Monday, April 29, 2013

Coastal Defense Study

When we got married, part of our ceremony was a reading from Kahil Gibran's essay on "Love."  He advised:
      "be together, but let there be space in your togetherness.
        The strings of the lute stand apart, though they quiver with the same music"

We've abided with that for the last forty years.  We have many interests in common--but he has some that I don't share, and vice versa.  And that's OK.  One of his areas of interest is military history, and he's a member of an organization called the Coastal Defense Study Group.  From time to time I've kissed him goodbye and let him take off for a few days to Texas or the Philippines so that he can spend time crawling over old fortifications.

But sometimes it's good to check out the other person's world.  Bob has been to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival with me.  So when we found that this year's Coastal Defense tour was to be in Pensacola, I decided to go along.

Now if you want to know the significance of and the history of all of the fortifications we visited--you'll have to ask Bob or check out Wikipedia.  It's all kind of a blur to me. And many of them don't date to one specific time, because in a very medieval fashion they were rebuilt over the years to deal with new battles and new technology.  Most were started in the early 1800s.   But I still managed to enjoy myself.

We started at Fort Pickens.  I wrote about it when we visited a year ago August.  I must say--it's *much* pleasanter in April than August.  Much of Ft. Pickens is oddly beautiful.  I know that an arch is a practical way to build--it's the strongest way to frame an opening.  But it makes part of the fort look like a church.  Over the last century or so, much of the lime has leached out of the mortar, forming whitewash and ridges and stalactites.

Apparently there are two schools of aficionados of fortifications--the ones who like concrete, and those who favor brick.  I'm in the brick camp myself.  To get all of these curves right thousands of bricks had to be hand-shaped to the correct angles.  Look at the complex layers in this arch.
Appropriately for walking along the cannon edged fortification, a pirate ship came sailing by.  Well, not exactly sailing (seemed to be a lack of sails), but it still looked pretty cool.  Wonder if the cannons make them feel insecure?
The highlight of the day for me when we were walking along the ramparts and saw that the blackberry brambles held ripening fruit.  I was bending down to pick a snack and suddenly there was a soft but definite "thwump!"as a hawk hit the ground.  I don't know what he was after--a lizard or a mouse, maybe--but he was only a few feet in front of me.
I do have to say that the guys get their money's worth from these conferences.  After spending the whole day looking at a half-dozen or so fortifications (and having some unlocked so we could go where tourists aren't usually allowed) there was a break for dinner, then two hours of lectures and presentations.  I skipped that part . . .
In fact--I skipped the next day.  True to form--I woke up with a cold (something about vacations does that to me).  So I sent Bob of to that day's fortification viewing while I stayed in my jammies and read, knit, and napped.  Not a bad way to spend a day of vacation.  I did go along on the third day--because there was a ferry ride out to Dauphin Island involved.  Always love a boat ride.
I even sacrificed the cookie I was saving for my afternoon snack to the gulls that knew that tourists were usually good for a handout.
Otherwise--what can I say? Three more fortifications after we came back from the island.  More bricks, more concrete, more rust.  These guys will look at blobs of rust stains and get excited.  "See!!  Ten bolts, and they aren't symmetric!"  And there was much excitement when we were allowed into another off-limits area and they found a rusty hoist.
Oh, and somewhere around here was where Admiral Farragut made the famous statement of "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!"  (torpedoes were actually mines back then).  One forgets that cliches do get their start someplace.
And then back home.  I enjoyed my little foray into Bob's world, even if I do not understand bricks and concrete and the secrets of rusty things.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this entry, and loved the pic of you guys sailing!