As Dorothy Parker would say: “What fresh hell is this?”
Having just passed safely through the night of darkness, when evil spirits were said to roam, now we face the even more frightening, the day known as the midterm elections.
The whole process of American campaigning reminds me of an old English sport called ferret-legging. It’s an endurance test, you see, involving how long you can stand having a live ferret trying to claw its way out of your pants. And yes, this all is sans underwear.
In the early 1970s, the world record stood at 40 seconds, but since then at least four men, belts cinched, ankles taped, expressions electric, have topped five hours.
One wonders what they had to lose.
Seems like we’ve broken the record over in Kansas with all the weasel political ads from unknown sources, but take heart, all the biting and clawing are almost over.
Let’s change the topic to something more pleasant, say, hmmm … war.
The 150th anniversary of the Oct. 23 Battle of Westport sent gunpowder smoke wafting over Civil War enthusiasts at Swope Park. I came away believing we all need more stirring artillery fire in our lives.
We should have a Napoleon cannon boom away at noon every day, say, down at Washington Park or in Loose Park. Have a drawing among the kids in the audience to see who gets to pull the lanyard. The tourists would love it.
I was pleased to see young African-American men at tables espousing the history of the Douglas Battery, which sent two Parrot guns to the battle, and old Quindaro, the all-but-vanished abolitionist river settlement and a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Those guns, crewed by black volunteers and commanded by Lt. Patrick Henry Minor, born to a mixed marriage in Louisiana, were attached to a Wisconsin battery. The next integrated U.S. fighting units would have to wait for Harry Truman.
We were serenaded by stringed instruments strumming the “Arkansas Traveler” and other old tunes. One who joined in was 90-year-old Lloyd Lalumondier, an old-French-family fiddler once applauded in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Nashville and a lot of venues in between.
I sat near them at the pavilion, while kids waved around my 1858 Navy Colt and I hawked my book. Known to ramble endlessly about the battle and the amazing characters in it, I also have another speech about the pistol-packing newspaper editors of the time.
But one could similarly dedicate an hour to recounting all the cold-blooded murder that followed Confederate Gen. Sterling Price’s 1864 campaign.
By this I mean the men who had their hands up when bullets and bitterness took them down, like that double massacre at Centralia when Bill Anderson’s bushwhackers galloped in.
But hard hearts were found at the Westport fight, too. A number of Topeka militiamen who’d surrendered after their brass howitzer was overrun were “mustered out” on the spot.
I believe more foul play occurred on “Bloody Lane,” which today is Wornall Road around Loose Park, after a charge of Arkansas cavalry was broken up. Noting the enemy dead, with head wounds, lying around Brush Creek, the Leavenworth Daily Times praised the superior marksmanship of the Union men. Well, from 3 feet, it’s hard to miss.
Immediately after Mine Creek, hundreds of ragged Southern soldiers were executed for wearing appropriated Union overcoats or jackets.
Then to top it off, the federals had six innocent secesh soldiers shot by a mostly Kansan firing squad in St. Louis. Gen. Thomas Ewing — yes, that Ewing, the guy who signed Order No. 11 and emptied our border counties after the Lawrence raid — wanted to exterminate 14 in revenge for six Union murdered captives after Pilot Knob.
His superior thought just one for one would be adequate.
In that war, in this place, that passed for mercy.
So what else has been going on? Oh, yeah, some baseball games.
Have to confess I never went to one this year. When we recently presented baseball card bios in The Star and the headline said, “Oh, so now you care,” yes, it seemed aimed at me.
I have a young friend, a walking sports encyclopedia, whose Royals-loving parents moved to the West Coast when he was in grade school. Upon his recent return to Kansas City to practice law, the number of nights he spent at the K astounded me.
They’ll just break your heart, I cautioned in my sweet curmudgeonly way. (After all, for most of my existence here, the team had been crawling through decades of drought, every year of which was going to be the year.)
Well, he and his lovely bride had tickets for game six.
And it was his birthday.
So, when we broke fast the next morning, his heart was, as they say, full.
And I even paid.