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EP285: Abraham Lincoln: Our First "Wired" President,

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 29, 2022 3:05 am

EP285: Abraham Lincoln: Our First "Wired" President,

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 29, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the story of how President Abraham Lincoln used a telegraph to secure the win of the Civil War. Larry Reed, President Emeritus of FEE, tells the harrowing story of a dark time in American history for our "Rule of Law" series. Our regular contributor from Delaware, Brent Timmons, shares the story of spending time with his Uncle Bud in his last days. Regular contributor Bill Bryk tells about the exciting (and frightening) experience of figuring out equestrian basics after 6 decades.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

 

Time Codes: 

00:00 - Abraham Lincoln: Our First "Wired" President

12:30 - The Palmer Raids, A Dark Time in America's History

25:00 - Cherishing Uncle Bud's Last Days

37:00 - It's Never Too Late to Learn to Ride a Horse

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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They're some of our favorites. Christopher Klein is the author of four books and is a frequent contributor to the History Channel. You've heard Chris tell the story of how Johnny Carson saved Twister and how Mark Twain helped Ulysses S. Grant complete his memoir that saved his wife from destitution.

He's back with another. Here's Christopher Klein with a story of how Abraham Lincoln used the telegraph to help win the Civil War. Nearly 150 years before the advent of texts, tweets and email, President Abraham Lincoln became the first wired president by embracing the original electronic messaging technology, the telegraph.

The 16th president may be remembered for a soaring oratory that stirred the Union, but the nearly 1000 bite-sized telegrams that he wrote during his presidency helped win the Civil War by projecting presidential power in unprecedented fashion. The federal government had been slow to adopt the telegraph after Samuel Morse's first successful test message in 1844. Prior to the Civil War, federal employees who had to send a telegram from the nation's capital had to wait in line with the rest of the public at the city's central telegraph office. Days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Andrew Carnegie, the future industrialist who at the time was superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, sent the following order to the railroad's superintendent of telegraphs.

Send four of your best operators to Washington at once. Prepare to enter government telegraph service for war. Those four men would be the first of the 1500 called into service in the newly created U.S. military telegraph corps.

Using wire coils born on the backs of mules, the corps undertook the dangerous work of crossing battlefields to lay more than 15,000 miles of telegraph wires on poles, fences and bushes. That allowed news from the front lines to be transmitted nearly instantaneously to a telegraph office that had been established inside the old library of the War Department building adjacent to the White House in March 1862. Lincoln, who had a keen interest in technology and remains the only American president with a patent, spent more of his presidency in the War Department's telegraph office than anywhere else outside of the White House. As a president who craved knowledge, he trod a well-worn path across the executive mansion's lawn to the War Department to monitor the latest intelligence arriving in dots and dashes. David Homer Bates, one of the four original members of the U.S. military telegraph corps, recounted in his book, Lincoln in the Telegraph Room, that several times a day the president sat down at a telegraph office desk near a window overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and read through the fresh stack of incoming telegrams, which he called lightning messages. As telegraph keys chattered, he peered over the shoulders of the operators who scribbled down the incoming messages converted from Morse code.

He visited the office nearly every night before turning in and slept there on a cot during pivotal battles. Lincoln though had not made a great first impression upon Bates and the other telegraph operators. He seemed to us uncouth and awkward, and he did not conform to our ideas of what a president should be, Bates recalled. But the more time the president spent in the telegraph office, the more their impressions changed. He would dare relax from the strain and care ever present at the White House, and while waiting for fresh dispatches or while they were being deciphered, would make running comments or tell his inimitable stories, Bates wrote. I soon forgot his awkward appearance and came to think of him as a very attractive and indeed lovable person.

Major A.E.H. Johnson remembered, he came over from the White House several times a day and, thrusting his long arm down among the messages, fished them out one by one and read them. He had a habit of sitting frequently on the edge of his chair with his right knee dragged down to the floor. Bates also recalled to Lincoln that in the intervals of waiting he would write messages of inquiry, counsel, and encouragement to the generals in the field, to the governors of the loyal states, and sometimes dispatches announcing pardons or reprieve to soldiers under sentence of death for desertion or sleeping on post. Lincoln even communicated by telegraph with his family when they were away from the nation's capitol. One time when traveling in New York City, Mary Lincoln wired her husband asking for $50 and news of their young son's pet goats at the White House.

Lincoln telegrammed back, Tell Tab the goats and father are very well, especially the goats. As his family learned, Lincoln would be very direct in his communications. While generals such as George McClellan sent ten page missives, the president replied in three to four sentences. The telegraph allowed the president to act as a true commander in chief by issuing commands to his generals and directing the movement of forces in nearly real time.

For the first time, a national leader could have virtual battlefront conversations with his military officers. The lack of interstate telegraph lines in the south precluded Confederate President Jefferson Davis from doing the same. Lincoln wasn't shy about stepping in and asserting his thoughts on telegrams that weren't even addressed to him. When General Ulysses S. Grant rejected General Henry Halleck's suggestion to remove troops from the siege of Petersburg in 1864, the president lent this support after reading their communications.

Hold on with a bulldog grip and chew and choke as much as possible. To Lincoln, the telegraph office was not just a 19th century command center, but a sanctuary from the throngs who descended upon the White House every day in search of jobs and favors. I come here to escape my persecutors, Lincoln quipped to telegraph officer Albert B. Chandler.

Telling homespun tales and cracking jokes, the president befriended the officers' telegraph operators. When news of Grant's capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi arrived by wire in 1863, Lincoln flouted regulations and bought beer for the operators, drinking a sudsy toast with the general's telegram in his hand. On April 8th, 1865, Lincoln himself telegraphed the office from City Point, Virginia, with news of Grant's capture of Richmond. A week later, the telegraph office broke the devastating news of Lincoln's assassination to the nation as it tapped out the message that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wrote from the president's deathbed across the street from Ford's Theater. Abraham Lincoln died this morning at 22 minutes after seven.

And a great job as always to Greg Hengler for the production on the piece, and a special thanks to Christopher Klein, Abraham Lincoln, the first wired president here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history from war to innovation, culture and faith are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

Go to hillsdale.edu to learn more. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. Next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes. Just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

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But thankfully, NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th.

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Here's Larry Reed, President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education, or FEE, with more. It was on the morning of January 3rd, 1920, that Americans woke up to discover just how little their own government regarded the cherished Bill of Rights. It was during the night that some 4,000 of their fellow citizens were rounded up and jailed for what amounted in most cases to no good reason at all and no due process either. This was the worst night of the Palmer raids.

They're largely forgotten today, but unfortunately they shouldn't be. They were a horrific, shameful episode in American history, one of the lowest moments for liberty since King George III quartered troops in private homes. The terror during the wee hours of January 3rd, 1920, literally shocked and frightened Americans from coast to coast.

But to understand why the Palmer raids occurred, you have to understand the times in which they happened and know about the other infractions on civil liberties that occurred in tandem with them. During this time, roughly from the start of the First World War, or American entry, I should say, into World War I, and 1920, there was widespread suppression of speech and print publication. The Wilson administration knew that many Americans were conflicted about whether or not we should enter the First World War.

And so, as a response to that, it launched a sweeping propaganda campaign to instill hatred of both the German enemy abroad and disloyalty at home. Wilson himself publicly stated that disloyalty to the war effort, quote, must be crushed out, and that disloyal citizens had sacrificed their right to civil liberties like free speech and expression. Under intense pressure from the president, the Congress passed the Espionage Act. Any person who made, quote, false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the official war effort could be punished with 20 years in prison or a fine of $10,000.

And in today's money, that would be about a quarter million. It was amended in May 1918 by the Sedition Act, which made the repression even worse. That made it a crime to write or speak anything disloyal or abusive about the government, about the Constitution, the flag, or U.S. military uniform. Now, you can just imagine how arbitrary such a provision in law is and how terrible the implementation of it is.

It was totally arbitrary and quite abusive towards a lot of people. A good example of the administration's repression concerns the Hutterites. The Hutterites were pacifists, a religious community in the Upper Great Plains, primarily North and South Dakota. And his administration, Wilson's, harassed and imprisoned Hutterite men who opposed the draft. Two of them were actually killed in federal custody. Finally, the Hutterites did what they've been forced to do so many times in their history. They picked up and left the entire population of Hutterites in America.

An estimated 11,000 left the country and migrated to Canada. Wilson's attorney general strongly encouraged Americans to spy on each other. He wanted them to become what he called volunteer detectives and report every suspicion to the Justice Department. And in a matter of months, the department was receiving about 1,500 accusations of disloyalty every single day.

And meantime, the postmaster general, Albert Burleson, jumped into the cause with both feet. He ordered that local postmasters must send him any publications they discovered that might embarrass the government. The post office even began destroying certain mail instead of delivering it, even banning certain magazines altogether.

In one case, an issue of a particular periodical was outlawed for no more reason than it suggested that the war be paid for by taxes instead of loans. Reverend Clarence Waldron is a great example of how personal this repression was. He distributed a pamphlet claiming that the war was un-Christian.

That's all he did. And for that, he was sentenced to 15 years. In another case, there was a filmmaker named Robert Goldstein, and he got a 10-year prison sentence for producing a movie about the American Revolution.

It was called The Spirit of 76. And his crime was depicting the British in a negative light, which of course, in 1776, they were on the other side. But they were allies now, so that sort of thing was a no-no. The administration was violating the rule of law by throwing the First Amendment to the curb in order to advance their political position, which you can't do because we're a nation of laws. Another dramatic violation of the rule of law was the Palmer raids themselves, which violated the right to due process for many people who had done nothing wrong. The Palmer raids really describe a couple different days, two months apart. They're named for Wilson's Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, but he staged the first of the raids on November 7, 1919.

And he had J. Edgar Hoover, we know as, of course, the longtime head of the FBI, he had a young J. Edgar Hoover spearheading the operation. And federal agents scooped up hundreds of alleged radicals, subversives, communists, anarchists, undesirable but legal immigrants in 12 cities on that November 1919 day alone, some 650 in New York City. Now, the second round of Palmer raids was the bigger one.

It was January 2, 1920, that very night and the wee hours of the next morning. That was when the largest and most aggressive batch of federal raids was carried out. It was a night of terror, about 4,000 arrests across 23 states, often without legitimate search warrants. The arrestees were frequently tossed into makeshift jails in substandard conditions. Leftists and leftist organizations were the targets, but even visitors to their meeting halls were caught up in the dragnet.

Beatings, even in police stations, were not uncommon. The Attorney General, Mr. Palmer, actually said, quote, If some of my agents out in the field were a little rough and unkind, or short and curt with these alien agitators, I think it might well be overlooked. Well, he overlooked things like the First Amendment as well. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the bedrock of American liberty. Everything flows from that because the First Amendment says, very specifically, Congress shall make no law, not some law, not occasional law, but Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Well, the middle part of that, the prohibition against abridging the freedom of speech and of the press, is pivotal. I mean, once freedoms of speech and press are muzzled by a government, it does not typically stop there. And so, to me, the First Amendment is so critically important, and so few people in the history of the world have been afforded the kind of protections that it is supposed to guarantee. We know from the experience under the Wilson administration that if government can take an inch, it will, and it will take a mile beyond it. Fortunately, a new administration came into office and got rid of a lot of this stuff, but we should look back and be able to say to ourselves that that is a frightful experience in the repression of civil liberties that the First Amendment prohibited, and we're not going to let that ever happen again. And a special thanks to Larry Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education. And what a story about the Palmer Raids. The Voltaire quote, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That's what the First Amendment is really all about.

Our Rule of Law series, The Palmer Raids, a story about government power and government abuse, here on Our American Stories. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

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Take it away, Brent. I sat at Tinga's kitchen table listening to an album from the band and reflecting on my life with my Uncle Bud. He lay asleep, wiped out in the last days of his battle with pancreatic cancer.

He had just been diagnosed on April 8th. It was now May 10th. Tinga needed to go to work and left me to sit with Bud. I had arrived in Louisville on May 8th for a final visit and to help in any way I could. I opened my laptop to do some work, thought better, and instead opened a story I had written about the first visit with our kids to Louisville in 2006. A gush of emotion overcame me as I read the story. We had eventually made three more summer trips to see Bud and Tinga.

Every one of them was a precious time. Since I had arrived, Bud had slept much of the time. My intention to time my visit when he was still comfortable had failed. He could muster up his strength to sit with me and talk a few hours each day. I labored over what to discuss with him. I wondered what he would want to talk about.

I let him take the lead as much as he wanted and initiated some discussions about topics I wanted to discuss from a list I had made when he first broke the news to me. Then one morning, that labor ceased. I heard Bud stirring and found he had gotten into the shower. After he finished and returned to bed, I pulled up a chair beside him. About the time, he said, how you doing, son? I broke down, trying to control my emotions.

I looked away and sensed him waiting for it to pass. Once it did, I told him that what I liked about writing was the fact I could look back at what I had written, see what I was thinking at the time, and see the change between then and now. He asked what had changed, and from that we launched into a two-hour conversation. It was wonderful. It was relaxing.

There was no labor. We discussed what matters most. I told him that part of his influence on my life was that he had done his best to impart what he had learned from life to me, and that had shaped the way I think.

It was an impressive feat on his part, given the fact that while we are similar in temperament, we are drastically different in some core beliefs. When I saw he was tiring, and as the time approached for the hospice nurse to arrive, I left him to rest. The nurse arrived a little late, but once she left, Bud wanted to talk more. We sat another few hours, and he poured out more thoughts, many of them about his struggles with his relationship with his father. This would become a routine over the next few days.

Bud would rest in bed, then muster the strength to either get up or have me sit by his side and talk. Many of the conversations revolved around the major events and relationships that shaped his life, molded his thinking, and drove him to do certain things. We discussed how the tingle blood from his grandfather Asher had been passed on to his father Elias, to Bud, to me through my mother, and now to my sons Elias and Asher. That blood seems to produce very complicated, multifaceted men.

We could put our fingers on that imprint in every one of the men I just mentioned. As we talked, I could easily identify the tingle influence in my life. That blood produces men who seem to end up carrying a great weight due to the minds it creates and the actions it tends to lead us to. We talked about how that weight was finally lifted, at least partially, in the life of Bud at the age of 44.

He described it as being freed from a chain, freed from bondage, having that great weight lifted off his shoulders. That concern of mine, of what to discuss with my uncle, resolved itself. It appeared we both wanted to discuss the same thing, the things that had the greatest impact on our lives, the things that shaped who we had become. I made it clear that he had done a great deal to shape who I had become, among the many influences in my life.

Part of who I am has to do with our tingle blood. Part of it has to do with his lifelong attempt to share what he had learned in life. I felt like, in these last days, he wanted reassurance he had accomplished a positive influence to some degree.

It was easy for me to do that. In these last conversations, he was reminding me of who I am. Yes, I am a Timmons, and that influence is for another story, but I am also a tingle. I have understood that influence since my teenage years. In talking to Bud, it only became more apparent.

We have our faults, yes, but working through those faults makes us better men. The very act of working through them makes us stronger. I had come to help Uncle Bud and Tinka in Bud's last days. Instead, it was Bud who helped me. He reminded me that it takes a lifetime to complete the work of influencing those around us.

It is slow and calculated work, and requires great patience and determination. And when the work is done, we can rest, knowing we have completed the task. It was his last great gift to me.

Thank you, Uncle Bud. The day before I was to leave, I asked whether the timing of my departure was good, wondering whether I should linger a while longer. He said, there is life at your home that you need to attend to, and here there is death. You need to go home.

While I conceded that the time to return home was right, I disagreed with the idea that here there is death. There is only the passing of your physical body, Bud. Your life will continue to be with us.

You have worked a lifetime to make sure of that. And a great job on the production by Monty Montgomery, and a beautiful piece of storytelling about Brent Timmons' Uncle Bud. And by the way, if you enjoy this story, you can find Brent's other stories, as well as all of our stories, on OurAmericanStories.com. And we love to hear stories that are more eulogies than anything else in remembrances. And particularly in these most core relationships in our lives, as fathers, as mothers, as siblings, as aunts and uncles, and grandparents, because this is where most learning occurs. So much of the fundamental learning in our lives occurs. If you have any of those stories, send them again to OurAmericanStories.com, because you are the stars of this show, too. You are listeners.

Brent Timmons' story about his Uncle Bud's last days here on Our American Stories. . . Doing household chores can already be time-consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So, if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients, compared to a regular pack, so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. My family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So, the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation, or you get the kids back from summer camp, or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. Hey, you guys. This is Tori and Jenni with the 902.1 OMG Podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NURTEC ODT. We recorded it at iHeartRadio's 10th Poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?

It's true. I had one that night and I took my NURTEC ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.

But thankfully, NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th.

If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage. It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com to learn more.

UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. This is Our American Stories, and now we bring you a story from one of our regular contributors, Bill Break, about his experience learning to ride a horse at the age of 60. Some months ago, I went to see someone about a horse.

Back in 30s screwball comedies, that phrase meant stepping out for a drink. In my case, that wasn't my intention. I'd never ridden in my life. I'd been moved by two things. First, by a personal loss. Now, as in the past, grief overcame my loathing of change. Second, a concern that I'd spent my life writing about other people's lives rather than living my own. That may be untrue, as I've had a few adventures, but the worry preyed on me.

I knew I was comfortable with domestic animals, despite the barrier of language. I knew other ways in which I could communicate my respect and affection for a thinking creature with whom I could not speak. Another was a long time fascination with obsolescent technologies. Sailing ships and steam locomotives, things that worked, but had proven uneconomical against the internal combustion engine.

I was intrigued by the notion that their operation and maintenance were becoming lost arts. And so, what of the horse? Which had remained a commonplace of transportation into my father's youth some 80 years ago. Which, for a cavalryman at the charge, meant delivering a living projectile.

1200 pounds of mass and 3 feet of steel charging at 30 miles per hour. Over 30 years ago, I'd been a staff officer in the Guard. I'd known a number of older men whose careers had begun in the pre-armored cavalry. I remembered one retired colonel whom I'd met at a funeral when he stepped out of his cab in faultless dress blues, decorations, and saber. With riding boots, spurs, and pinks. Breaches in a shade of khaki that looked almost pink in the sunlight.

The last three being no longer in the uniform regulations. Some idiot asked him whether he'd been in the army. He brusquely replied, no, cavalry.

In those days, this eccentricity of apparel was his privilege. As he had been trained to ride horses into battle, sword in hand. And the cavalry was a romantic memory in the army. He'd been an extra in the Errol Flynn version of the charge of the light brigade. I was not a sensitive man. And yet I was struck by his disgust as became a cavalryman of the studio's treatment of its horses, at least 25 of which had been frivolously killed in making the picture.

These interests intersected in early 2017. How do humans and horses work together? Could I deal with an animal five times my size? What was the physical experience of riding? Could I take a horse to a trot, a canter, a gallop?

Could I take him over a fence? It was as much about my character, perhaps even the courage to get back in the saddle after being thrown. It was as much about knowledge of myself as of the animal. So I went to Stoddard, New Hampshire, where I met Julio. His stable is owned by a woman whose writings on equestrianism led me to think that she was inclined to an unsentimental yet affectionate relationship between horse and rider.

This appealed to me. The basis of any relationship between horse and rider seemed to lay in grooming. Julio enjoyed having his hooves cleaned and being curry-combed and then brushed with hard, medium, and soft brushes. I then went over his mane and tail with a steel brush. This took about 45 minutes, after which Julio nudged me with his muzzle and then kissed me on the right cheek. This was the first time I'd been kissed by a male five times my weight. It did not terrify me. The instructor guided me in saddling the horse, which is a time-consuming and necessary process for the comfort and safety of horse and rider, and lent me a helmet. I was already in an old pair of chinos and rubber Wellington boots, which had enough of a heel to keep me safely in the stirrups. The helmet intrigued me. Having read and reflected on Marcus Aurelius' meditations, I didn't particularly mind dying after taking a header. Whatever is intended for me thereafter is beyond my control, and the gods mean me no evil.

But as a lover, husband, and gentleman, I would not want Mimi to have a drooling idiot on her hands for the next three decades. So although the helmet was uncomfortably snug, I wore it. My instructor insisted that I place myself either to Julio's left or his right when fiddling with his hind hooves, hindquarters, or whatever. I thought of Copenhagen. Not the Danish city, but the Duke of Wellington's charger at Waterloo. After the day of battle, the Duke had dismounted, exhausted from some twenty hours in the saddle, riding from unit to unit throughout the day to observe, command, and inspire. He patted the horse on the rump. In the wild, the horse is a prey animal.

He prefers to run, but he can defend himself. Think of this from Copenhagen's point of view. Yeah, lots of noisy stuff today. Okay. Bullets whizzing by. Okay. A cannonball flies over my neck and takes off the arm of the nice guy to my left. Okay.

The general to my right losing his leg to another cannonball. Okay. Long day, lots of stress.

Okay. For Copenhagen, it had all been okay. All horses like to work.

It's their karma. Copenhagen had been trained to work in battle, to remain calm amidst gunfire, trumpet calls, and screaming men. On that day, as on many before, he had done his job. As the Duke later said of him, using a word that for the English means guts. There may have been many faster horses, no doubt many handsomer, but for bottom and endurance I never saw his fellow. If the Duke, an unsentimental man, had not himself been worn out, he might have sensed that Copenhagen, too, had spent the day suppressing his fear of shot and shell, practicing that quality we call courage. The Duke's touch surprised the horse, who lashed out with both hind legs.

Happily for the Duke, he missed. Anyway, I led Julio from the barn to the mounting block and, listening to my instructor every inch of the way, climbed up, put my left foot in the stirrup, and hoisted myself into the saddle. It took more effort than I'd expected, but then I was about to turn 62. With my instructor's help, I put my right foot into the stirrup. Then, as directed by the instructor, I squeezed my legs and Julio began walking.

A rider must move in rhythm with the horse. As a beginner, I had years of learning ahead of me. We walked for a bit along a muddy path. Then the instructor had me press my legs together again.

Julio began trotting. This is how one learns how to ride. I rose about an inch above the saddle and came down hard. I thought my seat had been shoved into my sternum. I wondered whether Theodore Roosevelt had felt like this as he trotted Little Texas up San Juan Hill in 1898.

I didn't think so. Having some self-respect, I didn't scream. Instead, I took a deep breath, which Julio has been trained to know as a signal to stop. Then I learned to make him turn, press his left side and he turns right, press his right side and he turns left, and to circle.

I remember once hearing someone explain, left spur turned to the right, right spur turned to the left. While I would prefer not to spur a horse, it's still good to know. All horses will test you to see whether you're ready to take command. If you are not, they will take command for their own safety and the rider may become merely an inconvenient ornament to be discarded as quickly as possible. Once Julio realized that I was gently determined to command, had some physical courage and had no foolish intentions, he deferred to me. It's his nature once he realizes the rider is in control.

I think we'll get along. Then I took him back to the stable. Oddly, dismounting was more intimidating than the rest of the process.

I successfully took my right foot out of the stirrup, pulled my right leg up and over Julio's back with my weight on the left stirrup, loosed my left foot and dropped, fell, might be more accurate, some three feet to the ground. So I know something about caring for a horse and how to direct him. I know how much I have to learn before I can understand what a rider needs to know.

I know enough to know my ignorance, which is always good. Someday I may even be a horseman. And what a delightful story by Bill Brykken. What a daring thing to do in your early 60s.

We fall harder when we're older and you're going to fall. That's just what's going to happen if you ride a horse. It was as much about knowledge of self, the knowledge of the animal, Bill said, and that is true. That is the big part of that game is commanding the horse and doing it without speaking. Bill Brykken's daring new hobby, riding horses.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-15 18:22:48 / 2023-02-15 18:39:55 / 17

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