Thursday, July 04, 2019

Reading Independently: My Crush on Nathan Hale

I remember hearing about and seeing pictures of cotton-haired George Washington and the cartoonishly-shaped Abraham Lincoln in the days before I could read by myself. Cherry trees and log cabins. They were so neatly bundled in February that they didn't make much of an impression.

A couple of years passed, and I was reading independently. Somehow, (maybe from my aunt?) there came into my possession an illustrated book of American history. Starting with Christopher Columbus and ending...I don't remember how. Highlights of American history were summarized in an informative paragraph, accompanied by a picture in full color. It was a handsome volume.

There were two pages I was particularly stuck on: One was the 'story' of Pocahontas and John Smith. What a great picture: John Smith with his hands bound behind his back, head on a large boulder, face looking worried and brave, all at once. The would-be executioner's hatchet coming down, and Pocahontas, running in, arm fully extended for the interception, looking scared but angry. The paragraph said that she shielded him from the fatal blow. Of course, I had to look up 'shielded' 'fatal' and 'blow'. Wow.

Then there was Nathan Hale. I can't find the exact picture I saw in the book, but it was somewhat like the one above, except that Nathan Hale was standing on the left, defiantly facing right and wearing a white shirt with no jacket. He had the rope around his beautifully strong neck. This was the first time I'd ever heard of someone being hanged. Also, the language was a little beyond me.  I double-checked with my father. Yes, hanging was a method of killing. "Giving [one's] life" meant that they died. Also, Nathan Hale was captured by the British for spying. He was a spy. What was a spy? And the paragraph said he was 19. I cried. A lot. Because this wasn't a story. A fairy tale. This was a true story. Nathan Hale was real. This really happened.

For a long time, I brooded on Nathan Hale. Where had his Pocahontas been? If only we weren't 200 years apart! I could have rushed in and shielded him from the fatal...blow? I wasn't exactly sure how hanging was accomplished. Yes, I thought, I would have rescued him. Of course, I would have given him a chance to make his stirring, final speech, then I would have defied those ugly guys in red jackets. Then Nathan Hale could have gone back to being a spy, and maybe I could have somehow helped. Maybe by bringing him some water, like Molly Pitcher?  No, I'd make him show me how to help him with spying. 


Unruly Reader said...

Love this! I remember having a wicked crush on a Civil War drummer boy in a photo... I was in 8th grade, I think.

Bybee said...

Oh Unruly! You're my spirit bookworm!