Forgetting Those Things . . .
Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
who never to himself has said,
"This is my own, my native land."
By the time Joab reached the train station in Washington, D.C., he was as tired as he’d ever been. He had slept little, had eaten even less, and riding in slatted cattle cars for hundreds of miles in below freezing temperatures, he had near frozen to death. And what was more troubling, he had it to do over again back to Memphis. There was one thing for sure, he must use a few of those dollars he earned at Manassas Junction for food. Where, he had no idea.
He cleaned the car and shuffled some hay about, jumped Star to the ground and rode to the station. A light snow covered the dirt packed roads of the Nation’s Capitol, and the trees were bare except for the myriad evergreens. It was early morning and the lamplights were still flickering. He crossed the bridge over the Potomac River and searched the horizon for the dome of the Capitol. Breathtaking. And there was no scaffolding to the top. Joab guessed they had completed the work that was suspended during the war. For that matter, everything had been suspended during the war. He rode toward the building that was much farther away than he thought. He wanted to see what it looked like on the inside. He could not imagine. He remembered how beautiful he thought the Lyceum to be, and it was. But this beggared all description. The closer he got, the more enormous the building.
He rode Star as far as he dared and tied her to a hitching post, secured his rifle with the blanket, and hoped his horse would be there when he returned. He wasn’t too worried. Star would resist anyone she didn’t know. It was the chance of a lifetime, and he may never pass this way again. He took the steps to the top, more steps than he had seen or likely would ever see on a single building. Joab entered the grand Rotunda and stood with his eyes passing over a thousand moments of beauty.
His footfalls echoed through the National Statuary Hall, the meeting place of the House of Representatives until 1857. He marveled at the whispering gallery, which he would like to have tried for himself. He would take John Quincy Adams’ word for it. It was an amazing building. He paced the hall where the founding fathers once sat to frame the Constitution, form the Bill of rights, and create the laws of the country.
Not wanting to leave, Joab mounted Star and, gaining confidence that this was his Country, his Nation, he reluctantly rode toward the White House. He was not dressed properly to enter. He knew that, but he could circle the residence of President Ulysses S. Grant. His insides churned with thoughts of the past. He had nothing but contempt for Grant and Sherman. The war was over. Grant was his president. “Forgetting those things which are behind …” Why was healing practically impossible?
Excerpt from JOAB
Jane Bennett Gaddy