Tribute to Frank Grinnell
By Ray CLark


On April 19, you'd tumble out of your bed too early for any honorable purpose, and you'd tug on your unfamiliar Colonial clothing, and you'd gather up your canteen, gurgling with a brew deadlier than any musket, and you'd head off for Sudbury Center.

For a while, the exhilaration of it all would keep you awake: the hangings and the greetings of old friends and the tastings of the canteens. But by the time you'd trudged up to Dakin's Farm, the sleep and the cold had wormed back into your soul, and truth to tell the stuff that had tasted so fine a few miles ago was beginning to go down a little rough.

And there he'd be, waiting for you with his steaming coffee and his hot chocolate and his store-bought donuts, and he'd flavor them with his own special profane hello, and by God it was the best tasting, welcomest breakfast of your whole year.

We vaguely appreciated him, of course, but not nearly as much as we should have. We never thought much about how he had to load up his truck and trundle down the road ahead of us (while we had our laughs and our little glory); how he had to set up; how he tucked the smoking coffee in our chilled fingers; how, after we'd set off cheered and refreshed and warm, he'd have to clean up and drive the dull early morning roads to Barrett's Farm, there to do it all over again for us.

He suffered the anonymity of the reliable man. You could count on him to be exactly where he was supposed to be, and generally a few minutes early.

He must have enjoyed doing the jobs nobody else wanted, because he did so many of them. If there was a ticket to be taken while everybody else danced; a collection to be gathered while everybody else told each other improbable stories; a thankless task to be accomplished while everybody else patted each other's backs: why, there he'd be, blunt and craggy and gruff --- and doing the job. All you had to do was ask. (He didn't like to be taken for granted, so naturally he usually, and unfairly, was.)

Probably a lot of men belonged to the Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute without ever suspecting how integral part of it he was. Like a vital, irreplaceable gear, he worked smoothly and efficiently inside a great clumsy toy soldier, while the people outside cheered the chipped paint.

It's impossible to imagine April 19 without him.

If anyone in this outfit ever deserved a medal, it was Frank Grinnell.

Damn. We should have given him one...