"I hate small towns because once you've seen the cannon in the park there's nothing else to do." -- Lenny Bruce, comedian
Everything in Tacoma has meaning. Hidden gems are as easy to stumble over as a crack in the sidewalk, as I discovered during a jog through Wright Park. On the outskirt of this rather large, rather busy park nestled in a historic neighborhood, sits a large rusted cannon that seemed out of place among the nearby basketball courts, botanical garden and pond where couples sat playing chess or watching the sun slowly lower in the sky.
Runners on the path didn't give it a second glance and men walking their dogs strolled right past. But something about the splotches of blue/green color I can best describe as sea foam drew me to the 4,500-pound bronze cannon that I later learned had been used during the Spanish-American War. It rested on a four-wheeled iron platform, was secured with a thin metal strip and had concrete stuffed into the opening of the cannon about three inches in.
In 1898, it was apparently captured from Morro Castle in Havana, Cuba. How strange that it found its way more than 2,000 miles to a city park in Washington where most people probably have no idea what role it played in history. Word has it that some pranksters loaded it with rocks in 1963 and tried to fire it, hence the bright idea to silence it forever with chunks of eroding concrete.
Aside from that attempt, the cannon hasn't been shot in more than a century. At the dedication ceremony on July 4, 1900, the cannon fired its last shot in response to a "sunrise salute" from the battleship USS Iowa, which was the first U.S. ship to spot and fire at the Spaniards, touching off the Battle of Santiago. (The 11,346-ton battleship is now at the bottom of the Gulf of Panama, where it sank in 1923 after becoming target practice for the USS Mississippi.)
The cannon has several engravings, some of which are too faded to make out, some of which I simply can't make sense of. My best guess of what it on the back rim goes something like this: N 1362 SEVILLA 23 DE JULIO DE 1784. Above that was an embossing topped with a crown.
A large brown knob protruded from the back of the cannon, about the size of an overripe grapefruit, and there were two handles in the center, presumably where some soldier had held on for dear life as the war boomed around him. If inanimate objects could only tell their stories....