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A six pounder, 18th century, muzzle loading cannon on the immaculately kept grass of the Fort de Chartres near Prairie du Rocher on the American Bottom.

Photographed on the afternoon of a very hot Saturday under a glaring sun. It was beautifully laid out with the various tools required to fire the weapon, some of more modern provenance than would have been available a couple of centuries ago – such as the gunpowder charges wrapped in aluminum foil.

It looks rather lonely sitting there. Truth is, that is an accurate impression because thanks to the sweltering day and the fact that one of the access roads to the fort is under a foot or so of flood water, not many visitors were stopping by the fort that afternoon.

Maybe ten other people were there when we walked in, and ten remained about the maximum number of visitors at any one time. Nonetheless, on the hour and at every hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., three members of the French Colonial Artillery, a local reenactment group, took up their positions, primed, loaded (not with a cannonball, I'm happy to say), and fired the gun.Before this particular report and shortly after we had arrived at the fort and parked the car, we had found two young men drinking beer under a pavilion outside the building. We asked them if anyone was firing the cannon that day. They indicated no.

They must have been drinking a great deal of beer because we later found out that ten minutes beforehand the gun had been fired.