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All the world’s a history book

Submitted by on Thursday, 26 January 2012 No Comment

Maybe we’re weird, but I swear this kind of stuff happens here all the time. We’ll be out enjoying the day or running errands, something will catch one of the guys’ attention and before I know it, someone’s  hitting Google.

The latest instance: Big Guy’s pestered me for months, every time we’ve gone to the medical clinic named in her honor, with the same question.  “Who’s Mary Walker?

“I think there’s a plaque in the lobby,” I told him. “Read it the next time we’re there.”

I suspected it was going to be more of a case of “who was Mary Walker,” since it’s risky to name buildings after living people lest they later be convicted of corruption charges. There are at least two buildings on post named after people still alive, though, and so far they’re staying out of trouble.

Big Guy read the plaque, but it only deepened the intrigue. Dr. Mary E. Walker, 1832-1919 . Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. “Wow. That was a long time ago,” Big Guy said.

It was, I agreed. She was a doctor during the Civil War, and it was unusual for women to be doctors back then, I added. “Now most of the doctors are women,” he said, and from his limited perspective that’s true. If you overlook his allergists and surgeons, all of his doctors have been women.

“I wonder why she got the Medal of Honor,” I thought out loud.

“I wonder if she had any sisters,” Big Guy said.

“Wasn’t the Civil War around 1964?” Boots asked. Thanks. Set you watch back a hundred years, boy.

That evening we found out that Mary Walker was a contract doctor for the North during the Civil War. A surgeon, no less, the first woman to serve the military in that capacity. The South caught her crossing battle lines to help civilians,  accused her of spying and arrested her.

“You mean one part of America fought another?” Big Guy asked. “That’s harsh. I’m glad we all get along today.”

And I’m glad to have yet another opportunity to further the guys’ education in a totally random way that really appeals to them.

Sometimes it’s not totally random. There’s a county park nearby in what used to be a mining town during the silver boom, and we’ve made several trips there. There’s also a small military museum on post that the guys beg to visit repeatedly. Mostly, though, we learn by wandering around with our eyes open.

The guys love to visit a cluster of tanks displayed on post. I’m guessing they’re technically a part of the museum, too, because plaques next to each explain the technical details as well as when and where the tank was used. That adventure led Big Guy on a week-long internet search, and he’s now very articulate in comparing the Abrams and the Bradley. He hasn’t seen a Stryker yet.

Their questions aren’t confined to the post, though. This summer they learned the basics of watersheds when they asked if Mawmaw’s creek goes to the ocean. They don’t know that it’s called a watershed, but they have a pretty good grasp of the concept.

In truth, much of what they learn will have absolutely no relevance in their lives when they grow up, unless they follow in an uncle’s footsteps and become a tanker. But I love that they’re curious and that one question often leads to another and then another. Even if someone always winds up Googling to find the answers.

Copyright 2012 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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