|The man was middle-aged, maybe in his late 40's with a slight moustache and salt-and-pepper hair that was on its way to receding. He wore a smart, summer sportcoat over his short-sleeved white oxford shirt and sensible, if expensive, brown slacks., topped off by a fashionable businessman's hat, which he had removed upon entering the bar. The woman was young and attractive with black hair and clear, blue eyes. She wore a comfortable yellow summer dress and canvas shoes. The two of them may as well have dropped in from another solar system.|
|Winndrow didn't notice them at first. He was slumped over the table peering through the half-filled mug and letting the cool sweat from the glass drip onto his sunburned forehead and roll down his face.|
|He was in the complicated process of trying to decide whether
he should go back to his trailer and get his boat and head down
to the lake for some early evening fishing, or just order another
beer or two.
"Excuse me..." the man said, still standing just inside the doorway as if a hasty retreat may be required, "is there a gentleman by the name of Winndrow Pinkham here? We were told back in town that we might find him at this location."
"No gentleman--just Winn," Joycellen yelled from the kitchen before anything had registered with Winndrow.
"I'm Pinkham," said Winndrow finally, as he shot a bemused "very funny" look in the direction of the kitchen.
The strangers stepped carefully across the room to the corner table where Winndrow sat, and they stood before him waiting for an invitation to be seated. After a few seconds, the man realized that the invitation would not be coming, so he began his apparently well-rehearsed speech. "Mr. Pinkham, my name is Spriggs, Dr. Manuel Spriggs. I am a history professor and, in fact, head of the history department at the University of New Jersey. And this is my assistant, Miss Smithers."
The young woman smiled nervously, but Winndrow sat there with a blank expression which Spriggs took as a cue to continue. "No doubt you are familiar with the great American Civil War battle that was fought in and around the vicinity of the very area where we now are conversing. And though your own Southern army fought bravely and valiantly, nonetheless, it would be the Union army who would take the day under the leadership of U.S. Grant, a general who was not very well-known until that particular victory."
"Actually, our boys messed up big, the way I heard it," Winndrow calmly responded, but that's about all I know about it."
Spriggs was a bit put off by the seated man's casual observation, but after pausing a second or two to collect himself, he cleared his throat and continued: "Noted. As I was saying, it was a bitter struggle that matched two great armies, and it was only by the whimsical nature of fickle chance and perhaps a touch of bad weather that led to the untimely defeat of your brave boys."
"Whatever," said Winndrow finishing his beer. The newness of the situation was beginning to wear off, and though he was curious, he was quickly moving into a stage of impatience. "Can I help you with something, partner? I mean, what's that got to do with the price of eggs, or more pertinent, me. I mean, here I am. You found me. Now what can I do you for?"
"Yes, hmm," said Spriggs. "You appear to be a well-informed chap. Are you familiar with a section of the Fort Donelson battlefield known as Pinkham Ridge?"
"Indeed. Pinkham Ridge was a high slope of land overlooking the northernmost part of the battlefield, a few hundred yards west of the river. It has never been considered a vital part of what took place that day--it's not even really a part of what now is the national battlefield--but my research indicates that it was essential to the outcome of that particular battle."
|©Copyright 2002 David Ray Skinner/SouthernReader. All rights reserved.|