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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

History is all around you

I work in a remote part of Northern Colorado.  There are far more black cows lazily grazing in the open, un-fenced fields on either side of business route 34 than there are morning commuters on business route 34.  A few mornings ago I noticed 2 stone plinths about 10 feet apart, and some official-looking plaques suggesting that the site was some sort of point of interest, right there by the side of the highway, about 10 minutes away from my facility.  My History Antennae were immediately on alert and I made a mental note to check the spot out as soon as possible.

When I lived in France, I was one of those types that gushed over the notion of the close daily proximity of "historical things" that living in "Europe" afforded.  You couldn't go to the public pool, argue with your internet provider, or buy toilet paper without brushing up against, or trodding on some old moldering stone or building of some historical merit.  To me, it was bliss.  After I arrived back in the States, I must (unfortunately) admit that I was a bit of a history snob for awhile, wrongheadedly believing that there was nothing "old" to be seen around here.  Further injustice! to be in the West!  where the "history" is so not really old! like, only! a couple hundred years or so!

One Friday afternoon, my supervisor let a bunch of us go home a half hour early.  The sun, after days of blank, grey sky, was shining, and I sped away from work, curious but not expecting too much from the twin stone altars by the side of the road.  Probably some, you know, pioneer stuff or an obscure battle that I will have to look up later because I've never heard of it, I thought to myself as I pulled up and got out of the car.

But lo! as I approached the graven plaques, what words did I read?  Disbelief!  Did the plaques truly indicate that these stone bases once held the wooden entrance-posts for a German prisoner of war camp?!?!  Why yes!  Right here in the middle of America, a tiny piece of World War II history--my favorite kind of history!  The POW camp, it turns out, held about 3,000 prisoners, all taken mostly from a victory in Africa--one of the prisoners was even Rommel's personal mechanic!

I realize it seems sort of batty, to stand by the side of the road and enthuse over black and white photos of prisoner barracks and barbed wire.  I really have no answer for that; history is just so exciting!

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