Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jefferson Barracks Park

Today it was so gloomy and overcast, but by late afternoon the weather cleared and the sun came out. By evening, my favorite part of the day, I was restless to get outside and do something, so hubby and I hiked a two mile trail at Jefferson Barracks Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River, just a five minute drive from our house. The park is spacious, 405 acres, and because of all the rain it looks like a jungle; the trees are thick, overgrown and the trail was mostly shaded. Every so often we'd step into a clearing where the sun dappled the tree tops and glistened through the leaves like diamonds. A spotted fawn grazed and kept a wary eye on us, but its mama was nearby and didn't raise tail and run, so the fawn took its cue from Mama.

As we hiked the trails and huffed up a few small hills, we imagined how the park must have been in its hey day. Jefferson Barracks is an historical park; it was the first permanent, active U.S. Army Post West of the Mississippi River. It has played a prominent role in every American confilct for 120years, from 1826-1946. During the Civil War it housed the largest military hospital. Not only did Civil War generals, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, spend time there, but so did my mom. Not during the Civil War and not in the capacity of soldier.

I remember her telling stories about when she was 16 or 17 during WW11. She and her sisters and girlfriends lived in Walnut Park, in far North St. Louis. On Friday nights they would board the Broadway bus and ride south to the end of the line, which was Jefferson Barracks. The girls would meet young soldiers who would take them to the movie theater or to dances, and then afterwards, escort them on the return bus ride to make sure they got home safely. She always said, "Times were different then; it was all so innocent and fun, and everyone just wanted to have a nice time. No funny business." I could almost hear Mom's echoing laughter floating through the park.

The main gate, a small, white, stone house still exists. I visualized soldiers and young ladies milling around the entrance on Friday evenings during the 1940's. A wave of nostalgia rushed over me, and I had to sit on a bench and let my thoughts wander over the hills, across the meadows and into the open fields where soldiers once trained, where people now leisurely stroll and the deer feed and frolic. Tonight, I miss my mom. I wish I had asked her so many more questions that didn't seem important at the time.


Susan said...

That was a nice post, Linda. Our Moms are always with us, aren't they? We can no longer ask them questions but we hold them so closely and dearly in our hearts. Susan

Bookie said...

Very nice read tonight, Linda. I don't think I have ever been in that park. Wish I had since it comes up in many things I read. Glad the weather was nice enough for you to be out in this evening.

Tammy said...

I agree--very nice. You captured all of it. And your last line is so true! I feel that way about almost everyone I've lost.

Terri Tiffany said...

I love that you could conjur up such good memories. I do that now about my mother and she is still alive.

Karen Lange said...

What a wonderful natural treasure to have close by! I appreciate you sharing your experience and thoughts.

My Mom recently passed away, and among the memories are questions I wished I'd asked. I also regret not asking or paying attention to some of the things my grandmother shared with me as well. Miss them both, very much.
Blessings for your week,

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Ladies,
So glad you stopped by. Thank youfor your uplifting comments.