Riding through the battlefields

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Monday, September 8, 2008

As I said, this is a great place to stay. Close to Gettysburg and the historic battlefields, you can tour the site either on a self guided route in your car, or in a tour bus (Yuk) or like we did on horseback! Ok, I know some of you were virtually born on horseback and have remained there ever since, but for the Thornleys it was going to be a new experience (well I rode as a child but that is so long ago now as to be irrelevant!) - so Alex and Debbie you can skip this bit if you like!
Having signed our lives away - is it really that dangerous?  Been scared by the thought of being bitten by the horse flies that we have been warned about (I am particularly vulnerable to insect bites) we entered the stables for the briefing from our 'wrangler'.

There were 10 of us, of varying experience, some with helmets,
(I value my head ) some without, that set off on our 2 hour ride. Malc was suitably nervous, having memories of a very uncomfortable camel ride on the outskirts of the Sahara, many years ago.
I have to say that as we entered the actual battleground site and 'Dixie' began to flood through my headset (part of the tour is another narration of the battle) I really was overcome.

 The personal stories, the track through the actual battle site, the glimpse of cannon ball holes in a barn, made it all very real, very sobering too.

 The futility of war has never really changed has it?
Anyway, we continued the 'follow my leader' path and Malc who wanted to see if the horses could do this 'blind folded' so to speak encouraged his mount 'Red' to divert briefly from the well worn track, rewarded with the fact that the horse would indeed go where he bade. He also encouraged it to speed up when he felt it was lagging behind - only to be chastised by our wrangler when he did this for the third time! As we returned to the stables at the campsite, a large truck that was on the road deployed his air brakes - now I had been warned that my horse, Misty, was very prone to stop and eat grass and if this happened en route I was to pull the reins up sharply in order to deter her - there had been no mention of her aversion to air brakes! However I held on and despite her alarm and somewhat erratic behavior, managed to stay in the saddle! Feeling quite pleased with my 'horsemanship' I guided her back to the stable and my adventure was over.

 Malc said he was surprised with how comfortable the ride had been and that he might quite like to own a horse...I think I'll put my foot down on that one, storing the RVis one thing, finding a horse sitter quite another!!

We also went into Gettysburg itself, a town literally scarred forever with the wounds of the battle. Much has been done to preserve its brave past and wandering around, reading the plaques on the many buildings that still stand, reading the stories of those that were there, only served to emphasize how poignant, yet significant the battle was. Lincoln was, it is reported, disappointed with his Gettysburg address, he spoke for only 3 minutes after the main speaker had talked for 2 hours, it was given at the dedication of the National Cemetery where the fallen were buried, but it was to become more fundamental than he could ever have imagined.

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