Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Hatchet

This hatchet that's lying on my desk was given to me by my grandfather. Before that it was given to him by his. It's a sturdy, old hatchet that shows years of use, and I am pleased that he saw fit to pass it on to me.

When he gave it to me, he told me a bit about its history.

"This hatchet was made down in Tennessee by a blacksmith named Hobson, I think," he began. "Yep, made it for Ol' Hick'ry himself." I stood there in awe, listening as he retold the story that he had heard nearly seventy years before from a man who had lived it seventy years before that.

"Now, back in about 1840 or so, my grandpa was working in Tennessee, cuttin' timber down near Nashville. I think there's a big forest of cedar somewhere in that area, and that's where he was working. He was cuttin' it for Colonel Jackson, after he left the White House." Only in my early teens, I listened intently as the rest of the story was told. How many times had this story been told? No one knows. But he continued, "One Sunday, after all the timber had been cut, Colonel Jackson invited grandpa Abe up to the house for Sunday Dinner," he said. "After dinner, he took him and showed him around the place," the story continued, "in the workshop attached to the barn, grandpa picked up this hatchet and asked Colonel Jackson who had made it. 'That hatchet was made by Troy Hobson, the blacksmith over in Baird's Mill,' said Colonel Jackson, 'if you like it Mr. Foley, keep it, I'll have him make me another.'

"So that's how my grandfather, let's see that would be your great, great, grandfather wouldn't it," he paused. "Yeah, I think that's right, anyway, that's how grandpa got this hatchet. And now I'm going to give it to you," he said as he handed me Andrew Jackson's hatchet.

I turned it over and over in my hand, admiring the heft and feel of the tool. "But PaPa," I said, "this hatchet doesn't look that old. It's a great old hatchet, but it doesn't look like it was handmade by a blacksmith." "No," he replied, "it's kinda like Ol' Hick'ry's Democratic Party. It's had three new heads, and at least a dozen new handles since then, but it's the same hatchet, I promise."

I know James Webb admires Andrew Jackson, as he does Ronald Reagan. But perhaps he should take a closer look at Jackson's Democratic Party before claiming it. It's changed. It's changed a bunch. The modern Democratic Party would prefer not to have Jackson as a member, much less a head of the party. But a writer such as he may not have noticed that. It's time he got his money's worth and asked some of his political friends like Lowell Feld. They would be able to explain to him how many times the head and the handle of the party he thinks he's joined has been changed over the years.

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