A Field Of Grass

By: Stephanie Reynolds

“Oh, there’s a marker for the <insert some Civil War name here> battle,” Mom said urgently to Dad as we drove down the highway. To this day I have no idea which battlefield it was; hence my invitation to you, dear reader, to put whatever name you want on it. I only remembered this specific instance because it was the very first time I realized that adults got excited about things that were utterly unimpressive to a kid. (The second time was when we went to the Grand Canyon, and I realized that it’s just a giant hole in the ground. I didn’t even get to ride the mules.) But at this moment, my concept of the world of adults had not yet been punctured by their fascination with invisible history.

“A battlefield?!” my little kid imagination kicks into high gear. While I know the battle is (probably) over, I still expect to see dull metal cannons sunk axle deep in mud and clay, to have swirls of smoke still writhing in eddies in the cool spring air and lingering heavy over the ground. I expect, I dunno, maybe some battle litter strewn about — old cans or bandages or a hat — something. Maybe I will be able to squint my eyes and barely see the back of the last soldier melting into the woods, going home. Maybe I can walk out and see the glint of spent bullets and take a few as souvenirs.

Dad pulls into the turnoff, and I eagerly look out the window before Dad puts the car in park. And then I see…grass. Nothing but grass.

Oh, and there was also a plaque about whatever this battle was (I think it was in Virginia) that my mom read out loud. Her smooth, Southern voice was weighted slightly with the oration and gravitas of an adult’s layered knowledge of what had transpired well over a hundred years ago. Her intonation itself spoke more than the words raised on the metal. It was the slightly pointed inflections that a teacher, a young sage, or an intelligent, slightly political mother uses to push wisdom into a pair of ears on an oblivious child who exclaimed, “It’s just grass!”

It’s funny because my adult, “seen/read/heard enough of war” mind understands the magnitude of a field that is fertilized by familial blood and the heartbreak of a nation. I am old enough, now, to imagine my son in grey, and my husband with stars. I can look across fallow ground and imagine its state due to the men away at war, not to modern crop rotation planning. I can imagine carefully feeding my chickens like there wasn’t a Dollar General three minutes from my house where I can buy eggs. I look at trails, even on my own land, and think “People walked here. Wagons drove here. Families slogged through swamp and mire. War came through here. The salt in the women’s tears was pure enough and delicate enough not to ruin the soil, though plenteous as they had to have been.”

I KNOW this. And yet that childhood memory has never reframed itself. It stubbornly refuses to give the slightest bit of quarter to wisdom or knowledge or education. I still, to this day, think of that field as nothing but weeds and feel the echo of indignation and boredom I felt then.

And honestly, I think I won’t push too hard to change 8-year-old me’s mind on it. I love that there is still a memory as naive and bright as the blue-sky banner over that demilitarized field of grass. I have enough other memories overlaid with fear and purpose and sacrifice that I think it’s okay to let “kid-me” just be a kid. I think current grown up me will just chuckle with my mom back then over the little Steph who pouted and wanted to go sit back in the car and read her Trixie Belden book until the adults were done adulting and we could get back on the road to Grandma’s.

April Happenings:

April is a fabulous month, isn’t it? It is getting warmer, the sky is bluer, the trees are greening up, AND our April Walking Tours will start soon! Every Saturday at 10 a.m., we have a free walking tour to some part of Athens. The walks will be about an hour. Meet at our office at 100 N Beaty Street.

April 6: Houston Library District with Will Weir

April 13: Downtown Athens District with yours truly (who will be sporting a fabulous antebellum dress, complete with fan and hoop skirt. There MIGHT be free candy to anyone who joins me in costume, just FYI)

April 20: ASU District with Jamie Mikell

April 27: Beaty District with Jessie Ziegler

We also have Celebrate Trails day on April 27. Warm up with the Beaty District walk, and do a follow-up on one of our amazing trails!

I hope y’all have an amazing April! Stop by the office and see me soon!

By: Stephanie Reynolds,  Athens-Limestone Tourism Association