Michael Grauer is a well-read student of history, which is a good thing, given his standing at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas.
The curator of art at the PPHM came to our Rotary Club today and delivered an enthusiastic talk about World War I, which he calls “the forgotten war.” Grauer has worked at the PPHM since 1987. That’s 30 years chronicling the Panhandle’s history and its contributions to global progress.
WWI was called “The Great War,” or just “The War,” because no one ever thought there would be a second world war, Grauer said. How wrong they all war.
But he added some details about the nature of the conflict that consumed Europe from 1914 until 1918 when, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, they signed the Treaty of Versailles.
He told us that the Texas Panhandle contributed thousands of horses and mules to the war. The animals were used to haul artillery pieces, supplies and ambulance wagons. The average life span of the animals on the battlefield, Grauer said, was 10 days. They would be shot in the heat of battle and then left to rot on the field. “The stench of death was everywhere,” he said.
The men who fought in the trenches had their boots rot off their feet as they slogged through mud for weeks and months on end.
The wagons used to carry supplies and evacuate the wounded from the field of battle would break down in the mud.
You want some perspective? “When you drive your car and you’re 20 minutes late to where you want to be,” he said, “think of what those men went through.”
All our WWI vets are gone now. I wish I could tell just one of them how much I appreciate what they did and salute them for the utter hell they endured fighting a 20th-century war with 19th-century technology.
Grauer is right. I don’t think I’m going to grouse any longer about traffic holdups.