Vital Signs

Memories of Mr. Lytle

Almost nobody thinks that Yankees can possibly understand agrarians.  But one of the great pleasures in my life is that I was, at least at one time or another, Mel Bradford’s favorite Yankee.  And because Mel introduced me with great good manners to Mr. Andrew Nelson Lytle, I became one of his favorite Yankees, too.

Mel Bradford came to Hillsdale College in the early fall of 1975, to speak at a seminar we had put together to comment on and honor Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order.  Mel was fascinated with the two l’s in my family name and questioned me closely about the New England heritage that seemed to him to be written on my forehead.  He said to me during our very first meeting, “Did you have any people in the ‘late unpleasantness’?”  He had several names for the war of 1861-65, but, when he was among friendly Yankees, he always said the “late unpleasantness.”  I told him that I did, indeed, that three Willson brothers had fought with a New York unit out of Buffalo.  “Were they,” he said, “at Chicka-mauga on the third day?”  I told him that family history says they were, but I didn’t know the details.  Mel drew himself up to his full 6 feet 5 inches and 350 pounds, and said with great dignity, “Sir, our families have met before.”

He thought that I might...

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