Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Great-Grandpa’s Civil War Thumb
In the middle of our conversation Daddy disappears into the next room. He returns with a pair of gloves from his grandfather’s old trunk.
He hands them to me. “You ever see these? They belonged to my Grandpa; your Great-Grandpa, Charles Whitfield Leckie.”
I hold them in my hands and study them carefully. I can tell they’ve been packed away for safekeeping. They exude that ‘old museum sort of smell.’ My hands carefully stroke the bulky wool that contains no more than three moth holes. The natty leather trim stitched around the top offers a clue that they are well worn.
My eyes follow the shapes of the fingers and thumbs. I notice the long fingers, but there’s something extremely odd about the thumbs. The left thumb seems unusually long in comparison to the right one.
I’m puzzled. “Daddy, why on earth is this thumb cut off? These gloves couldn’t have been made this way. What happened?”
“Well, I’m not sure how it all happened, but Grandpa was in the Civil War. I think he must have reloaded his gun. He had his thumb across the end of the barrel and somehow the gun went off accidentally and shot off his thumb. After that he had to alter the right thumb of his glove so it would fit.”
Time passes. Several years later my cousin hands me several pages of our family history. I read through it and notice an account that distinctively clarifies Grandpa’s painful accident. It explains what I believe actually happened to amend Daddy’s account.
This is what I found. ‘Sometime during the Civil War, Charles W. Leckie was sick while marching. He stopped and rested his hand over the end of his rifle when it discharged and blew off his thumb.’
Ugh, I begin to feel a bit queasy, but read on. ‘He returned home and lived the remainder of his life in Iredell County, approximately five miles northeast of Statesville. He lived to the ripe old age of 94.’ The account was scant. The Leckie side of my family were neither loquacious nor meticulous record keepers. Yet, for now, this discovery was enough to satisfy my curiosity about Great Grandpa’s peculiar wool gloves.
Just imagine- what stories might spring forth if an old pair of worn gloves, pulled from a family trunk, could discharge their secrets.
Sylvia Payne, a North Carolina Storyteller, comes from a diverse background of Scots Irish, English, and German ancestry. She grew up in the North Carolina foothills listening to family stories told by her mother. A graduate of High Point University and a former children’s librarian, her repertoire includes world folktales, stories of history, legends and family stories. With more than 30 years’ experience, her animated style, and her stories captivate and transport the listener into an imaginary world. In addition, she conducts workshops for parents, teachers, and college and university students. She serves on the North Carolina Storytelling Guild Board and is editor of the Guild’s bi-annual publication, Journal of Tar Heel Tellers. Sylvia has studied with such storytelling masters as Donald Davis, David Holt, Tim Lowry, Connie Regan-Blake and Donna Marie Todd.