Many, many years ago a college classmate and I were touring Europe in his new convertible Oldsmobile, Quelque Chose. Driving down a long diagonal slope, top down in the sunny Alpes-Maritimes, I heard my friend shout, “Look out!” Too late I saw a wire dangling across the road from a pole on the right side. Brakes screaming, we slammed into it. By good luck the windshield held, the wire snapped, and we were not decapitated.
A look down, and there far below was what seemed to be the whole French army climbing toward us. A look up, and a small advance party was staring down at us. Standing up, we used our best French body language of hands and shoulders to express our abject apologies. The leader shrugged and threw out his hands too. Tant pis. After all, these were summer games.
On to northern Italy, then through the passes to Switzerland and Bavaria. Night in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was drizzling.
Coming out of our inn after supper, we heard in the distance a slow, muffled drum, then the sound of boots on the wet bricks. And out of the darkness came a small company of German veterans of World War I, in perfect step with the dead beat of the drum, slow, silent, mournful—and somehow determined.
It was before Hitler. The year was 1931.