The unexpected pleasure of Ulysses S. Grant

Among the many activities in which one unexpectedly participates during their lifetime includes the reading of biographies. Never did it cross my mind that someday I would read a biography of President-General Ulysses S. Grant.

Perhaps my inclination or disinclination toward reading about the Civil War hero and not-so-hot president is a holdover from my growing up Southern during a time that grandparents and even parents still held grudges about the war’s outcome. I never sensed my parents held a grudge against the Yankees so much as they were expected to harbor somewhat of a grudge. If I am not mistaken, my mother’s grandfather fought in the War Between the States so if there were some bad feelings toward the Union it was still rather fresh for some folks when I was growing up. Actually, I think the grudge was as much about Reconstruction for some Southerners rather than the Union kicking booty. But it’s all hoo-hah and it is what it is. I’m kind of glad it turned out the way it did if for no other reason the war was one of the few ventures in which Grant was a success, according to his biography, “Grant” by William S. “McTouchy” “McFeely.

Grant did well in the military but didn’t do so well outside of it. I know people like Grant in that respect. The military was their crowning glory. Or fill in the blank: police, firefighter, big man on campus, a strech in the joint, etc.

I don’t believe a picture exists of Grant in which he is smiling either. I got the impression he had depression and/or a drinking problem. It seems Ulysses would go off on a bender something a la Otis Campbell, the town drunk, who would let himself in and out of jail in the “Andy Griffith Show.” Of course, I wouldn’t expect Ulysses would have had such a set up as television was a ways off.

I spent the weekend at McFaddin Beach and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cops who patrol the beach took notice of “Grant” in my front seat along with two other books. They were a bit nosy as police are at times. I supposed they were satisfied I wasn’t a Teddy Kaczynski sort, sitting around in the sun reading about Grant, and they bade me a good day.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the reading I did this weekend, first finishing off H.W. Brand’s “Lone Star Nation.” It was a very good telling of the non-fantasy version of Texas fight for independence. It was the version that I never learned until taking Texas History in college under one of the state’s premier Texas historian’s, Dr. Archie McDonald, at Stephen F. Austin State U. in Nacogdoches, Texas. (Home of the Lumberjacks and we’re okay!)

McFeely’s work on Grant is not a very riveting read but it tells the story of a man who just didn’t seem to be happy very much. In a way, reading about Grant makes me feel better because I have had and occasionally still do have my happy moments despite being annoyed somewhat by depression at times. And, I also smile in some pictures of myself, even the one taken by my late friend Waldo of a crimson crease in the middle of my forehead due to the hammer of a .44 magnum pistol. I doubt that would have been something which would have encouraged Grant to smile in a picture.

Say cheese? No, say “Make my day.” Come to think of it, “Dirty Harry” movies probably would have made Grant smile. Or not.

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