An Outsider’s Ode to America


Snow is blowing in from the west across the country road I’m walking on, which runs north-south, leading to the county airport. Not much snow though — if I took a photo I could probably count flakes. To my right (west) is a cornfield that rolls like chocolate that has melted and solidified again. It has the texture of bran — in dips where the rain has settled that’s exactly what it looks like — and is the same color a Labrador would be if you covered it in hair gel. Nothing tall is growing on it, so I have a clear view across to Walmart.

To my left is another field intersected about halfway — about 50 feet from where I am — by a 10-foot-high black wire fence that runs the perimeter of the airport and that Bill — my American father in law — says cost millions to build. I believe him. It must be five miles long. At this end, I once saw two coyotes cross like meteors in dim evening light. They were heading northeast at the speed of a marathoner pacing himself. They ran like they owned the world.

A couple of dozen Canada Geese have flown overhead since I left the house. I’m guessing it’s seen a million now because the Civil War was still two decades away when it saw its first. Back then the house was in the spot the parking lot by Walmart sits now. Two decades ago, Walmart decided they wanted that spot — paid out the old owners for it — and Bill bought it for a dollar and had it shifted it a half-mile around the corner to where it sits now facing northeast in a funnel of Ash, maple, sycamore, and walnut.

Looking from the front, you’d be standing on an acre of mown grass seeing the funnel’s left side extend around and out of view to a downward sloping hill. On the right side, you see around the back of a two-story garage that uses the same color scheme as the house — white with green trim and roof.

There’s a rumor the house was part of the Underground Railroad. I don’t know if that’s true. There’s another that Richard Nixon stayed in it. That might be true. If so, he probably knew its layout no worse than his own home’s. If memory serves me, whilst touring guests around his own house he unsuccessfully announced in front of two closed doors “and here is my study” — opening them into rooms that clearly were not.

But he did successfully do two things — at least as it relates to the town I’m in.

When President, he signed an executive order protecting coyotes that cross roads like meteors in dim evening light.

When Vice President, he opened the library at DePauw. Hence why the rumor he stayed there might be true. I’m in Greencastle, home of DePauw, and this is my ode to America.

This is the land where an awkward man with an ordinary background can become President. This is the land you can buy a house he might’ve stayed in for a dollar. This is the land where you can walk a half-mile and find thousands of other things in the same place for the same price. This is the land where law is passed and it means something — even for wild animals. This too is the land where prejudice made Underground Railroads necessary. But to paraphrase MLK — whose life’s fight a century later was made necessary by the presence of that same prejudice — this is the land where progress was made by it being “truer to what it said on paper.”

Snow is blowing in from the west across the country road I’m walking that runs north-south leading to the county airport — and I am grateful.

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  1. EODmom Coolidge

    My morning walk and view is different but I too am grateful. What a lovely ode to start this morning. Thank you. 

    • #1