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History Lives Here Text

Last Cavalry Charge on Butler Street

by Bob Mersbach

In 1944 I wasstationed at Fort Riley, Kansas;a member of the 129' Cavalry Squadron, the last mounted unit in the U. S. Army.(Although there is still an Old Guard mounted unit, used for parades and funerals,we in the 129t" were the last in the regular army.)

 

That summer a fellow trooper, AlexBurduck, and I took a three-day pass over a longweekend. Since Sunday was a free day, that gave usfour days off.

 

We left FortRiley in a boxcar fixed up with wooden benches and hooked onto a Union Pacifictrain, got off at Kansas City and took the overnight train to Chicago. Therewere no seats available (the trains were full in those wartime days of gasrationing) and so we and others spent the night in the vestibule between cars,where it was noisy, bumpy, cold and windy. From Chicagowe took the Pere Marquette Railroad to Fennville, where wewere met by my mother who drove us to Saugatuck to my grandparents' house onlower Spear Street.

 

My sister wasa summer camper at Camp Oak Openings near the mouth of the Kalamazoo Riverand we visited her one morning. The man in charge of the camp's horse ridingprogram was a Mr. Zeiser. In World War I he had beena horse cavalry officer and later a dirigible captain in the German army. Whenhe saw our boots and breeches his face lit up and he offered to take up on anextended horseback ride. For most of the rest of the day the three of us rodeall over the area - the sand dunes, old Singapore and Saugatuck.

 

We were walkingthe horses from Lucy Streetdown Butler streetin downtown Saugatuck. When we got to the hardware store (then Koning's, now Wilkins) Mr. Zeisernoted that the street was empty of auto traffic. In 1944 gas rationing was infull effect and the auto traffic was notable by its literal absence most of thetime. Mr. Zeiser then suggested that we take a fullgallop right down the middle of Butler Street to the Saugatuck Village Hall. Alex and Iinstantly agreed, and away we charged. All that we lacked was a bugler. At afull gallop the hooves of the three horses made quite a racket on the concretestreet and pedestrians and shoppers stopped in amazement. That charge got theattention of just about everyone along Butler Street and was the highlight ofour visit to Saugatuck.

 

As it turnedout Alex and I haven't seen each other since 1945, nearly 56 years ago. He'slived m Brooklyn all his life. We still writeeach other and send Christmas cards, and an occasional picture so that we'llrecognize each other if we ever meet again.

Bob Mersbach,a member of the Society, is the son of Robert H. and Virginia (Job) Mersbach, and the grandson of Frederick W. and Helen(Crafts) Job. He and his wife, Doris, have been residents of Saugatuck since1986.