Cumberland Times-News

Columns

November 23, 2013

Guess which one it is that people remember

Some of us still remember Justin Wilson, the beloved Cajun cook who had a show on PBS a number of years back.

Justin told folksy stories while cooking jambalaya or smothered whatever. (I bought one of his cookbooks, and its recipes make really tasty vittles.)

One tale involved a little Protestant boy and a little Catholic boy who were the best of friends.

They played together in school, after school and at all other times except on Sunday mornings, when they went to different churches.

Their parents were friends too, and they thought it might be a good idea for their sons to attend each other’s church once in a while.

I sometimes go to churches other than my own. It’s always good to see how the other half lives, and I know that I will have friends in those places.

Being a Lutheran, I can go most of the way through a Catholic Mass on my own because of its similarity to our liturgy. (They do end the Lord’s Prayer before we do.)

The two boys went first to the Catholic church. There were things like genuflecting (look it up if you don’t know what it is) or making the sign of the Cross that the Protestant boy didn’t understand, so his friend explained them to him.

A few Sundays later, they went to the Protestant boy’s church.

The Catholic boy didn’t need to have anything explained until the pastor took a sheaf of papers out of his coat pocket, unfolded them and laid them on the pulpit.

When he took off his wrist watch and laid it beside the papers, the Catholic boy asked his friend, “What does that mean?”

“Not a damn thing,” replied the Protestant boy.

Less said is sometimes — nah, usually — more. I am asked to give speeches a couple of times a year and even lead the service and give a sermon now and then in our church.

There’s a fine line as to how much is too much or not enough.

More than about 20 minutes is too much because your audience will begin to lose interest (if they haven’t already), but if you give them less than about 12 minutes they feel cheated.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is said to be one of the greatest speeches in history.

It lasted about two minutes and followed a two-hour-long speech by Edward Everett, who was considered to be the finest orator of the day.

Two hours? Back then, more was better. When people went to church, they went for the whole day. Everett gave the crowd what they went there for.

School kids memorize Lincoln’s speech, but nobody remembers what Everett said.

Lincoln initially believed that his speech was a failure.

Aside from that, the accounts of people’s reaction to it would lead you to believe that media-related matters haven’t changed since 1863.

For instance: President Barack Obama didn’t show up for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

He was roundly criticized for it by the people you would expect to criticize him, just as his decision not to attend was defended by those you would expect to defend him.

My reaction to it all is, “So what?”

Lincoln was a Republican (and the party’s first president), and Republican-oriented newspapers praised his eloquence, while Democrat-oriented newspapers said his performance was embarrassing.

One report said there was silence after the speech and another said there was polite applause. The New York Times said it was interrupted five times by applause and was followed at the end by “long, continued applause.”

The occasion for the Everett and Lincoln speeches was the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg.

It took place only four months after the battle, and many of the graves were still open. About half of the coffins hadn’t been buried.

 One estimate is that 6,246 soldiers (and two civilians) were killed, another 13,265 were wounded (6,082 wounded Confederates were left behind for the Union medical corps to treat) and 10,815 were captured or listed as missing.

More than 5,000 horses and mules also were killed. Unlike soldiers, they couldn’t be buried in mass graves to be disinterred later and their bodies removed for other disposition.

Reports were that the citizens of Gettysburg smeared peppermint oil on their faces until the first frost because of the stench.

When Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy are at Little Round Top, tourists sometimes ask if we didn’t wish we had been there for the battle.

Our answer is always the same:

Hell, no.

——————

A friend of mine from Keyser went to Cumberland recently to meet some folks for dinner.

She was so traumatized by her maiden voyage through the northbound stupid-about on Route 220 going into town that she went home through LaVale and avoided the southbound question mark-about altogether.

I told her she had missed the most fun part.

Another friend who lives in Tennessee read last week’s epistle about our highway version of crop circles and had this to say:

“We call those circles ‘redneck-go-rounds’ here.

“As bad as I dislike them, I have to say the other European road addition that has reared its ugly head here makes me red-faced with anger every time I have to use it … which is on my way to church, for one thing.

“It is a switchback thing that crosses traffic off a two-lane highway into two-one way lengths of street. The thing is, the traffic crosses onto the wrong side of what is the norm here in the good old US of A. It absolutely drives me mad!

“There is a concrete barrier there to protect the oncoming traffic from those either too stupid to read signs or stubborn enough to mumble ‘(Threaded wood fastener) this,’ floor it, stay right, and hope for the best.”

Why do I have the feeling that it’s just a matter of time before similar monstrosities start appearing in our neck of the woods?

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