Column: Dealing with the closed minded, remembering Armistice Day

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2002

You think that you’re going to be happy when once it’s all over, but in a way you sort of miss the excitement. I have a friend who believes that no one should talk about politics or religion in a friendly group. I feel that if you can’t talk to friends about politics and religion, to whom can you talk about them?

I’ll admit that people who can’t disagree with you without getting into a tantrum should be avoided. I have no great desire, though, to talk to the likes of them about anything, even the weather.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, I went with Mary Ann Dixen to Faribault to attend an art exhibit. Eight artists were showing their work, among them Dee Teller, well known in Albert Lea.

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Among those I met was a charming couple who asked if I were related to a Mr. Cruikshank who lives in Faribault. Having talked to the man of whom they spoke, I know the possibility exists. I was pleased when they told me that he was greatly liked.

It has always been a matter of gratitude to me that most of the members of the family have been fortunate in having friends. It has also been a puzzle to me. We tend to be a bit set in our ways and not altogether amiable.

I think I mentioned something of this to my new friends. They admitted at once that my &uot;relative&uot; was inclined now and then to blow his top. &uot;But only when he encounters stupidity.&uot;

&uot;Stupidity,&uot; I suggested, &uot;Being something with which disagrees?&uot;

&uot;But he’s almost always right,&uot; they hastened to assure me.

Of course. I’ve known that for as long as I can remember. I also know that the necessity for being always right is a heavy burden to carry, too heavy. I was very young when I decided that however much I disagreed with a person I would always accept the possibility that my opponent might be right.

It doesn’t bother me that I frequently encounter those who fail to accord me the same courtesy. When they so far forget themselves, however, as to lash out at me with bad-mannered name calling, wild-eyed accusations, and downright lies, I have my own remedy.

Since losing one’s temper can raise the blood pressure, induce wrinkles, and put one on the defensive, I’m more than willing to share what I think of as my shield against the fanatic.

I don’t explain my position, I don’t argue it, I don’t seek to defend it. I simply retire mentally to a serene corner of my mind, murmuring to myself with the greatest compassion in regard to my opponent, &uot;Poor dear, poor, poor dear. Obviously insane.&uot;

I am writing this column on Veterans Day. Back in my childhood it was called Armistice Day, the day that ended the war fought &uot;to end war.&uot; It was always an important day in my hometown. There was always a parade. Once or twice there was a scandal. Once two veterans, who were in the band, drink had taken. The one broke into the strains of &uot;How Dry I Am,&uot; while the rest of the band was playing &uot;Stars and Stripes Forever,&uot; while doing a little dance to his own accompaniment.

The other veteran didn’t play his trumpet at all, just dragged it along the pavement, thump, thump, thump, to the delight of those watching the parade.

Indeed, except for the outraged wives of the two men, no one was very critical. Both the men had served in France during the worst of World War I. It was felt that they had the right to celebrate the holiday anyway they chose.

Of course, the schools celebrated the day. We had a program and a speaker in each school. I was in the ninth grade, junior high, the year of the Armistice tragedy. So I didn’t see it. Kids in the seventh and eighth grades, sitting in the upper story of the assembly did, though. Their reaction even without the firing of the guns was sufficient to let the rest of us know something was happening.

What was happening was that two bootleggers, brothers, were escaping from the courthouse jail. They had obtained guns, which were turned on the sheriff and policeman pursuing them .

Before it was over, the brothers and the sheriff all lay dead on the junior high school campus.

At the high school just across the street from the junior high, Col. William Utterback was the speaker. Telling of one of the battles he had been in, he uttered the words, &uot;Heads down, boys. They’re going to shoot!&uot;

One of my cousins, then in high school watching the program, told me later that Col. Utterback miraculously ducked as a bullet crashed into the wall behind him.

As she told it, the cavalry colonel calmed the hysterical students by saying &uot;Seems they already have shot.&uot;

I can’t vouch for the exact words. We’re a family that would think ill of not making a good story better. His close brush with death, however, was a matter of record. Few of our Armistice Day celebrations lacked color.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.