This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
July 4th, 2005

Oliver Wilcox Horton

The 4th of July is of course the celebrated Anniversary birth of the United States. For those who grew up before the age of political correctness, it was a day also to remember our soldiers.

For me, a kid who spent most of her summers in Rogers City, Michigan, it meant a parade, band concert and the whole town walked the few blocks from the band stand down to the public beach to watch the fireworks. The largest company in town was 'Calcite' - a huge limestone quarry which furnished limestone necessary for the steel-producing plants. Calcite was the home of a large steamboat fleet, The Bradley Transportation Line, which carried the stone to the mills around the Great Lakes. A big barge was loaded with fireworks and they were ignited at dark to provide the community with the annual show. I believe in the late 40's and 50's Calcite provided the show for the town.

There were several 4th celebrations around the area, including a Grange Picnic at Ocqueoc Falls. It's often hot and humid by this time of year in northern Michigan, and the county park had lots of picnic tables under the trees. The stream flows through the park, and there were reasonably flat stones across the stream allowing the kids to run back and forth, with an occasional cool dunk in the stream. The sweet smell of the cedars, the sound of the river splashing over the gravel bottom, piles of watermelon and the tables crammed with food brought by everyone. Including fresh peach pies, and hand-cranked ice cream made with real cream and fresh strawberries tossed in at the last minute. The Ocqueoc was where I first learned to cast a fly with my grandfather, just below the falls, right at this park.

I still have a mental picture of men in white shirts, ties, and sleeves rolled up laughing and talking. Part of the laughing may have been from the beer stashed in a little rock-lined pocket downstream. Some of the older men played cards, Pedro was the big game, with a few Dominos games for good measure. Grandfather loved a small glass of wine and Pedro with his old friends.

Grandmother and granddad lived across the street from the Rogers City Memorial Cemetery on Larke Ave. It was a very well kept cemetery, and being a curious kid I often walked around looking at the grave markers. I was fascinated by the very old markers, and even some with photographs of the deceased enclosed in a curved glass frame on the gravestones. The grass was always very neatly cut and trimmed and fresh flowers on the more recent graves. Many years later, grandmother and granddad are buried there.

During the second World War years, many internment services were held there, always with Honor Guard. It was there I first heard taps played. Small towns were quiet before the era of boom boxes and incessant tvs. The sound echoed up Hornbucker Hill and back down. Regardless of where I hear it now, I still hear the first one in Rogers City.

In July 1862, after the Seven Days battles at Harrison's Landing near Richmond, VA., Army General Daniel Butterfield, wounded commander of the 3rd Brigade, reworked another bugle call, "Scott Tattoo," into taps with his bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton.

He apparently thought the regular call for Lights Out was too formal. Taps was adopted throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by orders. After the war, taps became an official bugle call. Col. James A. Moss, in his Officer's Manual first published in 1911, gives an account of the initial use of taps at a military funeral:

"During the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball's Battery A of the 2nd Artillery was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave, on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it occurred to Capt. Tidball that the sounding of taps would be the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted."

A congressional mandate in 1999 required that active-duty serviceman present the flag and taps as funeral honors. The mandate stirred a national debate, as there weren't enough active-duty buglers to go around. The military branches resorted to using ceremonial bugles that have taps recordings hidden in them. But even those are high enough in demand that just CDs are sometimes used.

At many memorial services for our military, the words of taps close the service.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Fades the light; and afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, 'Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

Happy Birthday America, and God Bless our Military. ~ DLB

Credits: We thank for the photo of Frosty Lawson, Haskell, NJ. used here and on our front page. Frosty is also a Civil War re-enactor.

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