NO ONE KNOWS THE TIME Bye John Watts

 

No one knows the time.  Not when it comes to a final expiration day that is.

It’s all for the best really.  If we did know it, well then we would be driving our loved ones mad with dramatic gestures and intensely personal hallmark cards.  Every wave goodbye from the front door—every concluding comment on a cell phone would be infused with unbearable emotions and self-consciousness.

It would be like a non-stop boarding of an airplane trip—with all the melodrama and savoring of all the little things, replayed over and over like “Groundhog Day” until our prediction came true and our hour finally arrives.

Knowing this, we should all count our lucky stars and be SO glad to not have any clairvoyant dream abilities.

The responsibility would be immense.

We only know (and sense) that we have a final due date that can’t be negotiated.  In fact we are bombarded with this knowledge.  From the TV news to the annoying pharmaceutical commercials that feature actors playing real people looking vibrant—as they sneak in the “side effects include sudden death” reminders.

Like “Three Days of the Condor” our finale could happen in the most innocuous places.  It might be a sunny, warm spring day.  We could be walking outside to pick up the mail.  A black sedan drives up next to us noiselessly.  The grim reaper smiles as the window rolls down.  A shot rings out.

This shot could be that top notch assassin all of us know too well—heart disease.  Out of nowhere it could force us out the exit door.  It could be a crowded retail store at holiday time.  It could be during an exciting football celebration.

We could be feeling some suspicious health reactions.  Our chest feels tight.  Suddenly we are burping uncontrollably and getting those “are you all right?” questions from our spouse.

So we become acutely aware of every ache and pain.  The most common place, trifling occurrence could be masquerading as the “our worst, dreaded fear.”  We become afraid to describe a sharp pain or a strange tremor or a dull ache like trigger shy car owners afraid to have the mechanic open their hood to look inside.

Most of all we don’t want to cause a scene.  I am the type that would be apologizing all the way to the ambulance if I collapsed and became a bother to people in a crowded mall.  It’s rude and overbearing.  The maddening thing about it though is it never fits a Hollywood ending.  We can’t, very well learn how NOT to get felled by something that is meant to FELL us.

And most of us tend to look at famous people that die and a part of us suspects—“I bet they had some strange premonition as they drove to their last gig or airport or whatever location held their appointment with infamy.  We read into every expression or words that they utter leading up to it—“why it’s almost as if they knew that their time was about up?!”

Yet no one knows the time.  Except for maybe Jim Bonham that is.  You probably don’t remember him in American history do you?  And don’t even think about the drummer from Led Zeppelin.  That was John Bonham—God rest his soul too.

Jim Bonham was the ULTRA heroic defender of the Alamo and as such, was overshadowed by the presence of legendary action heroes Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie.

How noble was this Jim Bonham?  He was asked to be the appointed scout to leave the Alamo at several points of the siege in order to plead for reinforcement. Bonham goes straight to Colonel Fannin at Goliad who had a command of over 300 soldiers as the closest solution.  What happens is related by T.R. Fehrenbach in his Texas opus, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans:

“At the end, the weary Bonham, a lawyer, a Carolinian of exulted family and a friend of Travis, turned his mount around and rode back toward San Antonio. He was told it was useless to throw away his life. He answered back that Travis deserved to know the answer to his appeals, spat upon the ground, and galloped west into his own immortality.”

Pretty stirring stuff huh?  Was this account slightly romanticized?  Probably.  But the fact remains that few of us would voluntarily ride back not once but several back through a hemmed in fort, especially when it was becoming abundantly clear that the expected help would not be coming after all.

Bonham is reported to have returned to the Alamo on March 3, according to letters from Travis, weaving through the Mexican lines, knowing full well that the cause would be hopeless, yet bound and determined to complete his mission and return to his friends anyway. Bonham died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. He is believed to have died manning one of the cannons in the interior of the Alamo chapel.

This truly is a rarified level of loyalty, duty and sacrifice that is hard to imagine topping for one human being.

All of it becomes intermingled into the fact and fiction of the battle of the Alamo that we have come to believe in between the history books and the Walt Disney movie.  As to whether Colonel Travis actually drew a line or not in the dirt to establish who would stay and who would leave—we may never know for sure.  One thing for certain–it is very hard to abandon long enculturated beliefs that are dearly held.

The siege of the Alamo is truly one of those amazing history lessons of ordinary men making a decision to band together for a bigger cause.

Meanwhile the rest of us will just have to remain content with keeping busy and avoid getting too psyched out by some rogue malady that might be terminal.  The world at large will “little note or remember” to paraphrase the Gettysburg Address, where we fell or where we decide to take our last stand.

When we fall, it will most likely just be a klutzy kind of fall and not a heroic fall.

And that’s just as well.  Most of us just aren’t built for martyrdom.   I know for myself, if I had been in Jim Bonham’s shoes that I would have rationalized very quickly that just asking for help on behalf of my colleagues was good enough—especially once I got treated to some good food and drink.  Male bonding can only go so far anyway.

Heck nowadays it’s even hard to get bystanders to even bother calling 911 for someone when their favorite TV show is about to start.

The defenders of the Alamo didn’t even have cell phones or IPAD’s at their disposal when they were trapped like rats and feeling claustrophobic behind those walls.

When you look at it that way, it must be really infuriating for all of us clever 21st century adults to still NOT know the time for our final curtain call.  We know just about EVERYTHING else about ourselves.  Every health reading and number of footsteps that we take.

So at least when our time finally does come, we will be so distracted with pending searches and games, that it will barely dawn on us anyway.  We were too busy texting our posting on facebook to compose any deep thoughts!

 

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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