By Elizabeth Speth
I’ve told this story before. It’s a mark of old age when we start repeating our stories. But this post is about history, so there you go.
My neighbor’s grand-daughter is visiting. She is about eight. She played all afternoon in the field next to my south pasture, loud and happy to be alone with her imagination. She was an entire school yard of energy and noise. It was glorious — exactly what our neighborhood has been missing. I lingered over my manure scooping to absorb the joy.
After she emitted a particularly loud series of whoops, I set aside my pitchfork and waved at her over the fence.
‘Are you okay?” I called.
She galloped over on an invisible pony, face smudged with dirt and hair disheveled from flying behind her all day, trying to keep up. She narrowed her eyes and gave me the ‘so you’re the crazy neighbor‘ stare.
“Have you lost a limb?” I asked.
“No”, she said.
“Well, what was that noise?” I wanted to know.
“It was a war cry,” she said.
“A war cry,” I repeated. “And how does that work, exactly?”
“I make the noise, and everyone comes to fight. Indians, soldiers, cowboys, everyone,” she said.
I gave this some thought. I know from experience that what a child deems worthy of saying deserves consideration, which makes conversations a minefield if you are not on your game.
“So…” I began respectfully. “They all of them just know to drop everything and come with weapons drawn when you do that? I mean, it’s just the one cry for all of them?”
“You don’t know much about history, do you?” she asked me, narrowing her eyes still more.
I allowed that what I knew of history was perhaps not as useful as what she had learned.
She wheeled her imaginary war horse, talking to me over her shoulder as it pretend-danced and pranced.
“I don’t have time to explain it all to you,” she said. “Time to fight!”
And off she went.
I hope her steed was brave and true.
And I hope she stays this age for about three more decades.
Me? I go back to shoveling poop, which is the fate of those who do not pay attention to history.