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Monday, July 29, 2013

Hampton's Legion and a House Boat

Not every "House Adventure" my parents leaped into was land related. There was the one time Daddy decided what we needed was a house boat. Not that we lived near a lake or a river, I just think the novelty value of it intrigued Daddy or maybe it was something he read about. Any who, he was on the hunt for one.

Being a Civil War enthusiast history fanatic about the War between the States, in the early 1960's during the centennial of the war, Daddy was a member of Hampton's Legion. Stay with me here. This was one of the many groups dedicated to reenacting the war as it progressed from Fort Sumter to the bitter end. He took this very seriously. His uniform was historically correct down to the grey wool and gold braided trim for what ever rank he was. 

For four years Daddy and his comrades  in arms moved around the southeast (on weekends) reenacting the war. They traveled as a band of brothers, the infantry pulling their cannons and wagons behind their cars, the Calvary with their horse trailers. Looking back, I often wonder if they secretly thought they may have a chance of success a second time around. But, I guess not because they took their losses with their victories just as history recorded and came home ready to fight again in the next campaign. 

If the reenactments were close by, Mama would load us up and we would get to go see Daddy "play war" and hope he beat the Yankees. It was fascinating with the tents, the campfires, the cannon fire - basically the whole shebang. It lost its luster for Mama early on. Once you had seen a battle, they all looked the same to her.

Hampton's Legion played an important role in the Chattanooga campaign, so off to Tennessee they went. And, we were in tow this time, riding in the back seat of our family Oldsmobile pulling a full size civil war replica cannon. I would question the memory of this myself since I was only 4 or so, but we happen to have home movies and pictures from this particular trip. But, I digress.

Another reason we were going to Tennessee was to look at a house boat. Daddy had sold Mama on the idea that this would be an ideal investment for them. They had had a 25 ft cabin cruiser just after they got married that they both enjoyed, so his pitch was enticing. And, he had brought home brochures from the local boat dealer showing full color pictures of different models.

The one we were going to see was used, a much better deal. After we won the battle, pushing back Sherman's army, we loaded up the car (and the cannon) and met the boat's owner at a designated filling station. We followed him down to the Tennessee river to see the house boat. 

The boat was in the river tied to a tree. And, it did not resemble any house boat Mama had seen in a brochure. What they found was ratty wooden shack perched on a dozen or so empty oil drums. She would tell me later, only the African Queen came to her mind, and as much as she loved the movie, she had no desire to be on that boat.

My brother and I were thrilled. How exciting was this! Of course we wanted it. We could sleep on it and play on it - our imagination ran wild with anticipation. Daddy had other thoughts. Before we knew it, we had been loaded up in the car and were on our way back home with no house boat. 

Needless to say that was not the house boat Dad had in mind. For next month or so we looked at house boats in mariners, at boat shows, and at boat dealers. Soon, that idea passed and Dad was on to his next thing - learning master chess moves. 

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