A damned eyewitness


          When my father was a young boy growing up in Calypso, NC in the 1920's, the hub of social activity--for old men and young boys--was the arrival of the afternoon train at 3:30 p.m. The young boys would marvel at the complexity of the locomotive and dream of the adventures to which the train would carry them someday. The old men would compare time with the conductor’s pocket watch and eagerly snap-up snippets of gossip from other towns that the conductor would toss up like pieces of bread to fluttering seagulls. Footnote

Each afternoon, the old men and young boys of Calypso would gather at Grant’s Barber Shop, adjacent to the railroad track, to await the train.


          While they were waiting, the young boys would entreat the old men, many of whom were Civil War Veterans, to tell them stories from that war. The most accommodating of these raconteurs was a gentleman named Giles Martin, known as “Mr. Jolly.” Dad says that he has forgotten the details of most of the stories that Mr. Martin told, but that they all ended the same way, “And we won another glorious victory for General Lee and the Confederate Army!”


          On one particular afternoon, there was an older stranger at the barber shop getting his beard trimmed by Dave Grant. As usual, a small crowd started collecting shortly before the 3:30 p.m. train. While waiting, the young boys pleaded, “Mr. Jolly, Mr. Jolly, tell us a Civil War story.” As usual, Mr. Martin complied, told the boys a tale, and ended it with, “And we won another glorious victory for General Lee and the Confederate Army!” At this point, the stranger, who had been listening intently to Mr. Martin’s story, leaned forward and asserted, “Friend, I too was at Spotsylvania with General Lee, and I claim that we took a hell of a beating that day!”


          Dad said that Mr. Martin put his hands behind his back, walked quickly up and back in front of the barber shop once, and then exclaimed:


Da you go, Da you go!

Another perfectly good story,

ruined by a damned eyewitness!

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