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Remembering an old friend from July 4, 1970

By Gregg Viens

I am responding to last week's Flashback photo of our beloved old Hap Gaylord marching along leading the Fourth of July parade.

Two years before that I had managed to get a replica of a trapdoor 1873 Springfield. It had no barrel. I had sent away to Dixie Gun Works for a newly made muzzle-loading barrel and with it came an 1863 model Springfield musket hammer that could make a 45 caliber working musket out of the combined parts. I had made up some sort of a Civil War-looking uniform for the 1970 Fourth of July parade. On that day, I got to the starting point to find old Hap and his son Dennis Gaylord, who was called Clifford. He was dressed in a Confederate Civil War officer's uniform and carrying a Spanish-American War era 3040 Cragg carbine. Hap had on a Union officer's uniform and carried a single-barrel shotgun.

I was going to march by myself but they asked me if I would march with them. I was glad to be with my two fellow Valley native friends. The parade started off and that was when they found out we had to stop so I could load and fire my make-do musket. They did not know I was ready for a shooting war with an invisible enemy.

Being without any blank rounds, Hap and Clifford went through the motions and when we aimed and I fired, the noise of my booming musket and the smoke filling the air caused the crowd to shriek and make the babies cry.

We marched on for some distance more to the next firing line where the crowd oohed and aahed to the end of the parade. We were so glad that we had joined as a threesome and put on a good show. It was a long tramp up to Brooks Field fairgrounds. That's when I got to that year's make-believe rodeo. There was a Brahmin bull lying down in the old show ring chewing its cud. As I set my musket down next to a cowboy who was from the rodeo show; he told me they were from Oklahoma. I asked him when the rodeo was to start and he told me they had been showing but now they were having a break.

The cowboy asked me where to go for excitement in our area. I was 19 at the time and his meaning of excitement was not the same as mine. I told him, "You are looking at it." But when he called us and The Valley a hick town, I thought that that cowboy had better not be running his mouth about us being hicks before someone bigger than me would make him eat his words. I was not impressed with the rodeo show they put on.

Some weeks later I met up with old Hap at his garage. He said, here, and presented me with a trophy the parade committee had given him for the Most Patriotic. "I think you earned this more than I did," he said. I held onto that trophy from 1970 to about 2000 when I gave it back to him. But just before he passed away, he gave it back to me. I still have that old trophy.

This Fourth of July I will be marching again – leg permitting after having six failed knee replacements and due for a seventh. I will be firing my flintlock musket I carried in the 1975 bicentennial Warren parade with my own group. It will be 39 years since I fired it in that parade. I hope the flash and bang will make everyone jump and ooh and aah the crowd and make the babies cry as I remember that day with old Hap Gaylord and his son Clifford.

Gregg Viens is a Civil War re-enactor and lives in Fayston.

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