By Caitlin Kelly
Welcome to Virginia!
It’s most definitely not New York.
We’re staying with friends for a few days and exploring the area. Yesterday I drove 90 minutes to Richmond to visit the Tredegar Civil War Museum, on the site of the ironworks that supplied the Confederacy with munitions.
I didn’t know that much about the Recent Unpleasantness, as some Southerners still call it, but I learned a lot. I did know, and included in my 2004 book Blown Away: American Women and Guns, that women served in the Civil War as soldiers, being small and slight enough to pass for teenage males. I used a terrific history of this issue, They Fought Like Demons, in my research.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, I did not see a reference to this in the museum, although it might be there — it’s interactive and highly detailed. One of the most compelling sights was the green velvet lined surgeon’s kit, complete with amputation saw, and a battered metal post he would have used to prop up a leg before a soldier was to lose it to surgery.
Another artifact was a black striped silk dress and its wearer, in a daguerrotype, with her husband and baby — four years later she was dead in childbirth. And heavy metal shackles, worn by slaves.
It is one thing to read about this in books, or see it in movies, but to read the words of soldiers and their wives was also sobering.
I ate lunch at a great old diner, Millie’s — a pulled pork sandwich on a cheddar biscuit. I skipped the grits in favor of salad. Each table had its own jukebox.
Then I visited Carytown, the funky part of Richmond, and scored a handful of antique treasures.
It’s an odd place for someone like me. Every church — and there are many, many churches here — is United Methodist or Baptist, with a few Episcopalians. I have yet to see a Catholic church or synagogue.
The highways are lined with very large trucks driven by farmers in caps. We ate dinner at a local restaurant and 14 men, most of them Hispanic farmhands, came in for $4 taco night. The fields are filled with winter wheat, and the new corn crop is just starting to show.
As I drove, I passed two dead possums and many live turkey, in the fields, on the roadside. They’re big!
The Tea Party has many large signs in bright yellow posted just outside of Richmond — past the Battlefield Elementary School — asking “Are you a Patriot?”
The legislation has proved ideologically polarizing, with many Democrats decrying the bill as an invasion of privacy aimed at shaming women out of having abortions, and Republicans heralding it as a way to provide women with as much information as possible about their pregnancies prior to having an abortion.
“This law is a victory for women and their unborn children. We thank Gov. McDonnell and Virginia’s pro-life legislators for their work to ensure that women have all the facts and will no longer be kept in the dark about their pregnancies,” said the conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement.
Any woman choosing an abortion is hardly “in the dark” about her pregnancy. She’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be.
I wonder where (if/when) we’ll retire — and which part of the world we’ll choose.
Our friends have chosen this part of the United States, and it is lovely to look at. But politically and religiously, not my cup of tea.