|Years ago when the kids were home we
had a lot of critters; chickens, pigs, a Jersey cow and a small flock of
Dorset sheep. Now with mama and I chasing the dollars and the kids gone,
that menagerie had shrunk to one remaining old ewe (who has since died
of natural causes) and two cats. So I "put the word out" that
I was willing to pasture some sheep. They are great mowing machines and
I was getting a bit tired of mowing the barnyard.
Sometime later I received a call from a guy who has a large flock of Suffolks (tall & black faced) and he wanted to take some of the load off his limited pasturage and we agreed on how many I was willing to take. So, on the 3rd of July, having made all the arrangements, I took my truck over and we loaded them and brought them home.
After we got them all settled in we all enjoyed a nice mid-afternoon summer meal. Later as our wives sat on the front porch, he and I, having checked on the animals, settled ourselves on the back porch sipping our beers, lazily talking and watching the sheep enjoy the grass up to their bellies. In the course of conversation about backgrounds - we're both about the same age - I learned that he is a tenured literature professor at the local university and had at one time aspired to become a Priest. He had also attended a seminary in the Connecticut area.
When I heard that, I began an exchange about the Groton area, the time I was there and why I was there. He laughed and said that he had attended some anti-military protests at EB and the SubBase during the late 60s and early 70s. I reflected on that new information and the conversation ultimately came around to our country during that period and the intervening years, and how he felt about about it all - having had three decades to ponder it. Surprisingly to me, he allowed that he had altered his views - and had decided that perhaps we do indeed need a strong military after all. I didn't press him for an admission that his youthful attempts to climb on the rudders of nuc boats in the Thames river had done nothing to end the cold war, nor had it been the best way to bring peace on earth. I was content to know that he had come very close to saying it. And that was good enough for me.
So two men from opposite sides of old barricades had another beer and silently reflected on the significance of that irony. Leaning back against the porch posts we continued to enjoy a sleepy summer sun on a peaceful afternoon as quiet breezes bent the milkweeds between the barn and the woods.
Concepts of freedom take many forms. Those of us who answered the call to arms, for however long, did not do that just for those Americans whom we liked nor just for those whose views were exactly like ours - but we did it for the freedom of all Americans. Even for those old hippies who held opinions that we strongly disagreed with.
Now isn't this a great country or what?