“Hello walls (Hello, hello). How’d things go for you today? Don’t you miss her since she up and walked away? And I’ll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me, but lonely walls, I’ll keep you company.”
This song about a man’s lonely conversation with is hotel room’s walls, window and ceiling was written by Willie Nelson back in the days when he wore a suit and tie. It was a big hit for honky-tonk singer Faron Young, known to his admirers as the Hillbilly Heartthrob. When asked at his divorce trial if he feared hurting someone by shooting holes into the ceiling of his home with his pistol while his family was present in the house, he answered “Not whatsoever.” Young shot himself with that pistol ten years later and had his ashes spread on a lake on Johnny Cash’s property while Johnny and June were away – and without their approval.
Walls are barriers built for protection, usually by enclosing something
The Great Wall of China
This 10,000-mile long fortification was built over the centuries to keep roving marauders out of China. It was actually a series of unconnected walls, mostly made of packed dirt that has long since eroded away.
Around 120 A.D., the Romans built a stone wall in England to mark the northwestern frontier of their empire. The wall goes from coast to coast across northern England from Irish Sea on the west to the North Sea on the east, a distance of 73 miles. The layer of stones on the top of the wall were added in modern times to keep people from walking on it.
Vatican City Wall
In the ninth century, Pope Leo IV ordered this wall to be built to protect Vatican treasures from Saracen pirates. The wall was continually expanded for the next 700 years.
The Berlin Wall
The partitioning of Germany into east and west sectors was done by the victors as soon as World War Two ended. The 27-mile-long concrete wall symbolized the “Iron Curtain” of the Cold War and was built to keep to keep East Germans from leaving Soviet-controlled territory. In spite of the wall, nearly 5,000 people escaped, most by digging tunnels.
The Amsterdam Gate
Java is one of the Indonesian islands that the Dutch East India Company transformed into vassal states where the natives grew rice, coffee and sugar. The Dutch built a walled city there in the 16th century. The gate’s south façade had niches containing statues of Mars (the god of agriculture) and Minerva (the god of trade). Both of the statues disappeared while the Japanese occupied Java during World War Two. The gate is the only remaining part of the wall.
The Wall of Jericho
Most archaeologists agree that this is the first wall built for purely military purposes. It was built from earth, stone and brick by the Canaanites to keep out the Israelites, back in Moses’ day and thousands of years before the birth of Christ. As the story goes, this is the wall where Joshua fit the battle and the walls came-a-tumbling down because of the constant blaring of Israelites’ trumpets as they marched around the city for seven straight days. Joshua instructed the Israelites to “Kill everyone in the city and burn it. Burn everything except for the silver, gold, copper and iron.”
Balls to the wall
This idiom has nothing to do with testicles. The balls are the rounded balls on top of an airplane’s throttles. Balls to the wall means with maximum effort, energy or speed and without caution or restraint. It originated as pilot’s lingo that referred to the engine throttles being pushed all the way forward to the bulkhead.
Songs about walls
There are dozens of them but perhaps the most famous is Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, a satirical comment on formal education and a loud protest against authority, always a big hit with kids.
Defensive strategies need to evolve to keep up. The New York Times says the history of walls to keep people out is also the history of people managing to get around, over and under them.
Armor was one way animals protected themselves from predators. Turtles developed hard shells that protected them from from harm but at the cost of being done for when turned onto their backs. Armadillos, Spanish for “little armored ones,” developed hard, bony plates to cover their back, head, tail and legs. When in danger, they roll up tightly into a hard ball. This is useful when confronted by coyotes and mountain lions, but not when they are alarmed by a speeding car, instinctively assume their defensive posture and get squashed, their armor useless against tons of steel.
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