Houston Patterson was the reason the Ansel Head went to McCallie School in Chattanooga. His older pre-war brother had known Houston when Houston was a counselor at Camp Mondamin and his brother was a camper. During the winters, Houston taught math at the prestigious military prep school located midway down historic Missionary Ridge in the Civil War battlefield that was Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Baby boomer Head’s mother’s only brother, Page, had gone to McCallie some twenty years earlier, but a meaningful experience it had not been. He had become gravely ill in his first year and was forced to return to the less prestigious Birmingham University School. Twenty years later, as that school’s new chairman of the board, the boomer’s father had moved it from the wooden fire trap it was to a new campus complete with a gym; the school desperately needed paying students like the Head boys. Thus nothing in the Head household pointed to McCallie as a school for the its boys except the pre-war brother’s wish to follow Houston, and so he was allowed to do it.
The younger Head boy was fixated on things military. The Grey Ghost, Run Silent Run Deep, They Were Expendable, Helen of Troy, The Sands of Iwo Jima, They Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The West Point Atlas of American Wars, the biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower – these were just a few of the shows, movies, and books that fed his appetite and stirred his young heart. If only he could emulate these heroes.
At McCallie, cadets wore dark blue uniforms with shiny crossed rifles, carried M-1’s, and marched to a stirring band behind colorful flags. The baby boomer had watched his pre-war brother in the spring parades. Nothing could have stopped him from enlisting.
And so he too was allowed to go. After spending his final weekend at his family’s cabin on Lake Martin, he loaded the car with his brother’s faded hand-me-down uniforms, kissed his weeping mother goodbye, abandoned his sister to only childness, and left with his father to confront his destiny.
“Why was Mother weeping”, he asked.
You’ll soon find out”, replied his experienced father.