|Sign posted along the road at Fort Donelson National Battlefield|
I'll admit it. I have been living here for over three months now and I still have only popped in to the visitor center to use the restrooms. I know, I know: I am one of those visitors. I recently found out that the whole museum is about to be gutted so I should visit in the very near future (I am sure I will write about that here). However, I find the battlefield an excellent place to run, with slow and controlled traffic, beautiful scenery, and gauged distances. So I run. Yes, at a battlefield.
|Heavy artillery overlooking the Cumberland River.|
|A FED eagle is a DEAD eagle. Seriously.|
At the end of my run, I was cooling down with a walk to my car. I believe I had my head down and phone out, plugging in my run info into some tracking app, earphones still in, when a rusty red truck slowed down beside me. The truck had passed me already once before, with its faded "heritage not hate" sticker peeling off the back. I figured the overall-wearing occupants to be some of those "real" visitors, some "buffs" of the Civil War. I am usually sensitive to my safety when running by myself, so I immediately went on guard and mentally planned how I might react if I encountered any trouble. The windows were rolled down and the passenger called out, "you see that eagle there?" At first, I thought he meant the sign (since I was taking a picture of it earlier). Still out of breath, I heaved out an answer that sounded like, "you mean the sign?" "No, that eagle right there!" Both men pointed up to the tree. The driver announced, "It's beautiful! Look at its white head! Like in a picture!" All three of us gawked in awe for a moment, attempting to capture the amazing site with our phones. "Thanks for pointing that out!" I quietly called out as I walked away to finish my cool down.
|An American Bald Eagle at Fort Donelson|
Those guys (with their park maps and obvious desire to tour the park) maybe only planned to drive through and read the appropriate battle signage. At least, that is what I would have expected them to do. Those guys seemed like the last guys to be the nature-appreciating visitors (from a judgmental perspective like my own). Yet, as I drove away, I saw that those guys ended up parking at the closest stop to get out and stand in awe of an American icon a little closer. What do you think they will remember most about their visit to Fort Donelson National Battlefield?
I disagree with the notion of forced reverence at battlefields. I believe the line reads something like: "We can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." That's already been done. People come to visit this places for their own reasons. Yes, men fought at died at these places. But so did people live. So do people live. Providing positive experiences that highlight the many aspects of these special places (like nesting eagles) allow for more opportunities to make connections to the stories, to the histories, and to the places. These connections inspire interest. Interest inspires stewardship. Local runners and joggers want to see these places preserved maybe for different reasons than birders or naturalists (maybe). Naturalists want to see these places preserved for different reasons than descendents of soldiers (maybe). But each makes connections in their own way, resting on their individual reasons for caring for these special places, and each can ultimately serve as stewards for the park.
Side note: I nearly burst out in Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" upon seeing a bald eagle at a national park, but resisted.