On Veterans’ Day

Ninety years ago today, in the fields of Flanders, the guns of the First World War fell silent.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Every year — for four years, anyway — I’ve posted John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” on the eleventh of November.

The barber in the town I grew up in was a World War I veteran. He was cutting hair as late as 1990, when I graduated high school and moved away. He charged two dollars a head — until 1989, when he started charging $2.50.

That was where people went.

His shop wasn’t anything special. Rough wooden floor. Everything was painted brown. He had paintings of Forbes Field on the walls; he loved the Pirates, and could talk about Pirates teams of forty or fifty years ago as if it were yesterday.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally wished I’d asked him about his experiences in France. I never did.

I don’t even remember his name.

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