Them Men In Blue

  1. A Tale of Fightin’ Blue Coats
  2. (poem-civil war-recollection)
  3. By: M L Wehunt
  4. July 9, 2012
  5. He sat near the open hearth
  6. reminiscing of the past and recollecting
  7. when he was nearer beginnings than endings
  8. before he was caught with his pants down.
  9. Eyes sullen he strokes at his salt & pepper hair
  10. pushing it backward over his forehead;
  11. it spitefully falls forward as if to say,
  12. I know what I am, leave me be — let me hang
  13. And likewise he knew what he was too –
  14. for sure and for certain he knew;
  15. he spoke it out-loud to the woman with the tablet in her hands
  16. who’d come to hear his words —
  17. He spoke with a natural southern softness and in the dialect of native region,
  18. but he spoke out the words with edged wit, even a hint of humor
  19. Them men in Blue coats never were to my liken;
  20. ne’er a truer thing have I spoken in all my sixty-two year,
  21. No, I never did like the color blue on a fight-‘en man –
  22. While I was in the fields being drug behind an ole mule, Sally was her name;
  23. Suspenders holding my trousers and sweat dripping off my brow
  24. like my Pa – beside me, who’d learnt me to cultivate the land proper;
  25. I saw them devils in blue coming over the ridge to the south of us,
  26. Them ill-desposed and ill-advised ilk of men, each one!
  27. Proud, those blue coats marched in as if they owned us
  28. and took all the eggs, even all the chickens they wanted
  29. and then they took stored bags of wheat and corn – they did this
  30. without a fight – ’cause that day we weren’t fighters;
  31. At nights fall that changed in me; after super filled my belly –
  32. Somewhere deep inside me the fight-en stirred and it came out
  33. like a balled up fist, lightening fast and bull strong and I swore no more;
  34. So in the dead of night I chased them chicken’s down!
  35. On a Sunday no less – and brought half back for our table.
  36. No other way to see that; no other way to react,
  37. Those good-old boys in gray never did pick us clean of wheat or corn
  38. and nary-a-one took a chicken egg unless offered to them and we did offer;
  39. seeing that they asked nice-like for what we could spare.
  40. After them blue coats had come; after that night I’d took them chickens back;
  41. That next day – I swore I’d walk away from all I know-ed
  42. and my Momma’s plea did not stop me for my head was fixed
  43. on what I was to do and what I was to do was fight them ilk of men
  44. who’d been take-one-more-step away from my fist two days before.
  45. So – at first light I left and joined up and the rest is history in the telling.
  46. He took breath into his lungs, a breath as deep as the sea past Pamlico Sound,
  47. past the sand dunes to the east, far to the east from where he sat; expelled it
  48. in one long stream of air coming from his nostrils; head bent, shoulders straight
  49. to the back of the solid beach-wood spindled rocking-chair in which he sat –
  50. MAMA always said Sundays are for church and little else;
  51. that didn’t stopped me from turning heathen, anyway, after
  52. I found the feel of a gray coat to my liken; but that was ’cause
  53. I found I like things my comrades taught me about;
  54. He spoke of liquor moistened lips and strong scented breath
  55. I run-ed through those woods caring this here muzzle I’m showing you
  56. and fled from all I know-ed that was right by Mama’s standards
  57. and shot straight and true at anything blue and I was nearly always dead on.
  58. He smiled – but that was a long time ago and I kept my stories silent until her passing.
  59. Near-do-good my Mama would have said had she know-ed of my heathen ways;
  60. which I held from her for near on forty years now; she never knew those
  61. men in blue had done more to that boy of hers than taking away her chicken eggs.
  62. But, she’s at rest now so let the telling begin; only once and then we’ll let it be.
  63. I was partial to the sweet smell of fresh pine saplings in the spring time
  64. and worked along side my Pa like a good boy should until them Yanks came calling
  65. then I found myself in a predicament of momentous proportions given that I acted
  66. like a fool of a sapling boy, not like those pine saplings that a strong wind could bend!
  67. I just could not bend and I couldn’t take it either and I wasn’t goin’-a neither!
  68. I was bent in all different directions, at any one’s will it seemed, other than mine.
  69. It was my sixteenth year and I was doing my will by God Almighty; although I did not know
  70. what it was I was to do at first so they put me to cleaning stuff and shoveling stuff
  71. and such as that; but that didn’t last long for before long I was in the thick of things –
  72. Shots all around me and nowhere to duck I landed face down in a thicket not padded for landing –
  73. and wishing I’d found another place to dive into but there I was, face down, shots all around and
  74. with only a shovel as a weapon I was no match for those blue coats who were hell bent
  75. on pick-en us off one by one which I was not all that abiding about doing – not one bit.
  76. Then off to the northeast I spotted them – coming through the musket powder fog; our men!
  77. And all hell broke loose, first I saw one, then two, then I don’t know how many that fell
  78. the day I saw a real battle of wills and when it was all over we all – all that was left –
  79. blue and grey got to yelling at each other across the field about exchanging coffee for tobacco.
  80. That’s when it got to hit me like a shipwreck straight ahead – I was not a any truer fight-en
  81. man than those other fellows across the field – both were dug in alike – and there was no
  82. grey or blue difference twixt us but where we came from and that got me thinking real clear
  83. of what I was going to do next and what I was going to do next was unfitting a fight-em man.
  84. The last thing my Pa said to me was if I was to do this thing I was not to bring shame –
  85. And I was to come home alive or he’d kill me again, he said this with a slight chuckled serious nature;
  86. as my Pa would do, then she noted as much with pencil working hard on tablet  — to capture all that was said.
  87. I found myself with some apples some old lady had gave me the day before and I yelled out
  88. “apples for coffee” and was taken up on the offer before I could blink twice, straight away it was;
  89. And all that was left was to figure out how the swap was going to happen – this was not too clear to me
  90. but the other feller must have spotted a tree stump and yelled it out and said ‘you go first’ and I did.
  91. That was the best cup of coffee I’d ever had in all my up to then years and it was due to one of those men in blue;
  92. He chuckled – can’t tell you why I yelled out coffee except-en it sounded better than yelling out tobacco for apple.
  93. But, the fellers I was with was glad for it ’cause they hadn’t taken a liken to tobacco then either;
  94. that came later – a lot of things came later.
  95. He became quiet. The reminiscing seemed over so she placed the tablet down and they sat for a while, in silence.


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