Thursday, May 30, 2013

Big Foot Job Reference


As most of you know, I grew up with the Sasquatch down in the bottoms around Fouke, Arkansas. We became friends after I got lost at age four and wandered into her lair.  She greeted me kindly. It was as if she was entertaining an angel. She kept me warm all night, fed me some potato chips and Kool-Aid and directed me back to our pasture, keeping herself out of sight. My family was glad to see me come stumbling into the back door but I smelled very bad. I told them I had spent the night with the creature, but they put that up to the rich imagination of a toddler. There was a lot of big foot talk in those days.

But I would sneak back off down in there to her territory often and we had some great visits. She always had root beer and popcorn or chips. She ate grubs, too, but I didn’t want any. She did convince me to eat some Catawba worms, and they are not bad—needed salt, though. She taught me her language, a series of pops, grunts and moans that sounded like passionate preaching from a distance. Her language sounded very ancient and it came from the heart.

Anyway, I have not seen her for years, but we are Facebook friends and, since English wouldn’t work, she has figured out how to put the Russian alphabet to her utterances, so I have been busy studying Russian, a fascinating and expressive language with a most interesting alphabet. I got a FB message from her last night. I will translate it into English for you here: “Dear Danny, I have the possibility of getting a job in Oil City. Woodrow Dunwoody, owner of Queen Clean carwash at 124 Elm is looking for a novelty figure to coax automobiles into his establishment, you know, advertise. I met Woody while he was duck hunting out beyond the creek and he said he would like to hire me but needed a reference. So, old friend, would you mind writing a letter of reference for me? I need the money right now since my nephew is moving to the Pacific Northwest to marry one of our kind up there and I have been depending on him to bring me stuff.”

I immediately wrote my big footed friend back, assuring her I would write Mr. Dunwoody. Here is what I wrote: “Dear Mr. Dunwoody, The Fouke Monster has been a friend of mine all my life, so I know enough about her character and work ethic to give a good letter of recommendation. She is creative, jovial, kind and her perspicacity will strike you immediately. I feel certain that she will attract a lot of cars to your establishment. One negative, her personal hygiene is not up to human standards, so you may want to run her through the car wash before she begins her duties. If I can be of further assistance, don’t hesitate to call on me.”

I’ll let y’all know if she gets the job.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Know Thyself


Around the time I was finishing the decade of my teens, I saw a very influential star-studded movie, “The Big Country.” In it, Gregory Peck played a sea captain who had somehow become engaged to a rancher’s daughter in the big country of Texas. Peck’s character was retiring from seamanship and moving out West to buy some land and settle down.

When he arrived in town in his Yankee attire and little derby hat, some of the local riffraff roped him, pulled him out of the buckboard and roughly but playfully jerked him around. The buckaroos even threw his hat into the air and took shots at it. Good-naturedly, the sea captain tolerated what he considered an initiation akin to the keelhauling he had experienced at sea. But his fiancée was enraged and when she told her daddy, Charles Bickford, known as “The Major,” he decided to shoot up the ranch of the men who had mistreated his guest. Peck, of course, advised him against it, and made it clear that the Major was raiding that ranch for reasons of his own, not to avenge the minor initiation episode.

Thus, all the ranch hands, including the foreman, Charlton Heston, considered Peck a coward. To add to this conviction, Peck refused to get on Old Thunder, a venerable bucking horse that the hands customarily put newcomers on to watch the show. However, during that part of the day when the hands were out doing their work, Peck tried repeatedly to ride Old Thunder, with only a Mexican ranch hand watching. At length, he was successful in breaking and riding the contrary old equine. He told his companion, “Don’t tell anyone that I rode Old Thunder.” And he agreed to keep silent.

The fiancée, though, tricked the hand into telling her that Peck had ridden the horse. She then confronted her beloved, “Why didn’t you tell us you had ridden Old Thunder? You made me look bad by allowing everyone to think you were a coward.” To which Peck replied, “I am not responsible for what others think of me, only for what I know to be true of myself.”

For some reason, that statement made a deep impression upon my teenaged mind. I think it must have been the character’s wonderful integrity that made him so attractive as a real man. Others such as the Major, the ranch hands and the foreman were putting up the appearance of being manly and courageous, but Peck quietly demonstrated courage. The culminating fight scene between Peck and Heston is, in my opinion, the most expertly done Western fight in the movies. They fought each other bare-knuckled out on the open plains. Some of the camera angles were highly unusual and often far away, giving the impression that they were two very small people in a vast country. When the fight is over, Peck asks, “Now what did we prove?” That question still resonates when I think of fighting on any level, from bickering all the way to war.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jealous Jerks


Humbaba is the earliest monster in literature that I know about. He was a giant that guarded one of the trees of the god Ea in the ancient epic Gilgamesh, the earliest story on earth, recorded in cuneiform. He was supernaturally fearsome and quite huge, not the kind of entity a mere mortal should oppose. And, of course, there are some monsters in Holy Scripture: those giants that were apparently the offspring of angels and mortals. Later we find Goliath and his huge ilk.

The Cyclops is one of Greek culture’s most impressive monsters. That one-eyed son of the sea-god is mighty strong but also terribly stupid. He allows himself to be duped by the very clever Odysseus in more ways than one. After the Greek epic hero blinds the Cyclops’ one good eye, the creature asks his tormentor’s name. Odysseus replies, “Nobody, Nobody is my name.” Thus, after Odysseus and his men escape and the Cyclops’ equally monstrous brothers ask him who blinded him, he stupidly replies, “Nobody did it. Nobody blinded me.”

There are many monsters in Anglo-Saxon culture, including Grendel, his hag of a mother and a big old dragon who guards treasure. Grendel is said to be a descendant of Cain, who is cursed to be perpetually homeless. In fact, that is one reason the ferocious and hideous creature continues to invade Heorot Hall in Denmark. He can’t stand the fact the Hrothgar and his men enjoy a home while he himself must live out in the swamp with his darkly dangerous mother. Thus evil-minded jealousy is his murderous motivation. And jealousy can be seen as a characteristic of all monsters, both figurative and literal.

As you will recall, Shakespeare later created a different kind of monster in Denmark. No, I don’t mean the ghost, I mean Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius who killed his own brother out of jealousy. He wanted Queen Gertrude for his own. He wanted his brother’s crown for his own. He wanted to rule in Denmark. One cruel act got him all three of his goals—he poured deadly poison into his brother’s ear while he slept. This monster got away with it for a little while because Hamlet was so slow to act. But in the end, his monstrous plot was foiled by a poisoned foil, thereby sending this monster to sulfuric flames forever. The earliest version of this story goes back to the 11th Century. Saxo Grammaticus wrote the History of Denmark and the counterpart of Shakespeare’s Hamlet responded violently to his uncle’s jealousy.

So, why am I so hung up on monsters today? It is because I see one primary motivation behind monster-hood: cowardly jealousy. Most of the time when we find cowardly acts, the companion is jealously. “If you’ve got it and I want it, I’m going to destroy it.” I had a childhood acquaintance that tore up a little boat of mine because he wanted it and I said no. I have been tired of jealous jerks a long time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mentors


Before Mother married my stepfather, two of my uncles filled in the gap left by my father’s death and took me hunting and fishing, teaching me all the things Southern boys usually learn from their fathers: how to be still, quiet and respectful in the woods; how to find the right places to fish and how to have patience; how to set up a camp, build a fire and put it dead out; how to clean game and fish efficiently and effectively, etc.

My Uncle Herbert took me on my first fishing expedition when I was five, along with his son, my cousin Tom. We were fishing from the bank of Caney Creek. There are a lot of Caney Creeks in Arkansas and Louisiana, but we were at the one down near Calion. Uncle Herbert taught me how to pull a nice red wiggler out of the coffee can and stab it in just the right place with a bream hook. When he adjusted my cork based on the depth of the creek, he said, “Curtis, watch that cork and when it moves real good, jerk it up.” (He always called me by my brother’s name).

Well, I was pulling the line in much too often to suit Uncle Herbert. He said, “That’s the current moving the cork, son. Wait till it goes under.” So I waited and waited. At length, Uncle Herbert said, “You got one on there, boy, pull him in.” I replied as I complied, “It didn’t go under.” Notwithstanding, I landed a nice red-ear, much to my uncle’s satisfaction. He showed me how to clean it on the spot. The next one I landed, a mighty four-ouncer, I was on my own. Even though I didn’t clean the fish exactly as Uncle Herbert had demonstrated, I had a frying pan worthy dab of meat to take home along with the big old red-ear.

Herbert was married to my mother’s sister. The other uncle who took a daddy’s role in teaching me about outdoor things was my mother’s brother A. J. We didn’t call him Uncle A. J. because he just wanted us to call him A. J. (His name was Alonza Jay so I don’t blame him for using his initials). A. J. was the one who taught me to hunt. We started with squirrels. He had a son exactly my age and I liked my cousin very much. We were more like brothers than cousins. When we started the squirrel hunt early in the morning in the hardwood woods south of El Dorado, A. J. and my cousin went deep into the wilderness. I didn’t. I just sat under some white oaks on the edge of the woods. But the squirrels came to me and I shot them, three or four nice fat fox squirrels.

A. J. and my cousin shot a lot that morning but came back with only a squirrel apiece. When they saw my bounty, A. J. said to his son, “This would have been a good day to still hunt.” Then and there, he demonstrated how to clean squirrels without getting hair on the meat.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Adaptation of "Court of Inquiry"


Adapted for Reenactment From the Record Published in the Washington Telegraph Newspaper, Washington, Arkansas, June 29, 1864. See Hewett, Janel B., et al, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1996, Vol. I, Part 6, No. 6, pages 399-421. The female characters and their dialogue are imaginary and some of the male characters are composites. Time has been abbreviated and consolidated. Though the spirit of the actual proceedings is preserved there has been some dramatic fictionalizing of what was actually said in the court.                                                                     

Male Characters:                                                         Female Characters:
Major General Sterling Price (major role)                   Mrs. Mark White
General Dockery                                                         Mrs. John Blevins
Colonel Dan Jones (major role)                                   Leela Jones (house slave)
Colonel Crockett
Lt. Gillespie (major role)
Pvt. Tom Jones
Sgt. Blevins

(Two white women in spring attire are arranging flowers on the judge’s desk in front center of the courtroom. They are having a heated discussion that, at first, is whispered and inaudible. Leela Jones, in house slave attire, is busily dusting, sweeping, and cleaning, in general readying the courtroom for the impending inquiry. She is obviously listening in with keen but sly interest on the conversation of the two white women. At an appropriate moment, after the audience is assembled and settled, Mrs. White speaks in a loud voice for all to hear.)

Mrs. Mark White: And so, you are pretty sure Dan Jones ran at Marks Mill? That’s not quite what I heard.

Mrs. John Blevins: My husband said Col. Jones ran and hid. Was scared to death. So scared he told his regiment to turn and run, but my husband didn’t run. In fact, he’s a sergeant and he led the men on forward in spite of Colonel Jones’s behavior!

Mrs. White: Well, I heard Colonel Jones was injured and had to be taken to the field hospital. Are you sure he wasn’t shot or something?

Mrs. Blevins: Naw. Pure coward.

Leela Jones: Humph!

Mrs. Blevins: Did you say something Leela?

Leela Jones: Nom’e. I just cleared my throat like this; humph. I was just listening to what y’all said about Colonel Danny, though, and it don’t sound right.

Mrs. Blevins: None of your business anyway. (Pause, curious look at Leela Jones) What don’t sound right about it?

Leela Jones: I raised that boy. He ain’t no coward. A little while back, he got shot over yonder in Mississippi. He wasn’t well from that when he was fighting at Marks’ Mill. He was just wore out and that old wound was bothering him. He didn’t run at all – he just gave out. It’s been mighty hot this spring. The day of that battle it was just like August.

Mrs. Blevins: You hush, Leela. He ran like a scared rabbit. I didn’t hear anything about a wound or any kind of injury.

Mrs. White: Hush, y’all, here comes General Price and them.

(Enter General Price and General Dockery, who sit side by side at the judge’s bench. Colonel Jones, who sits in the witness stand, and Colonel Crockett, Lieutenant Gillespie, Private Tom Jones, and Sergeant Blevins, who sit in the jury box. Mrs. Blevins tries to get the attention of her husband by waving, wanting everyone in the room to know of her connection to the witness.)

Price: (Pounding gavel) I am noting in the official record that we are beginning this inquiry at ten o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1864. General Dockery, will you rise and be sworn? (Dockery rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth during this inquiry?

Dockery: I swear.

Price: Sir, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864?

Dockery: I was.

Price: Did you see Colonel Dan Jones there that day?

Dockery: I did, at the time the brigade was first ordered into action.

Price: Did you send an order to Col. Jones to fall back?

Dockery: I did not.

Price: Did you see Col. Jones during the action there that day, and what his conduct was?
(During Dockery’s response, Col. Dan Jones remains stone-faced and calm.)

Dockery: I did see Col. Jones, as I said, at about the time the brigade was ordered into action. Some time after I had been pressing the enemy with the whole of my command, when the enemy’s fire was at its heaviest, one of my staff officers brought me information that the regiments on the left of my brigade were giving way. Being on the right of my brigade, I couldn’t see the whole line, so I immediately rode to the left until I met Col. Jones’ regiment; it seemed to be in some confusion and had fallen back. I demanded of the officers and men who gathered around me to know the cause of the confusion. They said Col. Jones had ordered them to fall back. I asked where Col. Jones was. Several said he couldn’t be found, or was absent, or to that effect. With the help of the officers, we rallied the regiment, and I conducted it in person to the right of the brigade. About that time, Col. Jones’ orderly came up and told me that Col. Jones wanted me to know that he had given out – had become exhausted from fatigue. I didn’t see or hear from Col. Jones any more on the field that day.

Price: Col. Jones, you may ask questions of Gen. Dockery.

Dan Jones: (Rising and facing the bench) General, do you not remember seeing me after the left wing fell back, moving towards the right wing with a portion of my regiment and the flag of it, together with Col. Crockett’s and Col. Witt’s regiments?

Dockery: (Kindly and meditatively) I have no recollection of seeing you with that portion of the regiment I met.

Dan Jones: Was that portion of my regiment with Col. Witt’s and Col. Crockett’s regiments?

Dockery: I don’t think so. Your regiment was rallied before I sent orders for Col. Crockett to move to the right of the brigade.

Price: Who commanded the regiment after the fight passed to the right?

Dockery: Col. Crockett.

Price: General Dockery, were you in command of the brigade which Col. Jones’ regiment composed a part at the battle of Marks’ Mills, on April 25, 1864?

Dockery: I was.

Price: Col. Crockett, please rise and swear to this oath. (Col. Crockett remains in the jury box, rises, raises his right hand.) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth at this inquiry?

Crockett: I swear.
(Crockett, as will all witnesses, remains standing for the questioning.)

Dan Jones: Col. Crockett, were you present at the battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864?

Crockett: I was.

Dan Jones: What was your position in line of battle at Marks’ Mills, in General Dockery’s brigade, at the time of the fight?

Crockett: On the extreme left.

Dan Jones: Did you see me during the battle at Marks’ Mills?

Dockery: I did.

Dan Jones: Please state what you know of my conduct during the action.

Crockett: During the charge, of course I had no time to notice the conduct of others. My command required all my attention. I first noticed Col. Jones when we reached the wagons and after the order had been given to fall back. I do not know who first gave the order, owing to my deafness and noise from the discharge of small arms. The men had fallen back in compliance with the order – I mean the men of Col. Jones’, Col. Witt’s and my regiment. I asked Col. Jones what he intended to do. I did not understand his reply, nor can I say whether he heard me. Finding that the men had given way or fallen back, I thought it prudent to follow suit and did so. Col. Jones, Col. Witt, and myself rallied and formed our men some forty to fifty steps from the train. About the same time, Col. Jones, using every exertion to get his men in line, and successfully, Col. Witt assumed command and ordered us to move by right flank across the road. Just at that moment General Dockery rode up, and I think Col. Jones said, “There is General Dockery; let us follow him.” General Dockery led us across the road and formed us in rear, and to support Col. Hill’s regiment. When we were ordered to charge, Col. Jones said to me, “Col. Crockett, I am exhausted; I cannot go any further.” I saw General Dockery at a short distance from us and replied, “Report to General Dockery, Colonel.” From all I saw, I can say that Col. Jones seemed to be doing his duty and was in his proper place and using his best efforts to carry on his regiment through the fight to the best of his ability. It may not be amiss to say that, owing to the fact of being for a long time on horseback, the want of pedestrian exercise, and the excessive heat, I was nearly exhausted myself and could not have held out much longer. I have, therefore, no doubt but that Col. Jones was really incapable of proceeding further.

Price: You may be seated. Lt. James Gillespie, please rise and swear to this oath. (Crockett is seated. Gillespie rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth at this inquiry?

Gillespie: I swear.

Dan Jones: Lt. Gillespie, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills?

Gillespie: I was not at the beginning of the battle but joined the fight as it was going on.

Dan Jones: Did you hear any member of my regiment speaking of my conduct there?

Gillespie: I did.

Dan Jones: What was his name?

Gillespie: It was Sgt. John Blevins.

(Mrs. Blevins, seated in a conspicuous place near the front of the assembly, flourishes and smiles proudly.)

Dan Jones: What did he say of my conduct there?

Gillespie: He said you ran or acted disgracefully.

Dan Jones: Did he say that he knew this from his own knowledge?

Gillespie: I asked him that – if he knew it first hand – and he said he did know it.

Dan Jones: From your position, did you see any stragglers from my regiment?

Gillespie: I saw several.

Dan Jones: Can you name those you saw? Who were they?

Gillespie: I saw Sgt. John Blevins.

(Again, Mrs. Blevins reacts with pride.)

Dan Jones: What was he doing when you saw him?

Gillespie: He was leaning against a large pine tree, not behind it from the enemy, but on the left of it.

Dan Jones: Was the fight going on at that time?

Gillespie: It was raging fiercely.
Dan Jones: Did you speak to him, and what was his answer?

Gillespie: I asked him how things were going on in front. His answer was, “Oh, hell! Things are not going on right,” or something like that.

Dan Jones: Did you move forward and join the fight after that?

Gillespie: Yes, sir, I did move up to support the right of the brigade. That was part of the battle strategy, for me to hang back and add support.

Dan Jones: Did you see me after this move was made, and under what circumstances?

Gillespie: It was during this move that I saw you.

Dan Jones: What was I doing?

Gillespie: As Capt. Meeks’s command was moving to the support of the right of the brigade, I saw your regiment coming up, and you were some six or eight paces in advance and motioning with both hands to your men, I supposed, to keep them in line, and they were in good time.

Dan Jones: Did you see any more of Sgt. Blevins?

Gillespie: I did, twice.

Dan Jones: Where was he, and what was he doing?

Gillespie: He was right in the rear of the brigade. I suppose about 300 to 400 yards out of sight of the brigade and near Blocher’s Battery.

Dan Jones: State what you know of his conduct, and any conversation you may have had with him at this time.

(Mrs. Blevins is progressively more crestfallen during the report, and Leela, dusting more or less inconspicuously in the corner, glares and smirks.)

Gillespie: The first time I saw him there he was standing on the ground looking at some wounded men, none of whom, in my opinion, belonged to Col. Jones’ detachment, and I asked him where Col. Jones’ detachment was, and he said it was on the right of the brigade. Then I left him and started to the regiment and captured a prisoner and carried him to the rear and turned it over to a guard and came back to where I saw Sgt. Blevins, near Blocher’s Battery, being about a half hour from the time I first saw him there. He was then on his horse, and I asked

him to go with me to the regiment, and he did not go, but told me to ride on, he would overtake me. I rode a hundred yards and looked back and he was still there. I rode on and left him.

Price: Did you see Col. Jones during the fight?

Gillespie: I did not.

Dan Jones: Did you see me after the fight, and, if so, where and under what condition?

Gillespie: I did: I saw you when you were brought to the hospital. I helped take you off your horse and carry you to the house. After we got in the house, Dr. Holcomb came and examined you and told me to go and get some toddy. You drank it and commenced to vomiting very soon afterwards. I left you at that time and came back late that evening, and you were lying in the position that I left you.

Price: At this point, I shall read a statement from Capt. Banks, which I know to be in his hand:

In the first charge we made, we moved forward until we came under crossfire. Some of the men commenced falling back. The Colonel, seeing them, asked why they were falling back, the men replying that they were under a crossfire, which caused the regiment to divide. A part of them turned to the right; those that turned to the right went with Capt. Stuart until we returned to the horses, the remainder going at left oblique with Col. Jones until we came up with the wagon train. There we halted. Col. Witt, then being senior officer, ordered his command back with his own and Col. Crockett’s regiment. I did not see Col. Jones as we turned back. The men, some of them, seemed to be scared and commenced breaking line and falling back. Then Col. Jones came up and told them they must keep in line and fall back in good order. After, we fell back until we came in a line with the remainder of the brigade on our right. General Dockery came and ordered us forward. We moved forward about 300 yards, after which I did not see Col. Jones anymore during the fight. General Dockery asked for Col. Jones. Some of the men replied he had given out. Some of the men said there was no officer to command the regiment. Seeing that he was absent, I assumed command myself, being senior officer. Shortly afterwards the firing ceased. I was very nearly exhausted myself, for the sun was so hot, and we had been mounted for some time.

Price: Pvt. Tom Jones, please rise and swear to this oath: (Pvt. Jones rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth during this inquiry?

Pvt.: I swear.

Dan Jones: Where was your position in the fight?
Pvt.: I was ordered by you to remain with the horses as guard.

Dan Jones: Did I mention to you my reasons for leaving you with the horses?

Pvt.: You did, as I had no ammunition that would fit my gun; it being a small or light cavalry gun. The cartridges I had were too large.

Dan Jones: Did you see me during the day, and if so, under what circumstances?

Pvt.: I did not see you during the fight, but I was notified by a courier as I was going into where the wagons were that you were wounded, and I must go after you. I went back to where the horses had been tied and found a man hunting for me, and afterwards another with your horse, and we went into where you were lying. I found you lying on your back insensible and apparently paralyzed. I unbuttoned your coat and pants, and threw your breast and stomach as bare as possible, and sent after some water, and knowing that you had a small phial of whiskey in your pocket, I took it and endeavored to make you swallow some if it, but you could not drink it. I poured water on your face, heart and stomach, which seemed to revive you somewhat, after which, I succeeded in getting you to swallow a small draught of whiskey. You raised up with my help but was not able to sit up. We then put you on your horse, one leading and the others holding you on. We carried you to the hospital and placed you in charge of Doctor Holcomb. He gave you some toddy, which you vomited immediately. He then relieved you in some manner, and you lay in exactly the same position until nearly night, unable to move.

Price: This seems the appropriate point for me to read a statement from Doctor J. M. Holcomb, Surgeon of Dockery’s Brigade:

I saw Col. Daniel W. Jones at the close of the fight at Marks’ Mills. He was brought to the hospital and I found him in a condition of exhaustion, for which I prescribed stimulants. I knew that he had received a serious wound at Corinth. Because of that and the exhaustion, I gave him a certificate of disability for ten or fifteen days on the night after the battle.

Price: (Sternly and with lifted brow) Sgt. John Blevins, rise and raise your right hand to be sworn. (Blevins rises and raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth in the inquiry?

(Mrs. Blevins is extremely attentive, trying by her demeanor to let the audience know that she is the wife of the witness.)

Blevins: (Desultorily) I swear.

Price: Mr. Blevins, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills?
Blevins: I was.

Price: What do you know of Col. Jones’ conduct there.

Blevins: I saw Col. Jones at the fight. I was on the right of the regiment, and the last I saw of Col. Jones was just before we went up to the wagons and he was near the center of the regiment, and I never saw Col. Jones any more during the fight. The colors moved to the left, and I moved to the right, Col. Jones with the colors.

Price: Were you with that portion of the regiment that moved to the right under Capt. Stuart, and joined Col. Reynolds’ command?

Blevins: I was with Capt. Stuart until there were some prisoners taken and went with them past the hospital.

Price: Col. Jones, will you question the witness?

Dan Jones: (With controlled anger) Sir, I shall not enter into any conversation whatsoever with this witness.

Price: This seems, then, to be an appropriate moment to read one final affidavit, this one from Assistant Surgeon M.M. Marcus, 20th Arkansas Volunteers:

I was with the 20th until 10 minutes after the firing on April 25 commenced. At that time Col. Jones commanded ‘halt,’ in consequence of the 20th being a little ahead of the immediate regiment on our right. At that time, or a few minutes later, my attention was called to a wounded man. I saw nothing more of Col. Jones or the regiment until they had fallen back after which time I was again with them about 15 minutes, and Col. Jones was then with his regiment. Afterwards, my attention was then required by the wounded, after which I saw nothing more of Col. Jones until I saw him at the hospital. During the time I was with his regiment, I saw nothing improper in his conduct, and at the time I was at the hospital, I did not examine him and know nothing of the character of his injury.

(Dockery leaves briefly and returns to hand documents to Price at this point and whisper to him – concurrently, Mrs. Blevins and Leela clandestinely glare at each other, Leela with a sardonic grin, anticipating the outcome of the inquiry. At length, Price calls for order.)

Price: Col. Jones will you rise, sir, and face the bench? The court is of the opinion, from the evidence adduced, that Col. Daniel W. Jones’ conduct at the Battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864, was honorable and soldier-like, and we respectively submit the evidence and opinion to the Major-General Commanding.

Leela: (Too loud to be in good decorum) Hallelujah!

Price: Order! Order until the court is cleared.

(All parties file out, leaving Leela and Mrs. Blevins glaring at each other.)

Leela: (More or less to herself as she straightens and dusts the bench) I think I know who the coward is.

Mrs. Blevins: (Unrestrained) Leela Jones! Shut your impudent mouth!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Snap


From time to time in my classes I try to provide a little fun. I know a “magic” trick, for example, in which I drop a piece of chalk or a paper clip on the floor and then reach down and act like I pick it up, placing my foot over the object. Then, when I open my hand, behold, the item has disappeared. Sometimes there is a savvy student in the class who says, “It’s under your foot; you never picked it up.” I usually say, “You enjoyed ruining my trick, didn’t you?”

Today, since this is the last class day of the semester (I thought the day would never come) I decided to have a little fun in a different way by playing the “snap” game with the class. They had never heard of it. So, I said, I need a volunteer to go out in the hall with me while the rest of you come up with a word, just a single word that you will clandestinely show me (but not the student) when we return to the classroom. Then I will snap to transfer the word to my helper.

When I had the volunteer in the hall, out of earshot of the other students, I explained that the group will give me the word and I will spell it out in code. The first word that comes out of my mouth with be the consonant but I will snap the vowels. One snap is “a,” two snaps indicate “e,” three—“i,” four “o,” five “u.” Then I give the student an example. “Let’s say the word is “dog.” When we go in there, I will learn that word they have selected is dog, and the first word out of my mouth would start with a “d,” as in, “Do you think we can work together,” or something along those lines. Then I would snap four times for “o,” and then say something like, “Got it?” That, you see, would spell the word “dog.” And the class would just think you somehow interpreted the snaps. I indicate consonants by the first word out of my mouth and vowels by the number of snaps.

So, it turns out that this class is smart as in smart-alec. They gave me the word “laconic.” They wanted the game to fail, obviously. The person I had in the hall would certainly not know this word, I thought, so I varied the game. I spelled out the definition of laconic: “brief.” In cluing the student in, I said, “Believe in yourself, now.” I paused a long time, and then said, “Really concentrate.” Then I snapped three times and paused. Then I snapped two times. Then I said, “Finished.” My co-conspirator, a quick study, immediately said, “Brief.” Those who knew the meaning of “laconic” were amazed.” It gave me an opportunity to teach the others what the word meant.

Laconic came from the Greek city of Laconia. Invaders had sent a message into that city saying, “If we come into your town, we will kill you all and burn it to the ground.” The well-fortified citizens of the town sent a one-word message back, “If.” Hence the name for any brief statement became “laconic” after that linguistically economical city.

So, while having fun on the last class day, I was able to do a little vocabulary building, with a little help from my friends.