Gentleman Johnny

“Sir, you look pretty good for 289 years old”. Elihu had approached the redcoat General before he’d begun his historic presentation. There was some laughter from the small crowd which was starting to gather. The people stood to the side of a pillared stone structure which housed one of Saratoga’s many famous springs, known since the time of the Indians for their restorative and healthful properties. It was July third, and this historic, eastern town was ramping up for the fourth. Elihu and I had finished a historical novel just a few weeks prior, so General Burgoyne was still very much in our heads. This was a good opportunity to make the story truer, easier to really get.

“It’s nice the weather’s staying comfortable for you today, what with all that wool” I offered the general, waving my hand up and down to indicate his getup. But he was good. I hadn’t realized he’d really be in character, and that he was yet to do a whole presentation for us. I guess I’d thought it would be kinda like a Disney character parading silently around a party, nodding and posing for pictures with the kids. Nope. This was actually kinda cool. He was no cartoon character. This was an actor in costume with his historic game on. “Madam, this is my uniform no matter the time of year” he responded in a deep, measured voice with a sort of non-accent. Not British, not Amercian. Kinda stagey, big and bold. This guy was already going. No breaking character. Yeah. Nice way to start the holiday.

Elihu and I stood and listened to Mr. Bugoyne as he strutted back and forth, telling his side of the experience at the battle of Saratoga, in 1777. It was interesting. Told with humanistic details that made his experience more real, closer to our own way of being in the world. It lasted a bit long for a casual crowd; many left, and kids were sitting on the ground by the end, but we made it, and both enjoyed it quite well. The General opened the floor for questions, and Elihu raised his hand. “Yes, boy?” he asked. “I was wondering, did you have any kids?” The crowd chuckled. “Why yes I have in fact four children, and I’m glad you asked because the adults here present will be amused by the story”. He went on to tell that he’d had a daughter by his wife, who died young, and then in his later years – after 60 – he fathered three more children. Geez. Sounded a little too familiar. But it was in fact an amusing story, and afterward much of the crowd departed, chuckling. We nodded our thanks and left.

That was but one of so many small, delightful chapters in our day yesterday. And in just a few moments we’ll be setting out once again, to fully experience the Fourth of July in a historic, American town. The weather is just perfect, and we are ready to make some history of our own.

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