Thursday, March 19, 2009

Found in a river

Sometimes I am amazed at what one finds in rivers.

Today I explored the Menominee River at Hart park and waded it about a mile downstream.

Right in Hart Park I found a tombstone in the river. Odd. The dates and plainness of the stone may point to a tragic end in WWI, however 46 is a little old. One thing is for sure, He died during the year of the Somme offensive. A time when the souls of the dead lay thick in the air. As one song puts it "An entire generation lay butchered and damned."

I am lucky to alive, as my grandfather flew in the Imperial German Air Force in WWI; before parachutes, and when gas and oil tanks were directly in front of the pilot. Shot down three times, he had enough of the experience of war. He never wanted to talk about it. If he had not volunteered for the air force, he most likely would have died in the trenches. If he had not come to America, he would have died in Russia in WWII, like all the rest of his family. He came to America as an orphan.

So, back in the river, I whistled the tune "Willie McBride", and sitting beside the gravestone, paid a little homage. Warning. This is a very powerful song.

Lyrics-traditional Irish

Well how do you do Private William McBride, Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside? And rest for awhile beneath the warm summer sun, I've been walking all day and now I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen When you joined the great fallen in 1916; Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean, Or, young Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly, Did they play the fife lowly? Did they sound the Death March As they lowered you down? Did the band play "The Last Post And Chorus?" Did the pipes play "The Flowers Of The Forest?

Did you leave 'ere a wife or a sweetheart behind? In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined? And although you died back in 1916, In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name, Enclosed forever behind a glass pane, In an old photograph, torn, and battered and stained, And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?


Ah the sun now it shines on these green fields of France, The warm summer breeze makes the red poppies dance, And look how the sun shines from under the clouds; There's no gas, no barbed wire, there're no guns firing now. But here in this graveyard is still No Man's Land, The countless white crosses in mute witness stand To man's blind indifference to his fellow man, To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.


Ah, young Willie McBride, I can't help wonder why,
Did all those who lay here really know why they died? And did they believe when they answered the call, Did they really believe that this war would end war?
For the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying were all done in vain, For, young Willie McBride, it all happened again, And again and again and again and again.



  1. That's pretty funny, I came across this tombstone last fall when I was looking for stormwater outfall samples. I thought it a little odd and chalked it up to the awesome strength of a river. Nice blog.

  2. Aha!

    You found it too. Nice. I kind of wonder where it came from. Must have washed into the river during high water and then slowly was covered with gravel. One of the stranger things I have found in rivers.

  3. Yes, I thought about trying to figure out where it came from so that it could be returned. This could be a neat project..... On the other hand, I think it adds some great character to the river.


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