Page 60 - Vol. VII #8
P. 60

Martin Van Buren Bates (continued from preceding page)
to converse with them on the same level. Flora Mae always enjoyed hearing the story of how the two giants met; it was at the circus, of course, in Anna’s hometown of Halifax. Martin was a part of the act, while Anna was in the crowd. After the show, a pro- moter spotted Anna and hired her on the spot. For his part, Halsey always enjoyed when Anna recited lines from Macbeth, having been once casted as Lady Macbeth; while no expert on the theater, Halsey thought this was wonderful casting as Lady Macbeth was an undeniably large presence in the play, dwarf- ing her husband in terms of ambitions and aggres- sion until she’s undone by the very depths of her own desires.
complained to his wife. Aw, a man has the right to be called whatever he wants. No harm in that. Don’t start a war over a pile of leaves.
 Hurrrt... Hurrrt, quieter now.
Cobblestones! Now, don’t you curse Halsey Hul- burt. If you don’t understand the “terrible arith- metic” of war, you don’t understand war! Halsey would complain to his wife. Superior tactics? Like being bad at math? I’ll take General Grant...Why
is daddy cursing? He ain’t child, we’re just talking history. I want to talk history, momma. Later, child, later. Goodnight, momma. Goodnight, child. No more cursing, daddy. Goodnight, dear. Like I was saying, I’ll talk General Grant and one hundred men over Robert E. Lee with ten any day of the week. A “superior tactic” would’ve been not starting a war you can’t win in the first place, especially when based on a flawed principle to begin with. And what about slavery? How about those “superior tactics”? Shush now, dear, nobody likes to talk about slav- ery, just like nobody likes to lose a war. I like to talk about slavery! How many fugitive slaves did
As he and Carl Jr. draw closer to the giant, Halsey can hear the sobbing. Martin Van Buren Bates is holding his face in his palms, and even muffled by his enormous fleshy hands, the loud emotional cries make the motivation behind the cries unmistakable. Those hands, those gigantic hands. Halsey Hulburt remembers the first time he saw them. He remem- bers how he recoiled from a handshake; he wasn’t scared or intimidated, he just didn’t see the sense
in putting his tiny hand into something so big, it was like shaking hands with an ocean. And Halsey remembers how fond Martin was of showing off his stash of diamonds in his huge hands. Those dia- monds were his principle wealth when he arrived one day in Seville, looking for a farm to buy for himself and his wife, who we assured everyone was as big as he was. Those diamonds were big, bigger than anything anyone in Saville had ever seen, but those diamonds looked like dandelions in Martin’s huge hands, like fiddleheads. Eventually, with all those dandelion diamonds, Martin bought one-hun- dred and sixty acres of farmland down Seville Road from Halsey Hulburt’s homestead.
we hide in this house? Dozens. We took ‘em in day and night with no concern about that damn foolish Fugitive Slave Law. Shush now, dear, we didn’t do nothing worth a lick of praise. “Do Unto Others...” One escaping slave exhibited more “superior tac- tics” and more bravery and more courage than the whole Confederate army, Robert E. Lee be damned! Who God bless, no man curse. Oh, I’ll curse alright. I’ll curse all night.
We got giants for neighbors, Halsey announced one afternoon to his family. Well, his wife answered, they people just like us, so we better get to know ‘em. But they weren’t, they weren’t people just like them, or
so Halsey thought. In fact, Halsey Hulburt thought they were nothing like them. Martin Van Buren Bates insisted on being called Captain because of his service in the Civil War. Fair enough, maybe. Many men, the president included, enjoyed addressing one another by their military rankings—captain, colonel, corpo- ral, whatnot—but these were Union men; Martin Van Buren Bates was born in Kentucky and had fought for the Confederacy.
But Halsey Hulburt wasn’t a man for conversational confrontation with anyone other than his wife, with whom it must be said he never could seem to avoid conversational confrontations, so he and Martin Van Buren Bates, like many historians and otherwise knowledgeable men, tactfully avoided the subject of the Civil War and slavery, choosing instead to discuss things like horsetrading and farming and the Bates’ colorful circus past.
You lose your title when you lose your war, Halsey 53
When two people as big as the Bates lived in a town as small as Seville they were destined to be the town’s major talking point, and thus everyone in Seville knew that Anna Bates had recently delivered the largest newborn baby ever recorded in human history: twenty-three pounds nine ounces, nearly thirty inches tall with six-inch feet. Miss Caroline Chambers, who lived on the other side of town and
But what was worse was that “Captain” Bates was one of those infuriating Confederate sympathizers who repeatedly voiced the opinion that the South possessed better generals and superior tactics and had only lost the war because of the North’s larger population.

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