Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

October 6, 2012

Who knows what wars they had to fight?

We wear our uniforms not just to honor those who fought in the Civil War, but to honor all Americans who have served honorably — or are now serving.

My specialty is artillery, and I often talk about artillery with someone who actually has done it for a living. Used to make me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I tell them a Civil War gun crew operated in much the same way as a modern gun crew. Each man had a specific chore but could perform any other if necessary.

One swabbed the bore with a “sponge,” which consisted of a round plug wrapped in cloth at one end of the ramrod. It was soaked with water and run down the barrel.

That not only helped cool the barrel, it extinguished any live embers from the last round’s powder bag. If not done, this might result in the rammer’s mother having a bad day. (On the other hand, the rammer would have nobody to blame but himself, because he did both jobs.)

One fellow said, “I was on a 175 (millimeter cannon) crew in Vietnam. We swabbed the barrel, too.”

Another man, somewhat younger, came by with his family. They didn’t stop, and he didn’t look at us, but he raised his head a bit and called out “Go, Artillery!”

I called back, “All right! Get some!” (An exhortation to kill the enemy that dates from Vietnam. I hear it being used today by people who probably have no idea what it means.)

It was the only thing I could think of, and it had the desired effect. He grinned like one of those little kids the captain and I set astride the cannon barrel to have their pictures taken.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take any spoken words to have a full conversation.

A few years ago, a man wearing a ballcap that said he was a Native American Vietnam Veteran walked past. I came to attention and saluted him. He returned my salute and went on, saying nothing, but his chin and chest were thrust forward, and I could see a fierce pride had begun to burn in his eyes.

This year, I stepped out to shake the hand of  man in a World War II Veteran ballcap and said, “Thank you for my freedom, sir.”

The only reason Capt. Gary didn’t get to him first was because I was closer.

Suddenly, we were surrounded by a group of men and their families who belonged to an organization of men who enlisted when they weren’t old enough to do so.

One told us he altered his birth certificate and enlisted in the Army when he was 14. When the recruiter questioned a senior recruiter about it, the boss man looked at the birth certificate, then at him and said, “He’s OK.”

Eventually, the Army found out how old he was and kicked him out. Then he enlisted in the Navy when he was 15, and they found out how old he was and kicked him out.

He went back in the Army, was wounded and was in a field hospital when they discovered he was only 16. Then it was a matter of “Now, what in the hell do we do with him?”

An African-American man said he was 70. His mother would be 100 in a couple of weeks. She was amazing, dressed up in what folks used to call “Sunday go-to-meeting clothes,” with a big hat and an even bigger smile that broke out when Capt. Gary, 1Sgt. Goldy and Cpl. Reggie greeted her with a simultaneous chorus of “God bless you, ma’am!”

She didn’t look 100, her mind was as sharp as a razor and Capt. Gary whispered to me that she probably had less trouble walking up the hill to Little Round Top than any of us had.

When it came time for them to go on, she held out her hand for us to shake. Each of us responded by taking it and kissing the back of it, the way a proper gentleman once did when he encountered a proper lady.

There was an air of gracious warmth and dignity about her that I find more often in older black people than anywhere else. My friend Clifton Brooks, a former Tuskegee Airman, also has it. It makes me feel like I’m with my own grandmother or grandfather.

Maybe it’s the cumulative effect of having to face heaven knows what (Mr. Brooks said he returned from one war in Europe, only to find he still had another left to fight at home), and overcoming enough of it to raise good families and make a better life for them and ... perhaps most of all, faith.

We could have spent hours with her, listening much more than talking.

What we could learn from her? What has changed in her century of life? What hasn’t changed? Does she think there’s hope for us to become what we ought to be?

She must have known people who were slaves ... possibly some of her relatives, or maybe even her parents or grandparents.

Our brother from another mother Reggie portrays a black soldier from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

After the lady and her son left, I asked if he remembered what happened the night Gary and I met him.

“I still think about it,” he said. He was sitting outside Gettysburg Eddie’s in his uniform, and he seemed overjoyed to learn that Gary and I were the two Union soldiers who called out “Give ‘em hell, 54th!” when his unit passed by in Gettysburg’s Remembrance Day Parade.

A young white couple asked if Reggie would mind having his picture taken holding their baby.

He loved the idea, and so did I ... standing there thinking there was a time when I never thought I would see such a thing. Gary said he felt the same way.

Now, I see it from time to time, and maybe there will come a day when it happens and nobody pays any attention to it or sees anything out of the ordinary. (I sometimes tell younger folks I remember when people thought John F. Kennedy could never be elected president because he was Roman Catholic and — even worse — of Irish descent. They have no idea what I’m talking about.)

We three old soldiers — the captain, the first sergeant and the corporal — probably won’t be around to see it.

But we believe in Divine justice and mercy, and we have faith that the Almighty will make sure that we know when it does.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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