“I’m astounded we’re sending a box of these lovely things so far away.”
The cigar box made a soft thump as he dropped it back in with rest of the gifts.
“Those people live on entirely the wrong side of the world to know what a good cigar is.”
Turning around, I saw the former mayor’s thick eyebrows pushed together in consternation, facing down at the cigars.
“All the more reason for them to have them, I think,” I said, clicking my tongue.
Walter didn’t look up at me, he didn’t look at anything.
“You’ve never had to fight, have you, Herstein?”
The question from the former mayor was uncharacteristically blunt.
“No. I was in college during the Great War, and then beyond draft age by the Second.”
“The people in Enshede, they were between Germany and the rest of Europe.”
He paused, contemplating.
“We told everyone that aiding them would bring back one of our largest cotton buyers. But that’s not why I did it. I did it because I remember exactly the sort of hell war is.”
“I know, Walter.” I offered him a hand up from the couch. “Now, come on, they want to give us medals.”
After World War II, Memphis “adopted” the Dutch city of Enschede, previously one of Europe’s textile centers, and the purchaser of millions of dollars of cotton per year. Enschede was bombed over 30 times during World War 2, destroying much of the city. Four Memphis men, all Rotarians, were awarded the Knight of Orange Nassau from the Dutch government in honor of what they had done for Enschede.