Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

July 13, 2013

If it works the first time, keep using it

He was, as they used to say, just about knee-high to a grasshopper — somewhere in the mid-range single-digits, agewise.

Saluting, he told Capt. Gary “Good morning, captain,” which I thought was pretty good, considering that he was nowhere nearly tall enough to see the rank on Gary’s shoulderboards.

The captain returned his salute and was asked if he knew the diminutive trooper’s rank. Gary said he was a sergeant (of the three-stripe variety).

He had a coat, blouse, vest, hat, the appropriate britches and brogans (shoes) and a bow tie, plus other accoutrements, and he was toting a toy musket that wasn’t much shorter than he was.

“May I ask you a question, sir?”

“Of course, sergeant.”

“Did you know anyone who was in this battle?”

That’s when Lt. Mark said, “Good luck with that one, captain,” and moved away.

A crowd was starting to gather.

The captain said he didn’t know anyone who was in the battle of Gettysburg, but that he knew about some of them.

“Sir,” the lad went on, “I’m having a problem with one of my men.”

“What’s that, sergeant?”

“It’s the bugler,” he said. “He won’t play what I tell him to play.”

“Well,” the captain replied, “you take that bugle and give it to someone else, and then you send that man to me. I’ll straighten him out.”

The audience was still growing.

“You need to get down, captain!” the boy said.

“Why’s that, sergeant?”

“They’re shooting at you! Don’t you hear it?” and he made whistling noises that almost sounded like bullets going by.

“You’d better get out there and protect your captain,” Gary said.

The sergeant moved out smartly toward the edge of the position we were occupying at Little Round Top, aimed his musket toward Devil’s Den (a rock formation that had been infested with venomous snakes long before it was infested with Rebel sharpshooters during the battle), cocked the hammer, pulled the trigger and said, “Bang!”

He shouldered his weapon, returned to Gary and saluted him, and said, “I got him, sir!”

Times like this, I look around at the folks who are watching and ask them, “Now do you understand why we do this?” They invariably grin and nod their heads.

Unless they come directly to me, I let the captain handle such encounters. He becomes “Pappy,” a real-life grandpa who lives and loves the role, rather than just playing it.

 “If I can make just one little kid smile,” he says, “it makes the whole trip worthwhile.”

Especially, I add, if we can make the parents smile, too ... which reminds me that people sometimes ask us if we have anything scripted.

We tell them we do not, for the simple reason that we have no idea of what to expect.

That said, we do try different things and add them to our repertoire, if they work.

Telling mature women of any age that we’re always glad to have our pictures taken with pretty girls usually has the desired effect.

When a younger woman asks if her kids can have their pictures taken with us, I give her a determined look and tell her that will be acceptable, but only on one condition:

She has to get in here with us and have her picture taken.

That produced such amazing results — not just the first time l tried it, but on subsequent attempts (and people who were looking on enjoyed it, too) — that I plan to keep using it.

The captain and I met another trooper whose age we found out was 10: a goggle-eyed little Chihuahua riding around in a pouch that was about the size of a World War II canteen cover, with the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth. The smallest Union soldier’s cap I’ve ever laid eyes on was perched on top of his head.

He drew almost as big a crowd as the mini-sergeant did.

Janey, our friend from Wisconsin, promised us two or three years ago she would be with us for the Gettysburg battle’s 150th anniversary, and she was.

The last time either of us had seen her was six years ago (I think; at any rate, it’s been too long), when she drove  the whole way.

This time, she flew from Wisconsin to Charlotte, N.C., then to Dulles and finally to Hagerstown in a commuter plane in which she was the only passenger. (On the return trip, they diverted her flight to Chicago, from whence she had to make her own way home, and lost her luggage — which eventually was found.)

Any guy who doesn’t fall in love with Janey at first glance should have himself checked out from head to foot. To the captain and me, she is our little sister. Don’t even mess with her.

She has wild-looking curly red hair that frames an adorable face and eyes that at close range will cause you to start evaporating.

Janey joined us the first day on the battlefield in an incredible light green Civil War-era replica gown and high-topped shoes like the vintage pair I once found in Grandmother Jackson’s closet.

Under the dress, she told us, were five or six layers of other paraphernalia — hoops, corsets, whatever. I don’t remember exactly how many layers, but it was more than I’ve ever run across.

This get-up takes an hour or more with the help of at least one other female to assemble, so she dressed only the first day and spent the rest of the time gallivanting around with our other friends.

I told the captain a couple of times the next day when the audience was big enough that, “Dammit, sir! We drawed better crowds than this yestiddy, when we was usin’ that purty little redhead fer bait!” and the folks got a kick out of that.

We had been at Little Round Top for not more than 10 minutes when I told her, “Congratulations! You’re no longer a virgin!”

Her expression was rewarding beyond belief.

“What,” she finally asked, “are you talking about?”

“You just talked to your VERY FIRST tourist,” I said.

If I can make just one pretty girl smile ... .

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He was here long before Duck Dynasty

    July 27, 2014

  • 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

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