“Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Or the French I took…”
And on and on goes the Sam Cooke song. While my friends and I figured we couldn’t do much about high school biology, science, math or the languages and would probably never figure out what a slide rule was for, could we at least capture some wiggle room with American history?
Take Paul Revere and that famous ride of his. The history books give all the credit for that night back on April 18, 1775 to Paul and his horse. But what if his wife had been anything less than understanding? Would the ride ever have taken place?
Consider if one day my friends and I took our seats in American History class and the assignment was to write an essay (groan) but, and here comes the good part - with a slant on the midnight ride. Tinker with history our teacher encouraged. Half a century later, I still have the recurring dream that my essay received an “A”:
“Paul, if you don’t stop jumping up and looking out that window every two minutes I’m going to scream. You keep messing up the curtain. What’s so interesting out there, anyway?”
“I’m watching the tower in Christ Church,” he replies and, releasing the curtain, reluctantly walks across the room to his work bench where silver bowls await engraving.
“Humph,” she remarks with a shrug of her shoulders. “More like watching for Bill Dawes and Dr. Prescott off to their Sunday night pinochle game in Lexington.”
Paul sighs. “I’ve told you that I’m practicing looking at the tower in case the time comes today.” Then in a whisper to reassure himself, “One if by land, two if by sea; one if by land, two if by sea; one if by...”
He is too agitated to concentrate on engraving and walks back to the window.
“The curtain, Paul. The curtain. You’re squishing the lace.”
“One if by land, two if by sea; one if by land, two if by sea; one if by…”
“Oh, stop that mumbling, Paul. Instead of wasting your energy trying to figure out how to leave the house for that card game why not make me a silver bowl? You’ve got a bench filled with orders you’re going to deliver and yet I’m the only woman in Boston without one.”
Suddenly, he turns from the window and grabs his rifle, races to the door and tells her he’s off to Lexington.
“Like heck you are,” she yells, running after him and pulling on his coat tails.
“I saw the light, I saw the light in the tower, let me go! I’ve got to warn Adams and Hancock the British are coming.”
Her grip on his coat tail is fierce. “I wasn’t born yesterday, Paul Revere! If you leave this house tonight and join up with Bill Dawes and Dr. Prescott I’ll never speak to you again. I’ll, I’ll….”
Paul Revere is normally a gentle, easy going man but duty to country is duty to country. He yanks his coat tail from her grasp and mounts the horse he thought ahead to borrow from Sam Larkin. He gives the reins a tug and just as the wind stings his face, she shouts her last warning:
“I’ll melt the bowls!”
A decision: Immortality in a Longfellow poem that future generations of students will balk at having to memorize or the financial security built up in a family trust generated by the silver Revere bowls that only increase in value through the generations of antiques collectors?