Yes, if that is a big enough word”.
Its soon time to meet our guide and a drive in the fresh air will be a welcome respite.