“The child comes home and the parent puts the hooks in him. The old man, or woman, as the case may be, hasn’t got anything to say to the child. All he wants is to have that child sit in a chair for a couple of hours and then go off to bed under the same roof. It’s not love. I am not saying there is not such a thing as love. I am merely pointing to something which is different from love but which sometimes goes by the name of love. It may well be that without this thing which I am talking about there would not be any love. But this thing in itself is not love. It is something in the blood. It is a kind of blood greed, and it is the fate of man.”
Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men
Down I went to Virginia to study the Civil War; to find out if I STILL HEAR THE GUNS. There are many people who do, and they tend to hang around Battlefield Visitor Centers. They are always eager to strike up a lively discussion. I had an ancestor who saw plenty of documented action in the Eastern theater. One out of two soldiers were killed; and my ancestor was one. Also, he was fighting for the wrong side.
I dropped his name, for fun and because I was afraid I might get bored. The other visitors and the park service historians knew exactly who I was talking about. My ancestor is famous in these circles. They even know where he was killed, in action at Gettysburg. Some of them seemed to feel sad about it.
“Even if he had survived the war,” I pointed out. “He’d be dead now.”
But there’s an unspoken remorse, a sense that things could have been different.
Well, he was fighting for the wrong side. That’s not up for debate.
The woods are haunted. Old person’s face. Slaves around a fire. Loss.
Jefferson Davis had an infection in his right eye for most of his adult life. The eye was filmy, white, weepy. An antibiotic ointment could probably have fixed it in a couple of days. Something over-the-counter. But antibiotics weren’t a thing. So Davis had an eye infection for thirty years. It gave him headaches and paralyzed the right side of his face. He often lost his appetite. He was gaunt and grumpy and from the South.
STILL HEAR THE GUNS?
A fight along an unfinished railroad
A fight in a deep cut
A fight on a hillside
The soldiers swarmed the house, which was up on a hill, with artillery and wagons. They fought all around it, unaware that the family was still inside. Down in the cellar with their hands over their ears. What would that sound like? Deaf for life.
The moral is: don’t build your house on top of a hill.