Matters of Honor and Yankee Ingenuity

Since we've been homeschooling, we've lost track of the school holidays which isn't a bad thing when you have a Casimir Pulaski Day in the state of Illinois.

President Lincoln's b-day was February 12th.  Springfield usually has a big hooha, but I was also happy to see there was a commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial in DC because we could make it to that one last week.  After conquering the park and ride and hopping on the metro AND getting off on a stop that was not as close as we would have hoped, we dashed over to the Memorial.  All the time thinking that Fodors was not my friend.  And got there sorta on time, which seems to be the story of our life sometimes.  We got there in time to hear the Gettysburg Address and see the laying of the wreaths which was very interesting.  The Secretary of Interior and the Ambassador of Cameroon had the honorary 1st wreaths, but I found the laying of wreaths

Lincoln Ceremony at LIncoln Memorial

 by the various groups fascinating.  Fur coats, spats, Confederate uniforms, Revolutionary? uniforms and suits abounded.  But there was one particular couple of fellas that I was really checking out.  The flag bearer had an old style (Grand Army of the Potomac?) uniform and the flag he bore was very dirty and stained towards the bottom. When they laid the wreath, the announcement seemed to be that they were from the Archives.  I wanted him to wave that flag so that I could read what it said.

We then went to the World War II memorial, but only made it to the computer screen at the welcome center because we were very cold and very hungry.  We went straight to the records on my uncle George Ruckman as he was quite a character.  His story is documented in our wonderful archives in our little town that were put together by 3 veterans and neighbors of ours, John Dawson (at peace now), John Overton and Gene Houser.  Their book: Their Roles Remembered, is a treasure for local folks and for those who are native born, but moved on.   And I forgot, but see with a search through my book, that his war story was documented in the Time magazine archives from 1953 in A Matter of Honor and in a Newsweek article called Yankee Ingenuity.  This short paragraph says volumes about the Ruckman frugality and resourcefulness in Uncle George's trade of his wrist watch, revolver, cash to look the other way along with pd. labor, and his fountain pen for escape from questionably safe territory.  I've lived with and around his brother enough to know how to get a good bargain while watching his bartering in farming business trades:

This week, eight years after the rescue of Star Dust, President Eisenhower signed a bill awarding Ruckman his $250 without interest. In Springfield, Businessman Ruckman, who considered his claim "a matter of honor," was philosophic about the delay. Said he: "I think the Government should be frugal and consider things like this carefully."

My dad recalled the terrible uncertainties of that time in Roles Remembered:

George Ruckman's younger brother Bob recalls vividly how the family rejoiced when the good word came that George was alive and well.  Embedded even deeper in Bob's memory is the day his parents called him out of Bracken School to tell him his brother was "missing in action under circumstances presuming death." 

Bracken was the one room schoolhouse just about 3/4 of a mile down our road that my dad and siblings attended even after "walking uphill in a foot of snow every day".  They got a pretty good education there even as my dad came by being a farmer naturally and via heart and soul.

I imagine there's a story like this in every family.  Who needs those horrid history textbooks and memorized dates when you have the Uncle George's of the world?  And also for us, Springfield,  IL, with all of the best,  the worst, and the in-between of human character a little over an hour down the road in the domed building.  Our little town cemetery has many stories told by interested parties and many that are still waiting to be told.  Living history. 


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