Thursday, October 25, 2012

Red River Valley

The Red River Valley

From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways awhile

Come and sit by my side, if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true

I've been thinking a long time, my darling
Of the sweet words you never would say
Now, alas, must my fond hopes all vanish
For they say you are going away
The Red River Valley, is perhaps as old as 1870. The Canadians claim it, but I think of the Red River Valley as the border between Texas and Oklahoma.

My mother used to sing this song to me when I was a child. Often, she would sing these words to me just before I would nod off to sleep. Many artists have recorded the song, including Jo Stafford in 1955 and an earlier version by Woody Gurthrie , but the words and the melody that I remember are my mother's. The sound is a soft and sad good-bye. The song conveys a sense of loss, a wish that our lives could continue on, but the knowledge that time moves on and, with time, our hopes vanish, but never our memories.

Joan Fletcher was not my mother, she was the mother of my brother-in-law, Andy Fletcher. She passed away the other night, peacefully I hope. I will miss her bright eyes and sweet smile. I will remember her for her wit and spunk. A favorite topic of hers was politics. We might disagree, we might even agree, but talking about it was always fun. And, I will think a long time of the good times we shared.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poudre Canyon

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751):
Poudre Canyon, the locals pronounce it Poo-der.

The Old Man is visiting his son who is now in his first year of college at Colorado State in Fort Collins. Fathers and sons never get along at this time. They seem to eye each other like wary boxers in a ring, both trying to get in the first jab.

With relief the Old Man took the day off to drive up Highway 14, north and west of Fort Collins. The route takes you into the Rocky Mountains, west though desolate Larimer County. The fires which raged all summer long are now put out. The hillsides are bare, except for the skeletons of blackened trees. Here and there is a patch of green, the lucky trees that escaped destruction, and the sign from above that life goes on. There are signs of thanks to the firefighters which grace the driveways to the saved cabins. The river itself, once clear, is now dark, carrying enough hydrocarbons to ensure another degree or two of global warming. There is much to consider.

You are not going anywhere in particular. The next town is Walden, population less than 800, unless you head to Red Feather Lakes for solitude and serenity. Estes Park is to the south. Its route is filled with tourists heading for the wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park. Better to stay off the beaten path.

Poudre Canyon, pronounced Pooder

Highway 14 winds though Poudre Canyon, a 40 mile stretch of ancient granite rock that was carved eons ago by the Cache La Poudre River. Poudre is the French word for gun powder. And the story is that the river and the canyon were named by French miners who in 1820 were trapped by a blizzard and forced to bury their gunpowder. The Old Man wonders who lived to tell the tale.Today the narrow route through the high canyon walls is marked by numerous turnouts. In the spring and summer, kayakers hazard the river. Now in the fall, fly fishermen in waders stand knee deep fishing for mountain trout. All year round, city folks, from Fort Collins, Longmont and all along the eastern range, come to escape the frenzy of city life.

Here in Poudre Canyon, the Old Man could wonder about the passage of time. After all, the rocks, mostly Precambrian Metamorphic granite  - the Old Man looked it up - were formed over a billion years ago and then thrust up in a cataclysmic shift of tectonic plates. In the back of the Old Man's mind he hears Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

Today all is peaceful. The Old Man and his dogs Sammy and Tobie, wander along the river bank, marveling at the round granite boulders made smooth by the force of glaciers eons ago. Watered by the river and the rains, the grasses have already reappeared. Here, cooled by the mountain water, the Old Man is far from the maddening crowds.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Boche

The Boche, a French slang word for Germans used first in WWI. Boche means pig-headed or obstinate.

Graffigny viewed from the hills my grandmother once owned

I know nothing (Je ne sais pas, Ich weiss nicht) of my grandmother's German side of the family. Marguerite Chevallier Meine was born before the turn of the last century and her mother's family was rooted in the small French village of Graffigny-Chemin, near the Vosges mountains. She always preferred her French surname Chevallier, and avoided use of her German surname.

On the subject of Germans, she was obstinate.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Questions and Answers

Read it in a book recently - The answer doesn't matter if you don't ask the right question. So true.

Tobie, doing what he loves to do.

I am fed up with political debates where the questions and answers never seem to match. So, the Old Man took the two dogs Sammy and Tobie to the park where the only question that mattered was whether we would see any deer. Sad to say, it was too windy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Alexander Francis McGahey

All wars begin as a grand thing. They are full of hope and adventure, at least, until the fighting starts. It is then that the ordinary soldier experiences the misery of the march, sickness, hunger, loneliness, and the fear of the battle. His family, waiting at home, never knows whether their husband, father, brother, or son will return. Alexander Francis McGahey was a private from Pickens County Alabama. He was with the 42nd Alabama Regiment. He was 43 years old when the Civil War began, and 44 when he died a year later, following the Battle of Vicksburg. He left behind a wife and 5 children.

Like many ordinary soldiers, Alexander wrote home to his wife and children expressing his feelings. This letter was written after his first taste of battle, the Battle of Corinth. Mississippi.

Alexander Francis "Frank" McGahey Letters, Submitted by Paul Young, from Ancestry.

[Note. Lest anyone think Alexander uneducated based upon his spelling, remember that Alexander was most likely a farmer in a rural Alabama county. And, anyone who has read Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, will recall that standardized English is spelled phonetically by those who are not trained in school. Alexander's sentence structure and thought demonstrates a thoughtful man. ]
Marshel C.O. Miss           Oct the 11th 1862 

Dear Margaret and Children 

I again take the opertunity of writing you a few loins to let you know how I am agetting along in this unfrinly world.  I am not well.  I have the diorer and the mumps.  I have had the mumps about ten days and thought was well of them when on last Sunday I commenced marching and had  bin at it ever since.  They have fell on me and I am afrade I will have a bad spell of them. 

I must say something to you about hour travels for the last 15 days.  Wee started from Baldwin on the 25th of Sept and thare to Ripley and from thare to Corinth and thare was a grate battle fought. 

The Yankeys ganed a grate victory. [Battle of Corinth, Mississippi]  It is suposed that their brigade lost 12 hundred men.  It is not known what hour loss is.  Hour company had fifty six men in the fight and brought out 15.  Daniel Coleman was lost and it is thought Bill Price taken prisoner.  J. T. Huff came through safe.  Josiah Eddins is wounded in the left arm above the elbow but the bone is not broke.  He is in Holly Springs in the horsepitle [Holly Springs, Mississippi, to the west of Corinth].  Hour captain is lost.  Robert Brown is wounded in two places, one in the coller bone and the other in the foot.  James Gibson was killed on the brest work with many others. I must say something about hour fare during this march.  Wee drawn 10 days rashins at Baldwin on the 25 of Sept and wee drawn again last night.  I have not eat anuff in 3 days to doo a man one good meal but I hope that times will git better now wee have stoped retreting. 

It is thought by some that wee will gow back to Columbus [Columbus, Georgia, just west of Pickens County] to recrute up and if wee doo I think thare is a chance for mee to git to come home again.  The magor has recamended Columbus as a suitable place.  I espect to go into the horsepitle today. 

There was the soriest generalship displade in this fite that was ever known.  It is thought by some that Vandorns command bee taken from him for his management.  Thare was but two brigades ingaged in the fight.  They was to make the attact on one side and  Vandorn was to attact the other and he failed to do it.   General Price would have nothing too doo with it after he found out how the thing was going.  Theer not more men in our regiment now then thare was in hour company before it went into the fight.  I am afrade Brother Tom is lost.  Cant hear of him since the first charge. 

I must close my letter.  You must write to mee.  I havent had any word from you since I left Columbus.  I doo hope that these loins may find you all engoying the blessings of God and the best of helth.  Give love to all of the children and kiss them for me.  I remain your affectionate husban until deth. 

Good by.
A. F. McGahey

The Battle of Corinth was indeed a great victory for the North over the South. The Confederates lost almost twice as many soldiers to the enemy. As Alexander's company brought out only 15 men of 56, it is apparent that they were in the thick of the fighting. [Van Dorn's losses were 4,233, 473 killed, 1,997 wounded, and 1,763 captured or missing.]

Alexander Francis died on July 15, 1863, shortly after the Battle of Vicksburg, another Union victory.