Jess and Jennifer were playing hide-and-seek again.  They loved visiting Aunt NeNe and Uncle Mike!  They had the oldest house ever!  There were lots of cool places to hide there, so every time they went, they played hide-and-seek.

Jess tucked himself into a closet by the fireplace in the dining room.  There was a hole on one side.  He thought he could slip through if he were careful -- “What’s IN THERE?” he wondered as he tried to shift his weight and slide through the opening.  Luckily he always kept a little flashlight in his pocket.  He could hear Jennifer counting, “34, 35. . . .”  She would be to 50 soon, but he was interested in what was in this little area he had never discovered before.

As he switched on the flashlight, he realized it was the area around the chimney.  He shone the light in all the nooks and crannies of the space, and realized he could make it all around the block chimney.  He saw a spherical object tucked into a corner.  He shone the light and looked at it carefully before touching it.  It appeared to be a ball.  He moved it -- first with his foot.  It seemed very hard.  It was kind of rusty looking.  Was it metal?  It was very heavy, even though it was only about 2 inches diameter.  He knew it would hurt if he dropped it on his toe.  

“Will Aunt Nene let me keep it?”  he wondered.   “And what is it anyway? Maybe she will know.”  He was so excited he forgot about the game and ducked out of the closet, just as Jennifer rounded the corner from the hallway into the dining room.  

“Ha!  Found you!  You’re IT!  Your turn to count.”

“Yeah, okay, but can we finish the game later?  I need to find Aunt NeNe. . . .”  he said as he looked around, wondering where she might be. 

“OK . . .”  Jennifer’s shoulders sagged as she gave in to her brother’s wishes.   “I think she said she was going out to the potting shed.”

“Cool!  Wanna come? -- look what I found . . .”  Jess held out his hand with the heavy sphere.

“It’s a ball, and it’s not even pretty.  What’s so special about that?  It seems kind of boring to me. . .”

“Well, I don’t know, but you know this house is old - -what if it IS something really old -- really cool?”  He shrugged and raced out the back door to the potting shed.  

Aunt NeNe was humming at the potting table when he got there.  It looked like some herbs.  “Figures. . .” he thought -- “she does love her herbs.”

“Hey, Aunt NeNe, look what I found.  Do you know what it is?  Could it be a cannonball?”

Aunt NeNe wiped her dirty hands on her apron.  She had gloves, but she often forgot to wear them out at the potting shed.

“Well, let’s have a seat and we’ll take a closer look.”  They walked over to some bright yellow adirondack chairs, positioned to watch the birds, and sat down.  Aunt NeNe sighed and glanced at the bird feeder.  “I’ve worked up quite a thirst out here with the thyme and basil, Jess.  Could you go in the house and fix us up a couple of glasses of lemonade?  I made some fresh chocolate chip cookies last night too.  Bring us a tray and we’ll see what we can discover about this.”

Jess took off for the house and got Jennifer to help with the tray.  They fixed a lemonade for her, too -- lots of ice, and two cookies for each of them.  Jess carried it carefully back out to the potting area and set it on the table there.  Jennifer opened and shut doors to clear the way.  When they got there, she was holding the ball and looking at it oddly.

“What is it, Aunt NeNe?  Do you know?  Am I right?  Is it a cannonball?” he rapid-fired questions at her.

“I’m not sure, Jess, but it just might be.  Where did you find it?”

Jess gulped down a big swallow of lemonade, then said, “It was hidden by the chimney in the dining room.  We were playing hide-and-seek, but I never knew there was a secret space there.  I slid into the area around the chimney and this was in the corner.

“Hmmmmm.  It must be another one.”

“Another what?”

“Well, when your Uncle Mike and I bought this house, it was in town.  We had to have it moved out here to the farm.  To do that, we had to tear down the original chimneys.  It was quite an adventure for this old house to be moved at her age.  She was 110 years old by then!  When we were tearing down the chimneys, we found two more -- very similar to this.  We figured maybe they were in the attic and had fallen down and gotten trapped around the chimney.  Didn’t realize we had missed one. . . .”

“Do you still have the others?  Where are they?”

“I’m not sure.  I think so.  We’ll have to ask Uncle Mike when he gets home from his meeting.”  Best let me keep it till then.  Although, you might could do some research on the computer and see what you can learn between now and then -- after you help me finish these cookies and this lemonade.”

“Awesome!”  He crammed a whole cookie in his mouth and followed it with the last of his lemonade.  Then he was tearing off to make use of the computer and the Internet.

When Uncle Mike got home, Jess met him at the car.  “I found something around the chimney and I think it might be a cannonball.  I’ve been doing some research.  Can you help me figure it out?”

Uncle Mike said, “Well, hello to you, too.  I’m glad you’re here.  That sounds very exciting, and yes, I’ll be glad to help.  BUT, can I please go inside and take my shoes off and have 15 minutes to rest my eyes first?  Plus, you know I’ve got to find your aunt NeNe and give her a big ol’ kiss. . .” 

“Oh, yes sir.  I’m sorry -- got a little carried away.  It’s so exciting.  Do you think it’s really a cannonball?!?!”  Jess made a face at the kiss comment, but he felt bad that he hadn’t even thought about the fact that Uncle Mike might need to rest a bit.

“We’ll see what we can figure out -- after my 15 minutes.  Come talk to me then.”

Uncle Mike came and found him first.  “Let’s see what you’ve got. . . say you found this around the chimney?”

“Yes!  And Aunt NeNe said you had found two more when y’all moved the house out here.  Can I see them?  Are they cannonballs?  How can we tell?  I found a couple of sites on the computer that might help.”

“Whew!  You are wearing me out!  I believe I know where they are.  Let me see if I can chase them down and we’ll take a closer look.  You bring the computer and meet me back here in 10 minutes.”

They gathered back at the kitchen table with the objects in question and the computer.  “Whoa!  Look at that!  Three of them!  Where have you been keeping them?  Do you know what they are?  Aunt NeNe said you found them near the same place I found this one.”

“Well, see, Jess, this ol’ house was built in 1882, and that was not even 20 years after the ending of the Civil War.  As a matter of fact, we found some newspaper clippings up in the attic from local folk that had fought in the war.  We always figured they were connected to the people that owned the house then.  So it does make sense that they might be cannonballs, although they always seemed small to me.  We always thought they were pretty neat, but never went and had them investigated or verified.  It was enough to think about all the possibilities.  But, maybe now -- well, might be a good time to get them checked out.  What do you think?”

“Oh, yeah!  Let’s do it.  I found this site on the Internet and this guy says if they are between 2.02 and 2.06 inches diameter, they might be grape shot.  If they are iron.  Do you think they are iron?  How can we tell?”

“Well, they are certainly heavy -- and they’ve got some rust on them.  Iron does rust.  They seem probable.”

“He also said to look and see if they are smooth or shiny anywhere.  He says that means they’re not authentic to that time.”

“Well, I’ve got a friend who might can help us figure it out.  We’ll go see him tomorrow.”

Jess and Uncle Mike went to the friend the next day.  He was a Civil War buff who enjoyed dressing up and re-enacting major Civil War battles. 

Uncle Mike showed him the balls -- the one Jess had found and the ones they had found years ago when they moved the house.

“What do you think, Jim?”

“Well, I’d have to run some tests to be sure, “ he said, examining them carefully.  He took out his magnifying glass and eyed them with that.  “They do seem authentic, though.  I think you have some real Civil War memorabilia on your hands.”

When they got home, Uncle Mike and Jess worked to build cases for all three cannonballs.  He let Jess keep the one he had found, and they displayed them in honor of all those who have fought for what they thought was right throughout history with a tag that said, “ Civil War 1861-1864  'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. ' -- Winston Churchill”

May 30, 2020 03:37

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.