Today is the Half A$$ Historian's birthday. I say this not to fish for birthday wishes or presents. (I can accept cash or check. I'm not set up to take credit cards.) The past year has been a difficult one for me. One year ago this week I handed in my badge for good and set out to do something......I'm not even sure what. Life with chronic pain is difficult, more difficult than I let on to those around me. There are plenty of people I see on a day to day basis who don't even know the true extent of what is happening in my lower back. It is made more difficult when it's arrival unexpectedly brings an end to a career that you love. Once you leave law enforcement, you are tossed aside and forgotten by most of those you once worked with and considered a brother or a sister. Most, but by no means all. So it has been a year of changes for me, some for the better and some, unfortunately for the worse.
I am 36 years old today. Many of you consider that young and I guess it really is in the grand scheme of things, but not when you lower back resembles what you would expect to find in an eighty year old. They say it isn't how old you are it is how old you feel. I dearly hope that isn't true as I feel every one of those eighty years. When I let my guard down, it makes me wonder how I will feel when I actually am eighty but odds are I won't make it long enough to find out.
I have been fortunate enough to do quite a bit in my life related to historical pursuits. I have walked the ground where Pickett's men charged into immortality at Gettysburg. I have seen the spot where Andrew Jackson gave the British an ass kicking they will never forget outside New Orleans. (Though I have ancestors who fought in that battle on the other side!) My redhead and I stood side by side in the Peach Orchard at Shiloh, perhaps the most hallowed of Civil War sites in this country where a century and a half ago our ancestors' regiments faced each other on that very spot. Mine drove hers from the field in disarray, of course.
As a young single man with no girlfriend and no prospects of one either, I jumped in my truck on a whim and drove all night to get to Vicksburg. I spent a couple of days there and got a private tour of the battlefield with the retired mayor. Later, I returned there on my honeymoon with my first wife. (Probably not the most romantic place to go and maybe the reason for the ex part?) I returned again with my redhead just a few years ago and we toured the battlefield with no reverse gear in her transmission! Countless times I have wandered the battlefield of San Jacinto where Texas gained independence from Mexico both alone and with groups of students. I have paced the decks of the once mighty Battleship Texas who's fourteen inch guns shelled the French coast on June 6th, 1944.
But there was so much else I wanted to do. So many more places I wanted to go. Prior to the appearance of my health condition, my wife and I were considering a trip to Russia to visit some sites from the Great Patriotic War. (Their term for World War 2.) I would like to see the beaches of Normandy in person along with the Ardennes Forest, site of the Battle of the Bulge. I've always been drawn to the Little Big Horn battlefield and desperately wanted to visit some day. But these sites will only exist on television and in pictures as I will never see them in person. My condition leaves me unable to sit down for more than about ten minutes at a time and even a thirty minute car trip can be agony on my worst days and very painful on my best days.
It is tempting, Dear Readers, to focus on everything that I can't do and everything that I have lost. I try to stay grounded in the present and one thing that I can say for sure, I wouldn't trade any of the experiences that I have had for anything. If someone said that they could give me my health back but it would erase the memories of where all I have been and the sites that I have seen, I'd probably say no and kick them in the nuts. (If they had any, of course.)
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.
My redhead and I with the San Jacinto Monument in the background.
What would Freud say!