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The Wednesday Slice

When little boys growing up in the West decades ago played with Civil War toy soldier sets, which side usually prevailed?

Perhaps it depended on where the kid's family tree was planted back East. Or maybe it was more a matter of the boy's preference in bearded generals.

You might assume that this would be easier to answer if we were talking about boys growing up in, say, Illinois or Georgia. But that overlooks the fact that children have imaginations and are not always predictable.

In addition, thanks to institutions such as the United States Air Force, there are plenty of people who were born in one region and grew up in another. So if a kid was born in Texas but lived for years in Ohio, did he side with the blue or with the gray?

Or what if he had one parent from New York and one from Louisiana? What would that imply for his toy soldiers allegiance?

So again, what about boys out here in the West years ago?

It probably makes sense to guess most would have had the North prevail there on the bedroom floor or out on the back porch. Why not? The rebellion had to be put down. And the North was led by Lincoln.

But what if a kid had a thing for outnumbered underdogs and was not overly burdened with a grasp of the causes behind that horrible conflict?

Sometimes rewriting history can be more entertaining than simply following the script. Besides, the South actually did win plenty of battles.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that a lot of engagements between Civil War toy soldiers ended with virtually no survivors. Instead of rousing victory, there was mostly a lot of imagined smoke and carnage.

Little boys, whether staunch Union men or Confederate sympathizers, didn't tend to be interested in taking prisoners. I suspect that was as true out here as it was anywhere else.


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Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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