6.19.2022 – happy the man and

happy the man and
happy he alone who can
call today his own

Adapted from, Happy the Man by John Dryden (1631-1700)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

Of late, I have been reading a lot of Civil War history and Grant out in the West and the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.

While I was reading I was reminded of my families visit to the battlefield in what must have been the spring of 1976.

Once my brother Paul got married and moved to the Washington DC area in 1969, our family spring vacation trips were to Washington and all the memorials and museums and other sights along the way.

But in 1976 (I think) my brother Paul had a short term assignment to the west coast and my Dad decided we would go south instead.

I am not sure of all we saw but we went to the Land between the Lakes in Tennessee and the Shiloh Battlefield.

My Mom always got us some new clothes for our spring trips and this year she bought me, Pete and Stevie and Al matching spring navy blue windbreakers with MICHIGAN in gold letters across the back.

Everywhere we went, at all the diners we stopped at and such, folks would say, “Y’all from Michigan are you??” and we would smile and nod and wonder how did they figure that out?

Anyway part of the Shiloh Battlefield connects with the Tennessee River at a point named Pittsburgh Landing.

This is where boats that supplied the Union Army under US Grant were able to dock and where much of the Union Army ran and hid after the first day of battle.

Today it is a parking lot and overlook of the river where you can park and look over the river and the read the plaques that describe the scene in April, 1862.

We drove around the park and pulled over at Pittsburgh Landing and parked.

There was one other car already parked there.

Outside the car was a little family of a young man and his wife with the wife holding an infant baby wrapped in a blanket.

The man and the woman looked none too happy and it turned out the young man had locked his keys in the car.

He was able to get a coat hanger from the Park Rangers and was trying to work the hanger into driver door but as I remember it, the doors had metal frames and he couldn’t work the hanger past the frame.

My Dad walked up to car, my Mom of course had engaged the young Mom in conversation about diapers and bottles and that the baby bag was IN THE CAR, and Dad looked over the situation.

The car was a hatch back and he noticed one window, one of the back windows that pivoted out on a hinge horizontally, was open just a tiny bit.

The young man pointed out that the window had a latch that let you open the window but he couldn’t get his hand in nor was his hanger long enough to reach the locks.

The young man looked at my Dad and said he didn’t know what else he could do but break the back window.

Maybe a bit drastic but the baby was beginning to fuss and the young wife was beginning to fuss as well.

But my Dad said to hang on and he called us boys over.

“See if you can reach in there”, he said to us with our skinny little arms and hands.

I don’t know which one did it, but one of us could reach in and at least open the latch so the window opened about two more inches.

This got the young man excited but it turned out even with the window open wider he couldn’t get anything unlocked.

“I am just going to break it”, he said.

But my Dad said to hang on and he went to out car and came back with a screwdriver.

My Dad always had a tool or two in the glove compartment of the car.

“Maybe we can detach the window from the latch”, my Dad said.

The young man got the plan right away but he could not get his hands inside the window with the screw driver and get the screwdriver on the screw heads that held the latch plate to the glass of the window and get any torque to turn the screws.

Us kids tried also with no luck.

But my Dad was a Dentist and was used to working with his hands in small spaces.

I can see it in my mind as he took the screwdriver and reached in through the gap and it seems with just his fingers got that screwdriver in place and exerted enough pressure to be able to turn the screws out of the plate.

As soon as the first screw turned us boys all cheered.

My Dad kept at it and removed four screws, took the latch plate off the glass, open that back window wide and reached over the drivers seat and unlocked the door.

“There you go,” he said with this big grin.

The young mom bursts into tears and hugs my Mom.

The young man looked like he wanted to burst into tears and shook my Dad’s hand over and over.

Us kids were all thrilled to have been there, to have helped and to have witnessed ‘Pater triumphans.

My Dad, he just looked happy.

Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour

One of the many times my Dad had his hour.

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