Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A snowy stillness at Gettysburg

I awoke this morning to a three-inch snow drift on Black Oak Ridge.

This is my favorite kind of white wintry blanket -- wet, heavy, beautiful, no traffic trouble.

And it's funny. As I stood among the stillness, admiring the remnants of what I hope is our last blast of winter, I thought about Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, you ask? Why Gettysburg? That battle took place in the heat of summer.

Here's the deal.

We took a trip to Gettysburg back in the eighth grade. I was a budding history buff by then, so I couldn't wait to get there.

I can't exactly remember the sequence of events, but we stopped at Harpers Ferry and at Monticello. After we toured Jefferson's magnificent mansion and headed back to the bus, I saw a look of concern sweep across Paul Williams' brow. The weather forecast looked bleak. Might even be a blizzard, the bus driver said.

Well, we didn't get a blizzard, but we got some snow. It didn't keep us from haunting the hallowed ground at Gettysburg, though.

I stood there, listening to Mr. Williams talk of Rebs and Yanks, of Pickett's Charge, of Chamberlain's famous fishhook maneuver. And even though the weather was totally wrong for a re-enactment, it was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

You know how still it gets when it snows? Animals find shelter. Birds don't budge. Dogs don't bark. That's how it was that day. In the quiet, my mind drifted back to the summer of (18) '63. I gazed across that field and wondered how the Confederates felt, charging like lightning toward death's terrible swift sword.

The spell was broken when a few idiots started throwing snowballs.

As luck would have it, I got to go back to Gettysburg with Mr. Williams about a decade later. We walked together most of the trip, swapping stories about battles and books and the Baltimore Orioles. Life had come full circle.

A future Alabama fullback named Baron Huber caught a foul ball at Camden Yards. I met Boog Powell. I had to put up with a little eighth-grade immaturity, but, thankfully, no snow.

These are things a history major thinks about on a snowy morning in March. What can I say? Maybe Scott Fitzgerald said it best.

"And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."


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