Steve Hamblin, a classmate in Infantry OCS, writes to the group after I posted the Second of the third:
“Still thinking about Wheat losing most of his platoon. My God that must have haunted him. There are no words. Vietnam is long over but there remain walking wounded among us and sometimes we learn too late who they are.”
Via OC-504-68 FtBenning at yahoo!.com
A good book, whether novel or memoir, or a bit of both, by Matti Friedman, an Israeli soldier turned journalist writing about their forgotten war. The pumpkin being an outpost in Lebanon and flowers being IDF radio speak for casualties.
Friedman was an RTO, in our army’s parlance for radio-telephone operator, who sometimes carried the radio on his back. His unit were combat engineers but they often operated as infantry.
More from the Austin Chronicle of July 4, 2003: “Homes were built over the location in the mid-20th century in the area called Fortview, and Fort McGruder [sic] Lane runs nearby. An undated brochure attested to historical markers at the site. Today, even they have long since vanished.
“Interestingly, the mid-1990s are when most of the fort’s history was written. Archeologists began research on the area in the spring of 1992 near Wadford and Dunlap streets. Homes covered the area, and the frontage road of Ben White was soon to cover the east-west trench. The team of researchers found where the [L-shaped] trenches were and how they were filled. The north-south trench was 260 feet long and met the 470-foot east-west trench. But no Civil War-era artifacts were unearthed. Not a cannon, not a rifle, not so much as a minié ball.”
By then, of course, the place had been picked over for generations. So how did Bar get her presumed Fort Magruder cannonball? From her mother, who lived in the area and collected odd things, like 1870 French bayonets, and 8-pounder cannonballs. My knowledge of the fort comes from maps and mentions at the Austin History Center.
Had a chimney guy in last week to inspect the mini-rancho’s fireplace before we use it. He picked up Bar’s cannonball from the hearth, hefted it and asked if it was real. When I said yes, it’s real, he set it down gently.
I said it was Confederate from an old fort in South Austin before there was a South Austin. He said (coincidentally, what are the odds?) he grew up in Pennsylvania and his school classes spent time each year at the Gettysburg battlefield park. Said he had a friend coming down soon and he’d sure like to show him a real civil war fort.
I said the old fort, just earthen berms really with field piece (cannon) revetments cut into them, was near Ben White and South Congress. Somewhere on the northwest corner. All gone now, of course, buried under commercial development. But they can look at it and imagine how it was.
UPDATE: From the Austin Chronicle, July 4, 2003: “‘Archeological and Archival Investigations at Fort Magruder, a Civil War Period Fortification in Austin, Travis County, Texas,’ published by the Texas Department of Transportation, is by far the most comprehensive history of the fort or, more accurately, construction site. ‘The fortifications of Fort Magruder for all practical purpose never got off the ground, and to date no documented evidence has surfaced that Fort Magruder was ever garrisoned by troops for the military threat to Austin never materialized,’ the report said.”
At least we haven’t planned on it. Haven’t bought any candy at all. Though I’m sure some young children live in the Neely’s Canyon condos, we don’t expect them to show up tonight.
Trick or treaters were diminishing each year at Rancho Roly Poly, from little ones in store-bought costumes in the early years to teenagers often with no costume, just a hand out.
We could discourage them by cutting off the porch light. Here we can’t control the front door light, which cuts on and off only in response to motion or the lack of it.
Sennacherib, that is, a rare reader and commenter, looking remarkably chipper for being several thousand years old. He had visited the old Rancho earlier and he wanted to see the new mini-rancho. Liked it, or seemed to, mini as it is.
As usual he told us a lot of tales of when Austin was young, not so long ago actually, about seventy years. Turned out his Austin father owned a masonry company and Barbara Ellen’s father was a mason. But they soon figured out that bit of synchronicity went nowhere as BE’s dad worked for other companies but not that one.
Alas, his highness was unable to answer the high dollar question: Who is/was the Neely of Neely’s Canyon? As in Neely’s Canyon Condominiums. Google has nothing. It’s still a mystery. Surely it was not some developer’s name as the condos were built thirty-nine years ago by Larry Peel. Might have been any landowning Neely of the late 1800s, his excellancy surmised, a time when just about every piece of terrain in this part of Texas acquired a name.
Watching a Bob Hope-James Cagney dance routine (yes, Hope could dance) I was reminded of this recent essay by historian Victor Davis Hanson:
“Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.”