“They told us to come to Texas
It don’t matter what your sex is
It’s certain that men
Will all say ‘Amen!’
But women and horses, it vexes.”
I was awaking from a deep sleep. This happens to me once in a while. As I awake, a limerick will form in my groggy brain. But where was I? Why did I feel drugged? And why did I hurt like hell?
It became clear. The last thing I remember was seeing the flash of a Yankee rifle, immediately before the searing pain. I remember going down, and I remember being glad…because…because…why was I glad I had been hit? And then I remembered….
I had been facing what we learned later was Little Round Top. The place was Gettysburg Pennsylvania, July 1863. It had been a long way for a Texas boy, but there I was. Standing with the 4th Texas Infantry—and how in the hell a horseman like me ended up I the infantry I don’t even want to think about—but I was standing with the 4th Texas Infantry, part of Hood’s Texas Brigade. We knew we would be given the order to charge. Hell, we had already charged what seemed like countless times, but had always been beaten back.
The Yanks held the high ground, because they got there first. We should have had it, but we didn’t act in time, and I’ll leave that to the historians to debate whose foul-up that was—as I’m sure they will, especially the ones that weren’t there.
But I was there, having joined up in some of the first rushes of excitement back in Texas. Now, you’d expect a kid would get excited when those spellbinders started talking, but you’d hope us fellers with a little maturity would have known better. But I thought I had to go, to serve Texas. I should have listened to old Sam Houston.
I should’ve listened to my wife. She begged me not to go, said I could serve the home guard, stay in the Rangers and defend the frontier against the Indians. She was right. I should have.
But here I was…wherever I was…hurting like hell and composing idiotic verses in my head. But…wasn’t I supposed to be dead? That’s what I had planned.
I was standing at the base of that little hill, waiting for the order. My rifle was loaded, bayonet fixed. I would fight as a soldier. I would kill as need, as I had already done. But I prayed to God that it would be me who would be carried off that field of battle. For life had become too painful to endure.
As I waited, my hand fell into my pocket, where lay a piece of paper—crumpled and tear-stained. It was a letter only recently received. Mail was necessarily slow and irregular, even for the fellows who came from populated places, but from the Texas frontier was almost impossible.
The text was brief, and in broken English with some German spellings. It had been written by my wife’s brother Henry. (Well, we called him Henry because we couldn’t say Heinrich without spitting.) Henry had written to say that the Comanches had taken the opportunity of the War, and the poorly defended frontier, to increase their attacks on the frontier settlements. There was no way the men who were left could defend the settlers, though they valiantly tried. Many had given up and moved back to the more settled places.
My homestead had been attacked. My wife and family had been caught by surprise, and while Klara and the boy had put up a good fight, they were overwhelmed by the numbers. Both were killed. The Indians had not burned the house—probably sacred off by approaching riders—and my young daughter was found in the “hidey-hole” where her mother had placed her. Terrified, but otherwise unhurt. Henry and his wife had taken her in. My brother-in-law had been discreet, but I had been around the frontier a long time. I knew what the Comanches did to the people they killed, and when I thought of Klara’s beautiful golden hair adorning some redskin’s belt, I….
Well, there was absolutely no reason for me to go on living. My life was wrapped up in the beautiful stubborn fraulein.
And so, I fought. I inflicted death, but wanted to die. And as I stared up at that high ground, and waited for another order to charge, I prayed that a Yankee mine ball would find my heart.
The order came. I charged. I looked a Yankee soldier right in the eye, but I didn’t see a Yankee. I saw a Comanche. I raised my weapon, but he was faster. I saw the flash from his muzzle and I felt the bullet rip into my flesh. I spun with the force and felt myself going down. And while the pain was fierce, as I lost consciousness, I remember being happy that I would soon be reunited with my dear and beautiful Klara. I couldn’t wait to see her face.
And so here I was, slowly gaining consciousness, hurting like hell, and composing limericks about Texas. Obviously I was not in heaven…which was a great disappointment. But surely if I was in hell, I wouldn’t be able to think up dumb poetry either. (Unless I was given the privilege of making hell worse for the other inhabitants—which seemed unlikely.) So where was I.
It sure sounded like hell—and smelled like it, too. I finally became aware that I must have been in some sort of field hospital. Before long a young fellow came over and noticed that I was awake. He said something to me and I was aware of two things: by the way he was dressed and the way he talked, I knew I was amongst Yankees. He called somebody over--I don’t know commanding officer, doctor, or somebody, who seemed to smirk at me and said:
“Fah yew, the waah is ovah!”
What is it about the way that Yankees talk that just makes you want to slap ‘em?