Sunday, September 25, 2005

Small Victories

Sometimes things turn out OK after all. Sometimes you do win one against the Loveless Ones. We live through a long, cold, lonely winter, with awful, saddening, depressing news striking blow after blow, both here and around the world.

But sometimes you really do win if you fight hard enough. Sometimes history shows a little mercy.

After a summer dreadfully marred by resentment and outright enmity in a rural neighborhood badly divided by an effort by a small contingent of residents to enlist the County to widen, straighten and pave our beautiful, historic road, the Forces of Good have won out -- for at least a few years, anyway -- over the greedheads who look at our little corner's green and pleasant beauty and see nothing but money to be made, subdivisions to be zoned, ticky-tacky boxes to be built for a million a pop.

Our lovely, crazy-winding little ribbon of dirt is safe for now: 250 years old, lined on both sides for several miles with stone walls built before the Revolutionary War by scrabble-assed Pennsylvania Dutch antinomians, with hedgerows that saw the Civil War; a tiny narrow road that saw countless -- countless! -- travelers over it in its day: farmers humping their hundredth load of wheat and corn to the River Mill and around the points into Harpers Ferry to the C&O Canal and Washington; itinerant tinkers, feed merchants, Fuller Brush men, Irish navvies fresh from a layoff from the bankrupt Loudoun Branch RR, drunks stumbling to the river stillhouse for a snort, quarrymen hauling limestone to the kiln to be reduced to soil-sweetening lime; hunters, trappers, loggers, journeymen, schoolmasters, slaves, ferrymen, coopers, smiths, preachers, Harpers Ferry whores; horses to be shod, plows to be repaired, wheels to be given new tires, at Painter's Smithy; drippy-nosed children walking home from Georges Mill Schoolhouse, pausing to skate joyfully across the newly frozen pond on the Everhart farm; gelid Union subalterns escorting local young women home from regimental balls in the terrible winter of 1864 after Sheridan's Burning Raid, forbidden flirtatious laughter erupting from horsedrawn sleighs, fingers exploring safely away from parental eyes under thick and safe fur blankets; doomed, crazy twenty-year-old John Mobberly, three short months away from his murder on the eve of Appomattox, scouting the 35th Virginia Comanches over Short Hill to attack General Devin's 6th New York encamped on Dutchman Creek.

The guy who killed himself in the log cabin where I'm typing this.

These ghosts -- Oh, I feel them! Oh, they are here! -- have been given a few years' reprieve. They are never far away, and it's an act of love, of mercy, to keep them present. I feel a duty to them.

Small victories.


Anonymous said...

And you thought you couldn't sell the idea! Courage, Ned, and well done.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember the last time I read such a stirring testament to the power of history.
Not the typeset textbokks stuff, chained to the page in black ink, but real living breathing, sweating, pissing, puking, bleeding, dying, striving, get-up-every-day and put blisters on your hands, barbaric yalp history.
If we taught more of this in the schools a significantly higher percentage of These Kids Today would have more of a clue about whats going on.
Well done on the road. Well done indeed.

Anonymous said... why I have you bookmarked.

Linkmeister said...

Good for the good guys!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Bravo! I love it when things turn out as they should. Enjoy your perambulations.
Is also why I have you bookmarked.

handdrummer said...

Bravo and huzzah! Sometimes the tide of greed can be diverted. Not stopped, but shunted aside. Good going.