Want to know the best thing about traveling with a companion?
They have eyes that see different things, minds that make different connections, and experiences with different stories – including those whose true origins have been lost to legend.
There’s a post a few feet away from the knoll where the tripod stands every morning. It displays three signs: The one facing east identifies the path as the Prairie Trail; one of the two facing west labels the area as the eastern overlook and briefly tells of the old steamboat-era custom of posting a lookout each spring to watch for the first trip upriver of the season; and one that forbids throwing rocks because there might be hikers below. (And frankly, the fact that third sign is apparently necessary boggles my mind.) T’any rate, the post itself has some minor graffiti, and Bobbie remarked this morning that the existence of that little drawing was tempting her to bring a sharpie with her one morning to wallscrawl something else on the post.
(She never would. She’d think about it, plan what she’d draw, but she’s too respectful a person to ever actually go through with it.)
My suggestion for new graffiti was, “Kilroy was here.” We had a laugh and then I remarked how there was a wall in Saudi Arabia which bore that statement, courtesy of a Marine friend of mine who had been deployed to “the sandbox” during Desert Storm in the early ’90s. Bobbie shared a couple of places where Shane, her hubby, had marked the iconic saying while he was in the Air Force.
And I remarked how it was strange that a line from a song could so spark the imagination that the sentence would migrate basically to everywhere – thinking, naturally enough, that the first mention of it was in “Mr. Roboto” by Styx from the album Kilroy was here. The album told a story of a future fascist regime where rock music has been outlawed and a former rock star held prisoner, until he learned of a young musician who was determined to bring back rock n’ roll and then escaped using a robot as a disguise.
Except that the phrase has been around since World War II. There are lots of tales of the actual origin, but however it started, the phrase resonated with the troops who were advancing the lines. So the first waves of GIs began tagging everything with it, and then it became a game of one-up – who can graffiti it onto a new surface first?
It’s even in the movie “Kelly’s Heroes” – one of Jerry’s favorites. I’ve sat through it any number of times, and never noticed. I’ll have to look for it next time.
And apparently that’s a true story, too – at least the part about the bank robbery, which is why the author of the book waited until the Statute of Limitations had run out before writing it.