Monday, October 6, 2008

A Loose Cannon

I was planning to write a blog entry celebrating my cannon and the family value it represents.

That’s right, a cannon; a 300 pound cast iron signal cannon that was taken off a World War I battleship and given in honor to my grandfather.

I wanted to tell you, dear reader, how my mother remembered it in her yard, her older brother allowed to light the fuse to fire it on the Fourth of July. I wanted to tell you all about the patriotism I felt one Memorial Day in my early years, after the parade, when we loaded it into the trunk of my Uncle’s convertible and drove with the top down, John Phillip Sousa blaring, and delivered it to our own yard.

For many years, it was sentinel to our home, central to the games I played with my buddies where the enemy marched uphill towards our cannon. Our Dads never trusted it to fire, but occasionally let us throw fire-crackers down the barrel, which worked just fine for us.

Then for years, it guarded us silently, nearly forgotten until grandchildren rediscovered it and fell all over it again. When they had moved on, ivy grew over it, covering it completely, forlorn and forgotten until the emotional upheaval of moving my parents and selling their home forced us to decide its future.

As the only son, I was tempted, but my wife understandably could not envision the little cannon on the front step of our city home, and I agreed. Once separate, however, I remembered the cannon. My son and I made the trip and happily brought it to Vermont, invested in the tradition, envisioned it someday moving on to his yard and children.

I wanted to tell you how we set it on the hillside, facing out to the river, over-looking the banks where Indians had actually fished and camped. I wanted to tell you the pleasure it gave me to see so many people notice it from the bike path, especially children who I would invite down for a closer look.

It was nothing high-tech and incredible, but it was a cannon, and no matter the age or culture of the male looking at it, he wanted to know if it would fire.

I wanted to tell you, dear reader, all of this with the happiness and pride I felt for this 300 pound funky, quirky family heirloom. Instead, I write with grief because over the weekend it was stolen.

Although it probably had value, I do not imagine it had enough to be worth a man enlisting buddies to help him brazenly steal from my yard. Someone suggested it might have been stolen for scrap metal. Probably, it was college kids on a drunken prank or senseless initiation task.

If they carried it away, they may have grown bored and tired, and tossed it into the woods two hundred yards up the road. If they came back with their car, it might sit on a porch somewhere until June, then be discarded carelessly with all the other junk left for someone else to clean up.

No one will know the honor with which it came into our family, the fun having it gave us, and the pride I imagined of passing it on. It can never be replaced.

I feel so stupid. Many people advised that it was too tempting and should be secured. I considered it, had a plan and even the materials in the basement. Nothing stopped me but a list of more pressing matters and a few leisure activities.

And my indefatigable faith that no one would harm such a valueless and precious object belonging to someone else, and so obviously cared for, grass cut carefully around it. Now, my cannon is gone, sadly, that barn door of optimism gets another lock.

Please share with your friends


persistentillusion said...

People have been stealing manholes and catalytic converters too. I'm sorry about your cannon.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow Kip, how thoughtless of them to do this. I really feel your pain and sense of disappointment and loss in this post. I'm so sorry that someone stole something so precious from you :(

You know what though, they cannot steal your memories!

Laurie said...

OHHHHH I am crushed! What total creeps.
I used to live in TN. There were cannons everywhere. They have placed them up on one of the ridges in the places that history records. One house has one pointing right at its front door. I would have loved to have an old cannon in my yard. How cool. Again I say, what creeps. Maybe the spirits of the old soldiers will steal it back for you (or at least frighten the thieves a bunch!)

Debra said...

Is it any consolation to say that it sparked a great piece of writing?

I hope that somewhere down the line it will fall into the hands of someone who will treasure it, without the knowledge of all that history cast into its metal.