Friday, September 19, 2008

Life in My World-Part A

In today’s Neighbor Jane Payne’s newsletter I wrote about our weekend at West Point. So for you newsletter subscribers, this post is a repeat.

Cadets’ uniforms fresh from the dry cleaners and ready to be delivered by Plebes

It’s said of West Point “We taught the people you read about in history.” So, as you walk throughout the post it is as if you are walking through a living museum.

Founded in 1802, the uniform patterns, the buildings and many of the traditions are two hundred years old. The river, granite and trees age the post indefinitely. There are statues of great statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, and soldiers like Washington, Eisenhower, Patton and McArthur. Quotes of great men and women throughout the ages are engraved in granite throughout the post. West Point was a Revolutionary War battle site and there still remains a palpable spirit.
I'll share a few highlights of our trip:

Flirtation Walk. A cadet must accompany you to walk on this trail as it is reserved for the privacy of the cadets. It is a beautiful path that winds through the woods and down to the Hudson River. It passes Chain Battery, a strategic fortification where an immense chain was stretched across the Hudson River to deter the British ships from passing and thus controlling it and conquering the colonies.

Piece of the chain as well as a British cannon captured in the Revolutionary War

Each link in the chain was 114 pounds and 2 feet long so it wasn’t like a little hacksaw would do much damage to it. The chain didn’t catch the ships as much as it intimidated them.

Sadly, Abe had to walk Flirtation Walk with only his dad and me and Cali and her friend, Ray, for company. I’m certain it wasn’t the romantic walk for him that it was designed to be.

the Hudson River from Trophy Point (notice the heavily wooded banks
where the cannons were stationed)

A cannonball launch pad (for lack of a better description, because I can’t remember the name). This battery is a mile and a half from the Hudson River. It started to rain as we climbed to the crest which made it seem even more incredible that the soldiers could maneuver heavy cannons through the slick and heavily wooded terrain. The overlook was situated on a river bend and as the British ships slowed to make the curve, it left them as sitting ducks. I felt a reverence for the men who fought and died in those battles. Later at Trophy Point, an area on post where different “trophies of battle” are displayed, we touched cannons taken during Revolutionary battles.

Constitution Corner. The oath that a cadet takes is written on a plaque as well as the oath he takes upon graduation from West Point as an officer in the army. It is sobering to read the price to which a soldier pledges to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The plaques are mounted on a brick wall and shadowed by a large oak tree with a few benches nearby. It is not far from the infamous Washington monument.

Beings as National Constitution Day was celebrated this week, here are a few interesting facts about it and the people who helped frame and sign it:

· James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” is on the $5,000 bill. (Have any of you ever seen a $5,000 bill?)

· At the time of the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia was the most modern city in America and the largest city in North America. It had a population of 40,000 people, 7,000 street lamps, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and a university.

· There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops! (By the way, Washington wanted to create a military academy at modern day West Point for training a standing army but was defeated in his efforts. Thomas Jefferson was one of the most vocal opponents. Ironically, when Jefferson was President he founded the United States Military Academy at West Point.)

· John Adams referred to the Constitution as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen” and George Washington wrote “It (the Constitution) appears to me, then, little short of a miracle.”

· Although Benjamin Franklin’s mind remained active, his body was deteriorating. He was in constant pain because of gout and having a stone in his bladder, and he could barely walk. He would enter the convention hall in a sedan chair carried by four prisoners from the Walnut Street jail in Philadelphia.

· The U.S. Constitution has 4,400 words. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

Farleigh Dickerson University in New Jersey. The sprint football team’s first football game of the year was held while we were there. FDU has a gorgeous campus with lots of oak and maple trees. It was extremely hot and humid and we wore Army black to soak it all in. If there were any heavyweight players before the game, they were underweight after it. Notwithstanding, it was a very enjoyable afternoon and once we fans took our shoes and socks off in the stands it wasn’t even overly warm.

Army won and Abe played well so that was an added bonus. And the cadet who had a neck injury only cracked a vertebra instead of breaking it so that was a blessing, too.

Father and Son. Calvin planted the idea of West Point in Abe’s head several years ago and when Abe expressed an interest, Calvin helped him make that goal become reality and has helped him stay focused on his goals since. It is very inspiring to me when I see men be good fathers to their children. Every time I caught sight of these two together—whether walking a trail, sneaking away for updates on the football games on a public TV, hugging or offering advice—I smiled. I smiled lots.

Ray finding where a culvert out of Lusk Resevoir leads

One of the highlights of the trip was to take Ray with us. Among other things, Ray has a gift of insatiable curiosity and seeing things through his eyes was like seeing everything for the first time.

Whenever we receive e-mails or notices from West Point they always close with Go Army. Beat Navy. Far be it from me to know of a better way to close a blogpost on West Point than the Army. So. . . . .Go Army. Beat Navy.

1 comment:

Kim Sue said...

I've really enjoyed reading about your wonderful weekend in West Point. I know it was an emotion filled one. Your pin is as beautiful as Abe's ring. I love hearing about all the tradition. What a special, special place.