Vacation

Fort Pickens, Florida
Fort Pickens, Florida

Husband Tim and I are spending a few days at the beach right now. I thought of not doing a post, or doing something like the The Family Circus. When the strip would read that the artist, Bil Keane, was on vacation, and Little Billy had subbed for him.

But that seemed like it would take more time and energy than I have in me. And I really don’t want to show any deference to The Family Circus. It was never my favorite comic strip. Though I always read it, because it was easy and always contained a discrete story. But odds were, For Better or For Worse might be telling a similar story, but in a much more enjoyable fashion. Now, I did like For Better of For Worse: it always felt like a much more authentic portrayal of life with young children.

I think the funny papers might be the thing I miss most about not getting paper news anymore.

So anyway, it’s been very nice to spend a few days with no agenda, no work, and a balcony overlooking the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These were not the vacations I took as a child. No, those vacations covered thousands of miles in the ’75 Plymouth Voyager van. We stayed in KOA Kampgrounds, and saw the most amazing National Parks in the U.S.: The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone.

There was one trip where Dad drove us through Florida, all the way down to Key West and back up again. Campgrounds in Florida in the summer are not much fun at all. There was one morning when I woke up and had 120 mosquito bites on my legs. I know, because I counted them on the long drive in the van the next day.

Suffice it to say, staying in Northwest Florida in a hotel with room service is much preferable. But here’s the thing—there’s a National Park not five miles from our hotel. Fort Pickens, on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island. I headed out there yesterday morning, with SiriusXM’s 70s on 7 playing. I could feel Dad’s approval as I entered the National Park to do some exploring.

So, while it’s no Little Billy, here are just a few facts I learned during my early morning exploration of Fort Pickens:

I stayed off the cannon
I stayed off the cannon
  • It was built in 1834. Its construction was supervised by the US Army Corps of Engineers, but they used slave labor to build it. When the Civil War came around, Fort Pickens was on the Union side, though.
  • There were a couple of Confederate forts right across the bay from Fort Pickens—Fort Barrancas, and Fort McRee.
  • The brick walls of Fort Pickens were already obsolete by the end of the Civil War—munitions had been developed that could blast through them.
  • From October 1886 to May 1887, the Apache chief Geronimo was imprisoned at Fort Pickens, along with several of his warriors.
  • There were several batteries in the Fort Pickens area that were modified during WWII, and served as lookouts for German submarines.

I got a bit stuck by the fact that slave labor built Fort Pickens, but it was served as a Union fort. And that Geronimo was detained there, thousands of miles from the land that he must have known.

But stranger, and worse, things have happened in this Republic. And I don’t ever want to lose sight of the shameful events in our history; even when I’m trying to not have an agenda and just “be.” It might even be more important to remember then.

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