I’m a Sailor Peg

They have just passed a parking lot on the Spotsylvania Battlefield history trail. There is a clear trail to the right just on the other side of the placards at this stop, so they follow it. It goes for a quarter mile and ends at a busy road.

“This isn’t right,” says the man. “We should be turning right around here.” He pulls out the trail map and stares at it.

“We’re lost again, aren’t we?” says Lindsay.

“We’re not lost,” the man says. “There’s a big road right there. It’s not like we couldn’t be found.”

“Did you see any trail markers?” Lauren says. “The blue paint, I mean.”

The man shakes his head. “Not since the parking lot. But this is clearly a trail.”

Their bichon frise, Dobby, is yanking on the leash to turn further into the woods. The man looks to his right. A sign sits in front of a shallow trench with earthworks behind it. It reads Confederate Earthworks.

The man points. “See that worn area on the earthworks?”

Lucia crosses her arms. “You’re not supposed to walk on the earthworks, Dad. Every sign so far has said that.”

“Yeah, but look. It’s worn right there, and there’s a clear trail beyond it. Let’s go that way.”

Lucia shrugs. “You’re breaking the law, Dad.”

“Maybe we should go back to the parking lot and try again,” Lauren says.

The man leads forward with Dobby. He climbs over the earthworks. “Look, there’s a clear trail. Come on.”

“Like there was yesterday at The Wilderness, Dad? When we wound up doing the complete wrong trail cuz you couldn’t find the right one?” says Lindsay.

The man ducks under several branches, but stays on the thin trail. “I really wish they added more blue paint on this trail.”

Lauren is in the back and calls, “Isn’t that a bad sign? Maybe we should go back to the last place where we saw the blue?”

Lucia is right behind him, Graham at her elbow. They are all in snow boots, gloves, and hats. “Dad, have we gone on even one hike with you where you haven’t gotten us lost?”

The man advances quickly to the crest of a hill because according to the map they should be walking up on the Harrison House ruins any second.

“Hey, Dad,” Graham says.

“Dad?” Lucia says. “Even one hike?”

“The Harrison House is going to be right over this crest,” the man says.

“Dad?” says Graham.

The man crests the hill. Below him is a shallow valley full of dead leaves, skinny trees, thorns, and maybe a hint of a trail. But no Harrison House.

“What, Graham?” the man says.

“You know the song ‘Shipping Up to Boston’?” Graham says pulling even with him.

“This doesn’t make sense,” the man mutters. He looks down at the map. “The house has to be here.”

Lucia and Lindsay now come up behind him with Lauren crunching just behind him until she reaches the group.

“Lost, aren’t we?” Lucia says.

“What is that song even about?” Graham says.

The man stares at the map. “No idea, Graham.”

“You haven’t seen any blue marks, have you?” Lauren says.

The man sighs and says, “No.” Dobby comes dashing back and puts two muddy paws on the man’s wind pants.

“Dad?” Graham says.

“What, bud?” the man says without looking up from the trail map.

“What’s a sailor peg?”

“No idea,” says the man. “I’ve never been a sailor.”

“Would Uncle Stephen know? Because he used to go out with the Navy when he was in the Marines?”

“I doubt it,” says the man. “I think it’s nonsense basically.”

“We should go back to the parking area,” Lauren says.

“Yeah, we should. We’re on a trail, but I don’t think it’s the trail.”

“Ha!” Lucia says. “Knew it! Lost!”

“We’re not lost!” says the man.

“Told you we weren’t supposed to walk on the earthworks,” she says, as they all start back.

Graham lopes along next to the man. “Dad, why is the man going to Boston find his wooden leg?”

They cross back over the earthworks, Dobby charging along in front, his bumble bee sweater unruffled on top, but soaked and muddy underneath.

“I guess the sailor peg lost his leg there,” says the man.

“But what’s a sailor peg?” Graham says.

They turn left on the bigger trail. “Let’s look at it this way,” the man says. “We’re probably seeing earthworks and trenches that almost no one sees since probably everyone stays on the correct trail.”

Lucia laughs. “Are we even going to finish this hike?” Lucia says.

“Dad?” Graham says. “What’s a sailor peg?”

As they round a curve and come back to the parking lot, it all becomes obvious to the man. He points. “See the crosswalk over there? From where we came from to the other side? That’s where the trail is.”

“Told you,” Lauren says.

Dobby looks around, wondering why they have stopped. Graham says again, “Dad?”

The man turns. “Graham, the song is almost complete nonsense. One of the Dropkick Murphy guys was going through the Woody Guthrie archive and found the lyrics on a scrap of paper. He set the words to angry Irish music. He and his band are a bunch of Irish dudes who scream it, and everyone thinks it kicks ass. And that’s pretty much it.”

They cross the parking lot, turn right, and sure enough, there’s a blue paint mark on a tree. “See?” Lauren says.

“You were right,” the man says. He turns to the kids. “What are the three most important words in marriage, kids?”

“‘You were right!'” Lucia says.

The man nods. “Exactly. And let’s try to remember that I am willing to say them.”

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