|THE PATIENT TREE||
"That's a pretty heavy type of barbed-wire sticking out of the trunk of that tree, isn't it?
"That's not a wire, but let me tell you the story about that piece of metal showing there."
"You mean there's really a story about that?"
"Sure, and I think it's a rather impelling tale. Let's get out of this hot sunshine and sit under the shade of that maple over there. I'll see if I can recall all of the details."
It was back in '62 and Old Abe was calling for more volunteers. The Union forces were seldom victorious over the Rebels. President Lincoln's generals seemed to paint themselves as underdogs and kept petitioning for enlargement of their armies. So there appeared in Northern newspapers and on bulletin boards enlistment posters to stir the hearts of young men itching for glory.
That's what our hero, whom I'll call Tim, had on his mind as he took a wagonload of potatoes down to Union City. Before he got to the general store to unload, he had to make an abrupt stop as the horses shied at the sight and sound of a small motley band. The amateur musicians turned the corner and headed down Main Street to the tune of "Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys". 'Too bad brother Syl missed hearing that,' he thought.
After the spuds were safely in the store's root cellar, Tim went upstairs to collect payment from the proprietor, Sam Elder.
As he counted out the bills from the till, Sam asked, "How is the health of your folks lately, Tim?"
"Not too good, Mr. Elder. It's about all they can do is tend the garden."
"That's too bad", Sam replied.
"It sure is" said Tim, "I hope they can hold the farm together once we sign up."
"You really goin'?"
"Yep, and so's Syl, just as soon as we put up the last of the hay so's they'll have enough to get through the winter."
On his way home that day, Tim stopped in at his neighbor's across Hungry Run Road. Slim Cooley said he would watch that Tim's and Syl's parents got enough help to hold the Sergeant farm together. That item taken care of, Tim went home to spend the evening to discuss with his mother and father his and Syl's departure plans.
All the next day, even as he and Syl worked together, Tim thought over his decision to enlist. He would leave his muster bonus with Sam at the store as a reserve credit. And though his pay would be low at first, he planned to send most of it home. He imagined he could fight without buying extras from the sutlers. Tim and Syl finished pitching the last of the hay in the mow.
After the milking and breakfast the next morning, Mother Sargeant fixed the boys sacks filled with traveling food and special goodies she had made for them. Their goodbyes were said at the house. They didn't want any crying when they got on the "war wagon" which would be coming down the road collecting recruits.
Tim headed to the field by the road, he grabbed his custom-fit
pitchfork from the barn. As Syl watched for the wagon, Tim constructed
a small haycock of the remnant wisps of yesterday. Slim or his father
would get it to the cows. Before he was finished, Syl yelled, "The
wagon's comin'." Picking up his satchel and food sack, Tim raced to the
field's edge. Just before he mounted the cart, he realized he still
carried the pitchfork. Slamming it into the crotch of a small sapling,
he cried, "There! Now stay there and don't let anyone touch you 'til I
get back!" Then with a quick look at the farmstead, he joined Syl and
the other enlistees heading for the muster.
"Is that the end of the story?"
"No, there's a sad finale to it."
Both men entered the fray and in the course of their service were captured and interned in the infamous Andersonville prison. Sylvester successfully escaped and joined the forces of Major General "Fighting Joe" Hooker. During the skirmish called "The Battle Above the Clouds" on Lookout Mountain, Syl was killed. His brother Timothy languished for another eighteen months in the Georgia hellhole. As he walked out of the stockade toward his freedom outside, he collapsed and died. For the past 130 years, THE PATIENT TREE has grown and embraced its tines. Only those few inches of metal remain as testimony to the brothers' hope for a better tomorrow."
"Well, that's interesting local lore. How'd you find out about it?"
"A photo of the tree and the family facts were given to the Union City (PA) Historical Society by Dr. Harold Sargeant, a great grand nephew."
"Well, thanks for telling me about it."
Written August 24, 2006 - by Bob Stumpf