Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington, D.C. ~ September, 1926
(Library of Congress)
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you’ve no doubt noticed that things in our nation have been a little chaotic of late. Confrontation, confusion, accusations and counter-accusations: all have played a role in roiling the civic waters. As one of my dear Southern friends likes to say, “I’m plumb wore out.”
I’ve worn my own self out thinking about — and trying to find a way to write about — certain issues which are important to me, but it hasn’t been easy to focus. So, rather than serving up half-baked thoughts, I decided to share a song that took on new importance for me, and for many others, after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike.
A song that can speak over the roar of natural disasters and the howl of the body politic is a marvel. Mary Gauthier herself is a marvel, and a voice for our time. She knows how to focus, and invites us to do the same.
Comments always are welcome.
Steamship “City of Benton Harbor” Near St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, Michigan Lighthouse
For nearly two centuries, the legacy of Missouri’s Benton family has continued to spread.
Maecenas Benton, United States Attorney (1885-1889) and Congressional Representative from Missouri (1897-1905) happened to be the father of Thomas Hart Benton, American regionalist painter and muralist.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which houses many of his paintings, is located in Bentonville, Arkansas, a town named in honor of his great-great-uncle Thomas Hart Benton, a five-term Missouri senator whose efforts on behalf of Arkansas statehood were substantial. After the first county in Arkansas was named “Benton” as a tribute to the Senator, the site designated as the county seat became known as Bentonville.
Arkansas wasn’t the only state that profited from Senator Benton’s attentions. Only six months after Arkansas’s [¹] 1836 admittance to the Union, Michigan became the next state to join. Benton Township was established there on March 11, 1837, and in 1865, one of the first towns in the area, Brunson Harbor, became Benton Harbor: also in tribute to the Missouri Senator who helped Michigan achieve statehood. Continue reading
Kansas: an ocean of grass
To undertake a westward journey on any early American trail — to begin life on the Oregon or Santa Fe, the Mormon or Gila — necessarily demanded the acceptance of difficulties.
From accounts in pioneer diaries, scientific notebooks, and letters written to family and friends, it seems that Indian raids, horse rustling, gunfights, and buffalo stampedes were the least of it. More often, quotidian challenges became the undoing of even the strongest traveler. Mired wagons; swarming insects; meal after meal of crackers and tea; the combination of overpowering thirst and stagnant, disease-ridden water; all these demanded remarkable levels of commitment and persistence.
With no rain to ruin the concerts and no drought to curtail the fireworks, Houston’s annual Freedom Over Texas festival has been expanded into what promoters call an “extraordinary extravaganza” — a day-long series of Independence Day concerts and amusements meant to conclude with a “spectacular” fireworks display.
The festival exemplifies the sort of hyperbolic excess dear to the hearts of civic boosters everywhere. Washington, D.C. is promoting its own traditional fireworks as “spectacular,” and of course New York City will be “displaying its patriotism through massive fireworks.” Boston intends to celebrate “in a big way,” while San Francisco will provide “magnificent” and “breath-taking” sights. Not to be outdone, San Diego, Key West, Little Rock, and Huntington Beach have upped their game, promising to rival even the nationally televised shows. Every year, program planners around the country seem determined to live by the well-known rule: “Go big, or go home.”
Grain Elevator in Floydada, Texas
Yes, indeed. It’s that time again. About every two years, as summer settles in with its attendant annoyances — heat, mosquitos, politicians who drone on more loudly than cicadas — the urge to re-post one of my all-time favorite stories overtakes me.
Whether you’ve read this humorous tale once (or twice) before or whether you haven’t, I hope you enjoy both the story and the song. Some say humor is the best medicine, and I suspect we all could use a dose or two at this point.
Floydada, Texas is cotton country, although it’s also known for good pumpkins, and likes to advertise itself as the Pumpkin Capital of the US.
It’s a flat, expansive piece of Panhandle real estate, a land marked by impossibly distant horizons and days barely distinguishable one from another. Strangers develop a habit of looking around, as if to orient themselves. Even Texans who’ve grown up with the wind, the dust, and the storms say it aloud now and then, as if to remind themselves: “This place will run you nuts, if you let it.” Continue reading