Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Because I am a professional newspaperman, I occasionally run across items that qualify for my list of Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard. (I quit adding to it long ago because of its unmanageable size.) One of the most memorable Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard was this: “Why doesn’t America make Canada the 51st state?” This implies a level of ignorance that would be incomprehensible to most people, but it actually applies to a conversation I had with one of the Canadians that Capt. Gary and I met during our recent Gettysburg campaign.
They were great guys, and what they knew about American history and America in general probably was more than many Americans know.
One asked us, “What was the name of the ship that the Hunley sank?”
CSS (Confederate States Ship) Hunley was a Confederate submarine and the first of its kind to sink another ship during wartime. I said it was USS Housatonic. Hunley was lost after torpedoing her in 1864 and was raised in Y2K. Her crew was still on board, and they were buried with full Confederate military honors.
My friend Joe Davis, a Rebel re-enactor from Tennessee, contends that Hunley was a war grave and should have been left undisturbed. I will not disagree with him.
Joe and his buddies had the opportunity to sit in a full-size replica of Hunley and man the cranking device that turned her propeller. (Joe, a Navy veteran, would refer to it as “the screw.”) He said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
I demonstrated to our new friends that I — a Yankee from West Virginia — actually know some things about Canada.
They were from Toronto, and were overjoyed to hear that I had traveled twice through their beautiful city on the way to go fishing in northern Ontario (their home province) and had been to places like North Bay and Temagami.
I have encountered Canadians before, usually during The Famous Company of Myrtle Beach Golfers’ pilgrimages.
We could always tell who the Canadians were, especially in late January, because it would be 50 degrees out and we were wearing long johns, sweatshirts and jackets. The folks from The Frozen North would be clad in tanktops and shorts.
Anybody who would drive 1,000 miles just to play golf is hard-core.
The guys we met in Gettysburg went there for that reason, and the captain and I visited with them three nights in a row at Gettysburg Eddie’s, where we go for provisioning purposes.
I told them I had fallen in love with Canadian beer — specifically Labatt and Molson ale, both of which at the time were 11 or 12 percent alcohol and tasted like beer ought to taste.
After drinking a six-pack of it, one of my buddies dropped his trousers to get undressed and sat down on his bed. His top half kept on going, and we had to lift his legs and turn him 90 degrees in order to get the rest of him in bed. We left his pants at half-mast.
When they began selling Molson in America, I was beside myself with anticipation — only to find out that it tasted just like American beer, having been brewed with that intent in mind.
“It’s not the same as it used to be,” one of the Canadians said. “The alcohol content isn’t half of what it was when you drank it.”
I told one of the Canadians there is frequent discussion about who won the War of 1812 — the Americans or the British — but the winner actually was Canada. (If you want to know why this is so, look it up.) On top of that, every time the Americans invaded Canada, the Canadians threw their (beasts of burden) back across the border.
His eyes got big, and he said, “That’s right!”
He was astonished to find out that I knew Canada is British today because it was saved (for the most part) from becoming French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The Brits whipped the French at Montreal by scaling cliffs the French thought didn’t need to be defended because they were too steep for an army to climb.
During the Korean War, I said, Gen. Douglas MacArthur invaded at Inchon because of what happened at the Plains of Abraham.
Inchon has the most extreme tides in Asia, and the surrounding terrain is hideous. Mac said the North Koreans would never expect him to land there, so he did, and it worked.
Where, you may well ask, did I learn such things? In Frank Calemine’s 10th-grade American History class, that’s where.
One of the Canadians knew a lot about our Civil War, but he got the sides wrong. He thought Pickett’s Charge was made by the Union.
I told him that if he wanted to understand America’s Civil War, he should look at this way: Our southern states were to rest of America what Quebec is to the rest of Canada.
This is when I found out that Englishspeaking Canadians use the very same cuss words that Americans use.
Let’s return to the place where we started. After he regained his composure, my Canadian friend offered this suggestion: “Why doesn’t America adopt Quebec as its 51st state?”
Tell you what, I replied: You give us Quebec, and we’ll give you Washington, D.C.
“Oh, HELL no!” he said. **** A word of explanation: Quebec is the province that is commonly perceived by the rest of Canada as being overrun with people of French ancestry who speak nothing but French and refuse to learn English, despise anything that is not French in nature and want to separate from the rest of Canada to form their own country. Besides that, they eat snails.
However, many of the signs in Montreal are worded in both English and French (possibly for the benefit of American tourists), and the captain and I have run across a number of Quebecois at Little Round Top.
Like the folks we’ve met from the American South, they seem to be very nice ... and some speak better English than most of the people we know back home. Also, considering the nature of the dominating, all-consuming monstrosity that the federal government has since become, the Southern states were — with the exception of slavery — right about a lot of things that we’re still arguing about today.