What joy you've brought me today
via The Aldersonian! The soaring spring house at Blue Sulphur
Springs was one of the favorite places of my childhood. While my
father, a salesman, was calling on Mr. Buster (could that possibly
be the right name from my 87 year old memory?) at his "General
Store", I, and often my sister Virginia ( AHS '39). would run to
play in the spring pavilion. First, we had to pay our admission
which was to take a big drink of the water. That was to show that we
were true Mountaineers and could "take it". We had our games around
the pillars and steps. But the real magic was the sound of our
voices under the high roof. I would practice becoming an opera star
with my made up Italian words or whatever they were. The acoustics,
I didn't know that word then, were fantastic. We would also practice
a few Indian cheers for AHS.
Much too soon Papa Steele would toot the horn and we'd go running
back to the car and he would then drive a mysterious route probably
on to Lewisburg or maybe to his next stop Smoot. On the way he would
slow down and point out the farm where Traveler was born and raised.
We knew more about Traveler than we knew about his famous owner,
General Robert E. Lee because our grandfather, James L. Beckett, who
lived at Pickaway, had served in the Confederate Army with the Rocky
Mount Grays. As a skilled driver of draft horses he drove an
ammunition wagon. His favorite "war story" was to tell of waiting,
with his empty wagon, for his orders and directions to where he was
to go for his next load when a flurry of riders including officers
and men came riding up to hold a meeting in a nearby farmhouse.
Grandfather Beckett was called over to protect and hold one of the
horses. (Can you guess what's coming?) It was the beautiful, white
horse named Traveler. All the soldiers knew Traveler and who his
famous rider was.
About an hour later the meeting had ended and out came General Lee
to mount his horse being held by this young soldier He looked at my
grandfather and asked, "How old are you son?" Grandfather most
respectfully answered, "I'm 15 years old, Sir." General Lee shook
his head and said, "You should be home on your farm, not in this
war." My grandfather was crushed. He thought he was going to be
praised for doing a good job reflecting his already outstanding
skill with horses. But no, General Lee was a most thoughtful,
serious, almost regretful warrior. A trait that came through so
clearly at Appomattox.
I can remember hearing Grandfather tell three times, sometimes
almost with tears, this story. Grandmother nearly always appeared
and scolded, "Stop telling those war stories to your grandchildren!"
I've heard many a wife say that same prohibition to her ex-marine or
army infantry husband about later wars.
If my time hasn't run out I need to add that last week I saw the
movie "Lincoln". I had difficulty telling who was who and clearly I
was not paying attention in history class or maybe students never
get enough information about the players, especially Congressmen. I
was glad the movie was coming to the end when I saw General Grant on
his horse, saluting across the distance the losing General on his
horse and I totally lost it and called out, "There's Traveler!" I
could not believe what I had done. It must have been my inner child.
Fortunately it was the last night of the film that had run for two
weeks in our little non-profit theater and since I still sit far
back in the theater there were only two people who turned to
identify the guilty one.
Thanks for the news about the preservation effort. I do hope it is
not too late. I'll help when I learn how.
Mary Margaret Steele Morgan, AHS'42, age 87