I have reached a conclusion: I definitely prefer the world as seen from within the Park’s boundaries to that of the ‘real’ outside. Perhaps one day, I shall just stay here. Having – literally – driven past the borders of Fireman’s Field Park in Purcellville hundreds of times (the local landmark lies between the Town’s Post Office and my five-day-a-week mail route) – and having attended events marking important milestones for the facilities therein, you’d think I’d have a pretty good feel for the place; not so: I took my first actual perambulating ramble quite recently about the mostly-green space – skirting the baseball diamond’s wire fencing, traipsing along the lower ground on the south side, up the hill to the east, northward through the massive trees, and around the old (Historic, that is) Tabernacle.
In addition to my finding a definite affinity for the place, I also concluded that – like many of the magic locations in Loudoun County – Fireman’s Field seems much more expansive on the inside than one would gauge from a mere drive-by. And this series of experiences jibes quite well with my assessment that there’s something funny going on between a reality, relativity and parts of our locality – at least to my finding. Things are never quite what you (or at least I) would expect them to be: distances can be misleading, time can speed up and slow down, and bend between the past and present; the feeling of deja vu is commonplace – and I love living and reliving the reverse phenomenon of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: rather than being the catalyst for change in my environment, I constantly find that my experiences and surroundings make a profound effect on me. I distinctly recall these sensations on visiting the George Marshall Home – Dodona Manor – in Leesburg, from my first visit 20 years back to a recent photo tour.
But – time and space, again, agrees to dance in our rhythm and we slip back to our main theme, Fireman’s Field in Purcellville. I’d heard of the place before I’d even entered Loudoun County; as the incoming News Director at Wage Radio in the summer of 1997, I’d listened (on an old-fashioned cassette tape sent through the mail) to some of the latest newscasts by the young man I’d be replacing – Butler Cain, who had served a year and graduated to greener pastures: one of his stories told of the Babe Ruth League World Series coming to Loudoun County – to Fireman’s Field in fact – and that seemed about the biggest thing since cereal in a box. So this place came to cast a sort of mystical sparkle-dust about the air each time I’d hear – or speak – its name. I had to learn more.
Some of the locals filled me in on a bit of the history and unique character of the park and its facilities. Public use of the space dated back to the late 1800’s, with the Bush Tabernacle’s construction a few decades later, used initially for temperance meetings and religious gatherings. The Town’s Volunteer Fire Department took custodianship of the Park in the late 1940’s – hence the popular name we still use today – even though the first responders – within the past generation – handed ownership over to the Town. Lots of history, events, dates and more attendees answered a call to this spot than estimation could provide. One local news source told me emphatically that Patsy Cline had once appeared at what many now call the Purcellville Skating Rink. And the Ball Field: those involved in the Babe Ruth World Series Organization called the sporting shrine a ‘miniature Camden Yards’ – a veritable Field of Dreams. And so, it must be – having hosted – at least to my count – about a half-dozen of the youth baseball championships.
So; little wonder, then, that my first official hike around these hallowed grounds gave me so much fodder for thought, feeling, memory and imagination. I marvel at the number of souls having visited this spot over the past century and more – the activities engaged in, the energy expended in organizing and carrying out the events – and the emotions of all the people who enjoyed – or at least experienced – the gatherings.
I’m telling myself that I’m not the first to have undergone what I describe as the reverse Heisenberg uncertainty principle; lots of folks have changed – mostly for the better, I’m guessing – for their visits – formal or informal – to the acreage and facilities off South Nursery Avenue and 20th Street in Purcellville.