Monday, May 30, 2005

Yellow butterflies

There's no parade. There are no wreaths and flowers placed on the water to float away. There are no bugle calls. This will record yet another attempt to track down the story that used to be read on the radio every year, probably by some newspaper reporter or writer of sentimental stories after the Great War and before the Second World War. Every once in a while somebody remembers it, but nobody can tell me anything about it. A small boy was always followed by clouds of (yellow?) butterflies. When he grew older, he went away to serve his country. He didn't return. His body was never identified. When his grieving parents (or perhaps just his mother) visited the Tomb of the Unknown, perhaps for its dedication, there were butterflies in the air all around it. They knew that their boy had come home. A paraphrase of this story found on line is included in what is said to be a speech given in 1995 by Robert J. LeMay in observance of American History Month and reported to have been told to Lemay by one Colonel Riley. He calls it "Yellow Butterflies" and it's pretty much as I recall it, though without a good source. He claims it to be a true story. It's also found listed as an 11-minute dramatic monologue, unaccredited. Perhaps it is the book by Mary Raymond (Shipman) Andrews (published 1922 by Scribner). Yellow Butterflies is in the UTCAT and at least one copy is on the open shelves. Having spent a lot of time in places with shelves and shelves of sentimental books from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, I find it surprising not to remember reading any books by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews. She was very good at titling her books; they must have sold well.


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