August 13, 2018 at 9:02 a.m.

Bud Herron: Bringing Civil War history to life to benefit HSJ Online

Thirty-five years ago my wife, Ann, stitched together a make-shift version of a Union Army uniform, and I wore it over to North Grove Elementary School in Greenwood to tell Civil War stories to my daughter’s fifth grade class.

The idea of “the old soldier” was cooked up between my daughter, Rachel, and her teacher. For as long as Rachel could remember, I had told her (and her brother, Wes) stories passed down from my great grandfather about his Civil War service — along with songs from the war. They decided I should do the same for the whole class.

Rachel shared the “stage” and sang with me that day, dressed in a long “pioneer dress” and a bonnet. I told the stories, and she joined me in the singing.

A few days later, a second teacher called and asked for a repeat performance. Then another and another call came from other teachers. (The economics lesson was that if you don’t charge for your services, a lot of people line up to get in on them.)

Soon, requests came from other school corporations, then retirement and nursing homes, service clubs, lodges, churches and community event organizers.

Rachel and I were now what old-time circus promoters called “a one-trick-pony.” We only had one show, but everyone seemed to want to see it.

Eventually, Rachel retired — she was about 12 at the time and too “mature,” in her view, to appear in public in a pioneer dress. I kept doing the act solo — not because I wanted to, but because people kept asking me, and I have a hard time saying “no.”

In 1998 my family moved back to Columbus, and I hung up my uniform and stuck my guitar in the closet. I had been “soldiering” on and off for 12 years and decided that was enough.

Since then, I have only portrayed “the old soldier” two or three times in fairly abbreviated versions, once in the shelter house in the Hope Town Square at the request of Larry Simpson, former Hope Star-Journal owner/editor/publisher who created the Civil War Days weekend event.

David Webster — a Hope area civic promoter, who also has produced a series of recording projects related to the community, watched my performance and volunteered to put it on a CD. I was hesitant, wondering whether I could produce anything of worth in a recording studio, but the project went forward. The resulting CD was donated to the Yellow Trail Museum to be sold as a money-making project.

I assumed at that point that my performance career was over — that anyone still wanting to hear the show could buy a CD. Besides, I had gained 20 pounds, would no longer fit comfortably in my uniform, and my wife was not interested in stitching a new one.

Then David Webster called again asking me to pull together one last show as a fund-raiser for HSJ Online, the Hope area community newspaper website I had helped launch. The combination of supporting one of my favorite projects and saying yes to David — a person who is high on the my list of “favorite people of all time” — couldn’t be resisted.

The fundraiser will be at WILLow LeaVes restaurant on the Hope Town Square on Friday, Sept. 7th, beginning with dinner or a full salad bar at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 each. Joining me onstage will be Julian Smith who will portray Corporal Barton W. Mitchell, the Union soldier who found the lost message from Gen. Robert E. Lee that turned the tide for the North at the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Mitchell was later a resident of Hartsville.

I hope you can attend the fundraiser, and I will try to make it interesting and meaningful. If I fail at that, your night will not have been wasted. You will have contributed toward the bright future of HSJ Online — a tremendous asset to the Hope area community.