NAS Pensacola is dotted with these gorgeous brick retaining walls, almost to a one filled with elderly oaks. They mimic the line of the Fort Barrancas Redoubt and the 1836 Spanish Wall, whose remaining bits snake through the oldest parts of the base.
This particular one is a hop, skip and a jump west of the old base hospital. It crowns a hill that’s covered with great, stretching live oaks festooned with Spanish Moss, swale to crest. You might have seen this one and thought little of it. Or maybe the crumbling brick staircase cut into the slope, it’s antiquarian risers ornamental and uncomfortable. But you’d miss something if you drove on by, like I used to do. Major Dad went for a run one day and took me up the hill, to show me what he’d found.

As soon as you step foot under that canopy and smell that ‘Florida’ smell – the mouldering plantlife and damp, heavy air – you’re transported back in time. Running along the spine of the rise, which overlooks the Pass, is a brick pathway that’s seen better days; sections of it earth hove or disappearing in miniature sinkholes. But in it’s day, it had to be a saving grace for the occupants of the ancient base housing behind it. A walk along that ridge would be bathed in shade and washed cooler by the Gulf breeze wafting in off the water around four every afternoon. Oh, it’s magical in itself. But then you notice an unpretentious piece of statuary tucked in behind those big trees, it’s weatherbeaten countenance mirroring the trunks of the younger trees flanking it.

‘Oh’ you think, ‘a plaque’. The DAR, Officers’ Wives, or any of the myriad other plaque hangers who abound on military installations. So you read it. And your heart contracts.

He was 8.
I come by to say ‘hi’ as often as I can. It’s a beautiful place, but awful lonely and I hate to think of him by himself for so long. I hope the kids in the houses behind him splash in the bowl and make lots of noise.
But in case they don’t, I stop by to talk to Witsie.

2 Responses to ““Witsie””

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh, that’s so sad.
    Children’s graves just break my heart. I wonder what happened to poor Witsie.

  2. I always wonder who he was and how he got to run wild on the hill.

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