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Recharging with a drive through fly over country

Sam T. Harper

April 2007

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Tn -- I have struggled of late with keeping my current Counterviews column refreshed. My site partner has been haranguing me (rightfully) for a new article.

I read many things over the course of a week: business articles, articles relating to my job, political articles, news articles, an ever present history book, and at the long ago suggestion of my graduate school professor, Tom Peters, fiction.

These all give me ideas about which to write. You would think that the source of ideas from all this reading would be limitless. (Or maybe it is stifling due to the large volume.)

I have started many articles since the last one. All have fizzled away after 200-300 words.

I began one on the absurdity of Obama starting his campaign in Springfield, Illinois under the shroud of the Great Unifier, Lincoln. Lincoln presided over the greatest split in American history, not unification. One of my lines was "Obama does not understand that the only people Lincoln unified were his enemies."

I attempted to write about the hubris of Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's (D) gloating about winning all 95 Tennessee counties for reelection last November, a first in Tennessee history. He had half hearted GOP opposition and has been buoyed by growing state tax revenues of the Bush tax cut economy. I became bored with my words about 200-300 words into it.

I began an article attempting to project my excitement after reading one of the finest history books I have ever read, Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. (Yeah, I know she is an LBJ liberal, but her book is excellent anyway.) I did not read the book, but listened to the unabridged audio as I commuted to work. The last CD began with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln boarding the carriage to go to Ford's theater. Part of my article described how, like Stanton and Seward, I had come to love Lincoln. As Goodwin described Stanton's and Seward's tears on learning of Lincoln's mortal wound, I also had tears running down my face as I drove Interstate 24. On review, the article sounded too maudlin. I deleted it.

By then, I had two choices: 1. drop out of; 2. snap out of it.

#2 was my choice. Fortunately, our local spring break came up. We took a trip of R&R to Colorado and New Mexico. The most important aspect of that was the decision to drive instead of flying.

Flying would not have exposed us to:
1.  the Oklahoma rest stops where Yes and No buttons are located so you can immediately vote your opinion of the whether the facility met your expectation;
2.  the road signs announcing Carrie Underwood's, Roger Miller's, and astronaut Tom Stafford's     hometowns;
3.  the New Mexico sunsets that look just like their license plates;
4.  the clear night skies full of stars;
5.  visiting cousins along the way;
6.  the numerous new "W" or "We support George" bumper stickers on vehicles;
7.  hawks;
8.  reading books on Kit Carson and the Santa Fe trail before we arrived in New Mexico;
9.  explaining why there are Cherokees in Oklahoma;
10. pumping our arms to extract an air horn blast from truckers;
11. the liquor store lady at a dusty two store exit in the Texas panhandle suggesting her favorite Texas wine (a cabernet that was delicious);
12. pointing out to our 11 year old son where Mom and Dad's BMW broke down in the desert west of Amarillo 15 years ago;
13. eating at the Owl Diner in Albuquerque; and
14. watching and talking about the geologic changes from Tennessee to Colorado;

The list could go on. It was a great trip for the family. The skiing, the art, the ancient pueblos, the food, seeing the Chicago to Los Angeles Amtrak, ... .

But the drive through fly over country also brought back into focus the reason my partner and I began counterviews: to reinforce that the founding principles, conservative principles, of our country still work and are the best route for us all going forward.

This was brought home to me on our way back to Tennessee when we stopped at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. I love that museum. It was my first visit there since 1968 when my Philmont-bound scout troop stopped there. I have looked forward to going back there ever since.

After several hours of touring the exhibits, I walked over to one of the docents and told her of my 1968 visit and how much I enjoyed coming back. She gave me a history of the museum's expansions. I commented that it appears that the museum is doing well financially.

She suddenly became very serious and said that was because there were many people that deeply cared, as I do, about the museum and wanted it to be world class. After a pause she said that it has all been done without government money. I said that explains why it is 1st class, and well-maintained, and not politically correct. With another steely look, she said "You got that right."

A nearby security guard, listening to our exchange, came over and said "Taking government money would not be the right way to honor the frontier spirit of the men and women we honor here."

I looked at him and said "You got that right."