Me and the boys went to Fort Barrancas yesterday here in Pensacola. It was really cool, especially for 7 and almost 9 year old boys. I was getting a little closterphobic—how funny–I have no idea how to spell clausterphobic and that rarely happens. I usually know how to spell everything. Anyways, the guide was a little long-winded…they could shorten the guided tour by 30 minutes and it would still be great. But the guy was having fun.
Barrancas means “bluff” in Spanish, apparently. I’m surprised I didn’t know that either! I’m just full of surprises this morning. I have prided myself in having a thick vocabulary in translating Spanish, but it seems to be fading :(. In fact, I have patted myself ont he back for both those two things: knowing how to spell everything and knowing what everything means in Spanish.
This Fort Barrancas is on the Naval Air Base which overlooks the mouth to Pensacola Bay. European colonization, American expansion and threats of invasion led to the building of coastal forts along the northern Gulf Coast. This one served as the gateway to the outside world and the lock on the gate from potential foreign invaders. The guide said the very first shots of the civil war were fired here..but then he digressed and said perhaps they weren’t any bullets (pellets or whatever they’re called) in the muskets, though.
In 1971, Fort Barrancas became part of the newly formed Gulf Islands National Seasore. Extensive restoration of the fort was completed in 1980.
By the time we toured the inside of the fort, the rain had started to really come down hard, but of course the boys didn’t mind. I wouldn’t have minded so much either if I didn’t have my camera and mobile phone…but once we reach the Parade (the center of the fort, the open area)I was so happy to see daylight that I didn’t worry at first that everything was getting soaked.
The Parade held a hot shot furnace where connonballs were heated for firing at wooden sailing ships. Scott the Guide told us that this was the origination of the term “hot shot” referring to either the soldier that carried the hot balls from furnace all the way up to the cannons or maybe to the cannon firer himself. He wasn’t specific which one hot shot referred to. In either case, a “hot shot” was a stud. They would fire these burning cannon balls onto incoming bad guys in the hopes they would make the ships catch fire. I wondered if there were any cannon balls still at the bottom of Pensacola Bay.
Afterwards, we drove around and looked at all the white identical tombstones throughout Barrancas National Cemetery. I have always felt “at home” in cemeteries. That sounds weird even to me to say/think but it’s true. I notice it in my son Brian too. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s a closeness to death—or LIFE, actually. I imagine the lives of the people in the graves and their children and grandchildren and happiness.
There’s an automatic respect and reverence every time I come upon a cemetery–I could hang out in a cemetary all day letting my mind wander about all the lives there. Oh the stories my brain can tell. And then I imagine that I am some mind-reader and that all my stories I’ve concocted about their lives are all true, like they are speaking to me from the dead.
Sometimes, it feels like they’re trying to reach me..not in a weird way, well, I guess this is all weird, but just in a way that says, “Hi!” In my mind, all the dead people are very happy when there are visitors to their cemetaries. Like they can’t wait to tell their stories.
It was nice to be there on Memorial Day. Each grave had a little flag, which must have taken someone hours to do because there are thousands of gravestones.
It was raining and we didn’t find my Granddad’s grave this time. But I took a picture of it last time so I’ll try to find it on my computer and upload it here.