The final goodbye always comes as an unpleasant gut-wrenching surprise no matter how long its approach. I knew that at my father’s passing the mournful sound of “Taps” would echo over the hills of Southern Oregon. What better place to say goodbye to this son of the Rogue River, surrounded by his long-gone family, and sheltered by lichen-covered maple trees with leaves just tinged with the blotchy blood red of imminent goodbye.
Though expected, the intrusion of the bugler and two other Navy personnel, snapped me out of memories of this strong and proud man. He was an Oregon country boy, but he was Navy through and through. Therefore, we were also Navy, moving as we were sent and staying at their pleasure. It was his life, and the love of the sea never left him.
As the bugler raised his instrument to his lips, I wondered where this familiar twenty-four note melody came from. It signals soldiers to prepare for the day’s final roll call. In use since 1835 it was known as “Scott’s Tatoo” and named for army chief Winfield Scott.
The tune was a said to be a revision of a French bugle signal called tatoo, which notified soldiers to cease their evening drinking and return to their barracks. The word was an alteration of “tapto” which was derived from Dutch “tap-toe” or to shut the tap of a keg.
In the Civil War Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield thought the sound of the tatoo was too harsh, so he ordered his 23 year old bugler to polish it up and make it softer and more melodious. It is also known as Butterfield’s Lullaby.
The echo of the last note hung in the air, the sound of a volley of shots rang out over the valley, and roll call was over.
“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.”
Requium poem by Robert Louis Stevenson