Several weeks ago, we took our Cub Scout troop to the local Texas Civil War Museum. Once we fought our way through the gift shop that was strategically placed at the front of the museum, we joined up with our museum guide. I knew that we were going to get along famously when he introduced himself as our guide through the age of the War of Northern Aggression.
After some hands-on explanation of black powder rifles and combat formations, our guide was ready delve into the artifacts at hand; but then he hesitated a moment. Singling out the largest of our young scouts, our guide made a claim that I immediately discounted as a bit of sensationalism. According to the guide, our tallest scout who is only in the 5th grade, is the same size as the average Civil War combatant. Without a McDonald's and Starbucks on every corner of the battlefield, nutritional standards of the day limited the size of most men of the era. This point seemed lost on most of the boys, but an unsettling tremor seemed to pass through the parents on the fringes while the boys passed around civil war era firearms and gear.
Clearing the small arms exhibition, we got our first peek at some of the uniforms on display. In an instant, it was clear that our guide had not been telling tall tales. Our "towering" Webelo was as tall as the former owner of the uniform, and frankly it would have been a stretch for him to button the overcoat around him. Imagining our Webelo in uniform, running through war-torn country side, was very disconcerting.
|Some men write about Badges of Courage.|
I write about waffles.
Between the building suspense around the new Lincoln movie, and the cook books I found in the gift shop, I wasn't able to shake the intrigue building in my mind over wartime rations and average build of your average 19th century male. There seemed only one thing that made sense. Time to treat the boys to a Civil War Thanksgiving Feast.
Even in the age of Google and Amazon, it turns out that finding good war-time recipes is something of a challenge. Measurements don't translate, ingredients have fallen out of favor, antiquated methodology can be an insurmountable obstacle for a guy that sometimes struggles with microwave popcorn. After several trips to Central Market, countless hours on the Internet and a bit of a domestic showdown with my lovely wife, our feast was ready to serve.
|I think Acme Brick uses the|
same recipe for its bricks
as the Union used for it
Dried fruit was sometimes sent by soldier's families, so we had dried apples and dried plums. With a tip of the hat to the saviors of western civilization, we whipped up a batch of Irish mashed potatoes, consisting of boiled potatoes and green apples. The main course, the highlight of the night, was rabbit stew. Yeah, real rabbit. Not boiled chicken. Rabbit. The meal was completed with ginger snaps and sweet tea.
To my great surprise, several of the boys settled on the hardtack as their favorite. One dad commented while we looked on in amazement, "You like that hardtack? I guess you are ready to be a soldier then."
That's when it finally hit me, and hard enough that even I could understand. In less than a decade, most of these boys will be old enough to wear a different uniform, replete with body armor and modern sidearms. My two sons are included in this group. Suddenly 18 years doesn't seem to be nearly long enough to contain the substance of childhood.
If I thought it would really work, I would serve all my boys hardtack and Johnny Cakes every day if it meant they would stay little boys for just a little while longer.