David And Lamar
Monday, July 28, 2014
A while back our senior Senator from Tennessee, Senator Alexander, Lamar to his friends, commented that he's more like Sam Houston than "Davy" Crockett. He did this on the floor of the United States Senate while attempting to scold one of his peers, Senator Cruz from Texas, for standing up to those in the administration and legislature who are perfectly happy providing immigration amnesty for illegal aliens coming to our nation and otherwise frivolously spending our hard earned tax dollars.
I took offense at that statement, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was our senior Senator, former governor upon whose watch our state taxes doubled, former President of UT (is that when they bought that first el spiffo private jet?), former Secretary of Education under whose administration the feds took ever more control of our local schools, has a sense of neither history nor the meaning of sacrifice.
There was a time we had heroes, real heroes who faced down the devil himself when called upon, who'd faced adversity that would cause most of us to crawl into a corner trying to hide today. Today someone is considered homeless if he's slept on a friend or family member's couch for a few days. A hungry child is one who's missed only one meal in the last 30 days, according to our government, but it wasn't all that long ago citizens of this, our nation, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, faced adversity that caused people to die... and faced it every day. We still have those heroes, but they aren't afforded the respect they deserve.
I was cruising back home from North Carolina several years ago and saw an old guy boiling peanuts beside a shack on the side of the road. I'd watched the sunrise from one of my favorite spots atop a mountain outside of Franklin and, since it was a beautiful Saturday morning, wasn't in any particular hurry. I hadn't gotten to that sign yet, the one that, traveling east, says "Welcome to North Carolina - Manteo 576 Miles." Seeing his roadside stand I got a craving for some honey, real honey, mountain honey that doesn't turn to sugar in the cabinet, so I hung a U-ey and went back. He looked to be about 127 years old. As I walked up he said "I just started this pot of peanuts so it'll be a while." I explained that I was just looking for some honey and he told me where it was inside, then we chatted for a while as he kept giving status reports on those peanuts. Looking around I saw a picture of a younger version of the old fellow in a set of Marine Corps Dress Blues, a Sgt. Major, hash marks all the way up his sleeve, ribbons covering the entire left breast of his blouse (yes, real men do wear a blouse), and asked about it. It was him when he retired with almost 40 years service. He'd served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, was there and did that with scars to prove it. Somewhere along the line while yucking it up about the Old Corps and the REAL Old Corps he mentioned Iwo Jima. "You were the real heroes" said I. "Nah, we were just doing what we had to do and didn't worry about anything beyond the man on each side while we put one foot in front of the other. These peanuts are just about ready."
I've never been a fan of boiled peanuts. They're a little slimy, sort of like a worm, and have always been afraid if there was a worm in them I'd just swallow it and never know. But the old Marine was determined I was going to leave with some of his peanuts, so I bought all but two jars of honey with that batch of peanuts and we bade one another adieu. I think I gave those peanuts to the neighbors when I got home... but never said anything about the possibility of a worm, which is a hazard of natural foods anyway. Every time I'd travel old Hwy 64 I'd stop to buy something, get him going with more stories... and walk away with more boiled peanuts to give away, because he insisted. Then one day he was, well, he was gone.
He lived just off of old Hwy 27 on the south side of Graysville, TN. That big old long driveway started on one side of his house, circled around back, then came out again on the other side as I remember. He was a retired Army Master Sergeant who'd served in the second War to End All Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and any other crap-hole his uncle, Uncle Sam, decided to send him. He'd cruised around Europe with some cat named Patton and oh, could he tell some stories about that dude, and others. He didn't have much use for a lot of modern day generals because they're so political, didn't seem to have much use for most political creatures for that matter, especially those who haven't done much more than brag about their experience at this or that. He's gone now too, but I remember my late father taking us up there years ago, especially when plundering around looking for something and run across the meteor fragments he gave me and the kids. The first time we went up, before they widened the highway and destroyed his family's home place, that driveway was lined from end to end with meteor fragments. He said it had come to earth back in 1835 and bits are all over the property even now.
Heroes... Daniel Boone, George Washington, Francis Marion, Sequoyah, Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, Enrico Fermi, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Audie Murphy, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jim Bowie. It was always sort of fun, back in the days before the internet and Wikipedia, to search out the lives of our personal heroes trying to separate fact from fiction, escapades often during relatively short lives.
Jim Bowie, for example, had that knife. A special knife for a special sort of adventurer. I'll bet he kept his mom up more than one night and I just had a thought, maybe I should have given Mom his biography that day she stood in the front yard, in a dress and high heels, jumping up and down screaming "I hope you have 13 little boys just like you!" But she got even, sort of, later when she and some ladies at work decided to take self defense classes... I was her practice dummy.
Legend has it Jim Bowie's knife, it's final form after several experiments and iterations, was forged from a meteor. He died with it in hand, so ill he couldn't get out of bed, but didn't go alone, at a little place called The Alamo... the year after that meteor fell to earth near Graysville, TN.
Heroes... adversity... it's always interesting when our modern day folk, particularly political types, attempt to compare themselves to true heroes isn't it... drawing lines, running away from a debate (their form of a fight) stating it's better to give in on an issue to "fight" another day. Their blather always reminds of Ms. Jane Bowers' ballad from back in the '50s:
A hundred and eighty were challenged by Travis to die
By the line that he drew with his sword when the battle was nigh
"Any man that will fight to the death cross over
But if you want to live you better fly"
And over the line went a hundred and seventy nine
Sing it Johnny... whose version was better than Tex Ritter's.
William Barret Travis was only 26 years old when he drew that line, but was no "Founding Director," or even a so-called entrepreneur drawing a paycheck with someone else's autograph on the signature line. He was a commander of Texian regular soldiers, about the same age as (then) Pvt. Dan Daly when he was awarded his 1st, of two non-posthumusly awarded, Medal of Honor for gallantry in China.
Ole Bowie lay dyin', his powder was ready and dry
Flat on his back Bowie killed him a few in reply
And young Davy Crockett was singin' and laughin'
With gallantry fierce in his eyes
For God and for freedom, a man more than willin' to die
With hearts of lions, neither was a sissy was he. None of those who fought at The Alamo, volunteers all, were. Bowie was 40 years old, only had two pistols, single shot jobs, and took no less than six (6) Mexican soldiers with him... flat on his back with cholera. Tennessee favorite son, Colonel David (who disliked being called "Davy") Crockett (17 August 1786 - 6 March 1836), was almost 50 when he went down in hand-to-hand combat and was the epitome of a warrior with a happy heart. Fully prepared to die for a cause, none was willing to throw his life away needlessly.
They sent a young scout from the battlements bloody and loud
With the words of farewell from a garrison valiant and proud
"Grieve not little darlin' my dyin', if Texas is sovereign and free
We'll never surrender and ever with liberty be"
Hey Santa Anna we're killin' your soldiers below
That men where ever they go, will remember The Alamo
It didn't take a genius to understand, looking down from the walls of that mission, seeing they were out-numbered 20 to 1, anyone who crossed the line was going to die, especially knowing that was Santa Anna's order. But they stayed, knowing they would probably lose even if promised reinforcements appeared, understanding their mission was to delay Santa Anna's army so others could form up to do further battle, and Texas might be free... eventually to become part of these United States of America and, considering all the Tennesseans who fought for its independence, a suburb of Tennessee.
Mexico, Central and South America, the tops of volcanoes poking their heads above water in the Pacific and Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Vietnam, Korea, elsewhere in the Far East, anywhere they're sent, our military go. No matter the conditions, not knowing whether or not they'll come back home, or come home whole, they go where they're sent.
Yet a young whipper will don his cowboy boots, then hang political signage on the fence surrounding a national cemetery. Granted this was two years ago, when he was a year younger than William Barret Travis that fateful day and up to 7 years older than some who are buried there, what of today? His sister proclaims herself to be his "fact checker" and when he's verbally spanked by his opponent on Knoxville talk radio, his daddy calls in his defense... as he sits with a smug look on his face and a tone of arrogant entitlement in his voice. Who's running for elected office? Are these going to Washington to protect him if he's elected? Sorry. Stupid question. They probably will.
And a mediocre, at best, football player in high school, who's so insecure with his own abilities, perhaps with good reason, that he constantly feels a need to remind others how great he is, and tries to live vicariously through local politicians because, well, he can't get elected himself, believes our military members are just doing a job?
Going back to Senator Alexander... anyone who would make such a statement, denigrating the sacrifice of one hero while claiming equity with another, doesn't understand the concept of doing what's best for our nation, our society, or anything more than what's best for him and his personal career. But Senator Alexander has exhibited these qualities in the past by taking advantage of opportunities not available to the rest of us, the working schlubs of the world, hasn't he.
Since Senator Alexander invoked Colonel Crockett and General Houston, claiming to be more like Houston, perhaps he doesn't know much about either Tennessee Favorite Son, or Tennessee history. Perhaps he should review General Houston's biography, particularly the incident in which he laid a whuppin' on one Congressman Stanbery from Ohio, in the middle of Washington, D.C., in front of the entire world.
Had there not been those who held their positions at The Alamo, General Houston would never have been able to raise a force for the Battle of San Jacinto. By all accounts that battle was initiated and finished in just over seven minutes. Depending upon the account, it was essentially over after 11 to 18 minutes.
Tennesseans have a rich history of tenacity, of courage, of doing whatever's necessary to accomplish what ever mission is laid before them, no matter the personal consequences, for what's right. That history has included diplomacy and statesmanship when called for. It's also included standing up to be counted when that was necessary too... not hunkering down and hiding behind the facade of "statesmanship" for personal gain.
Do our grandchildren and great-grandchildren really deserve to be the victims of our current government? Of self-serving politicians who do what they do for personal gain? Of family dynasties?
Or... do they deserve more an ancient Greek proverb; A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
Royce Burrage, Jr.