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“If whiskey was his mistress, his true love was the West” — Will James, Ian Tyson
Only a few days ago, I was driving north after spending a quick few days in the mouth of a canyon on the Teton River fronting the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. I was back in the open, rolling country and heading now toward the far northwest corner of Montana, the Kootenai National Forest and the Yaak River to spend some time with old friends who are permanently camped there, at least for the moment.
Although I didn’t have (or make) time to sidetrack when passing through the country that had been Will James’ last home, I am always reminded some of him whenever I pass through such open, expansive country. In the words of songwriter Ian Tyson, I am reminded of those “tales of wild and windy slopes” which were a part of earlier years.
In my small, country school the “high school” housed grades 7 – 12 and, of course, all shared the same library. I have no way of knowing how many times over that six year span I checked out the single copy of Lone Cowboy with the fading yellow hard cover but I am sure that I finished just ahead of my best friend for total check-outs. Few others besides us had a chance at it.
Lone Cowboy was a best-selling Book-of-the-Month selection from 1930 and was James’ attempt at an autobiography. And quite a bit of it was true, or close to it! Just not the first part.
As a writer and artist, James produced 23 books, at least 1500 drawings, about 45 oils (no one is sure) and an undetermined number of watercolors. His writings were turned into five full length movies as well as another in the Soviet Union. His uninhabited language and the feeling of his visual depiction of horse and man in action were the stuff that young men who responded more to open spaces and a hint of danger than to safe surroundings and secure futures could digest over and over. His black and white, pen and ink and pencil drawings are still among my favorite art. As much as anything, they capture the feelings of either being a spirited horse or sitting atop one. He understood both. Look into the eyes of the horses, at the flair of their nostrils, at either the twisting explosion of their muscles or the calm, relaxed trust they offer.
The man who claimed the name of William Roderick James had cowboyed, wrangled horses and had tried homesteading in Saskatchewan before showing up in Montana in the early 1900s. There he again wrangled horses and cowboyed as well as making a name for himself as a horse tamer. He also had a flare for creative story telling around the campfires and earned the sometimes title of “Windy Bill” which was not an uncommon moniker given folks in that place and time.
By 1914, he had drifted as far as Nevada where his horse taming talents were also noticed. He was also noticed in the possession of rustled stock which earned him a 12 to 18 month prison sentence. On his entry into prison, he listed his birthplace as Montana and it would be decades before it was proven different. In the Lone Cowboy and in later interviews he said it was while in prison that he decided to develop the native art ability which he had practiced for so long. His application for parole had a drawing he named “Turning Point” of him sketching in his cell.
He did travel to California to try and sell some sketches and worked as a stuntman in the silent western movies of the time. 1918 saw him in the Army. He was out in 1919 and begin his “professional” career when he returned to Nevada and sold the illustration for the Reno Rodeo program for $50. He also picked up a job wrangling horses for the event.
After the rodeo, James teamed up with two cowboys, including his future brother-in-law, he had known before the war to give bronc riding exhibitions in Reno. During one of events, Will was thrown headfirst in a railroad track which proved detrimental to quite bit of his scalp and several of his teeth. He was taken into the household of his buddy Fred Conradt while he recovered.
On his recovery, James traveled back to California, this time to enroll in night classes at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. During the day he worked at various jobs and rode horses with some individuals who would remain friends and career promoters for years. During this time he was able to sell some sketches to a west-coast periodical called Sunset.
But at the end of the year, James was back in Nevada to marry 16 year-old Alice Conradt. The couple began a trek that led them from Arizona to New Mexico. It was in northern New Mexico outside of Cimarron that a ranch manger introduced Will to the dean of students from Yale University. So the wandering cowboy actual did spend a term as a Yale student of art. But after failing to sell Life some art work, he headed back west.
By 1922, James had begun to seriously try and sell both his writings and his art. His most important break came from Scribner’s Magazine paying $300 for his first published article. Of course, it was on bucking horses and their riders. Scribner’s would publish James’ article and most of his books for the next two decades. His best known work is Smokey the Cowhorse which won the Newberry Medal for children’s literature in 1927 and was made into three American feature films as well as one in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
It was decades after his 1942 death, that the first years of this talented cowboy/artist/writer were known. His long-time telling of his early years had him born in Montana to a cowboy and his wife who would die early because of disease. The father would later be gored by a steer leaving the very young Will to be raised by the French-Canadian trapper nicknamed “Bopy” because the boy could not pronounce his real name correctly.
Actually, the future cowboy and artist was born in Quebec and named Joseph Ernest Nephtali in 1892. He grew up speaking a nonstandard, working class French known as “joual”. But he dreamed of being a cowboy and when he was old enough to break for western Canada, he lit out. By 1907, he was in Saskatchewan learning his new trade.
As the years passed, his words were pure cowboy and westerner but he was never quite able to fully get rid of the hint of French influence in the sound of those words. So, the contrived early childhood of being raised by a French-Canadian trapper covered for the sound of his speech. But his words were completely what could be called the “joual” of the west, the nonstandard but completely descriptive language of the working cowboy. His writing might have more than stretched some grammar rules and broken quite a few others but they gave fiber and feeling to the stories of every-day cowboying and the basic elements of the trade, the horse (in words of Tyson, “his heroes were his horses”) and the eye-stretching country which made it all possible.
He did not just know his subject. He understood it. And he loved it. His gift through word and picture was to pass a little of that understanding and love on to not just those of us who would try it on for size but those who might not ever see it but were touched by it in ways they could never know otherwise.
The one bronc he could never completely top off or settle was whiskey. He was 50 years old and in Hollywood when he died of alcoholism in 1942. That was also the year his last book was published, The American Cowboy. The last line of that book, literally the last published words of Will James, was “The cowboy will never die”.
We can all hope he never does.
So every now and then while I drove northwest toward that friendly coffee pot and kitchen table and I looked out at “that house of sky”, I couldn’t help but imagine a mouse-colored grulla cowhorse standing loose-reined in a bosal headstall with a slim-hipped, hawk-nosed cowboy sitting easy in a high-shoulder saddle wearing a wide-brimmed turn-of-the-century hat. I hope my mind will always be able to see them there on those “wild and windy slopes”.
We are in the midst of a lot of proclaiming by the self-imagined politically astute about the possible coming electoral “resets” of 2022 and 2024. I try hard not to distract from those who have invested a lifetime of identifying with the political elites of either party while building a delusionary sense of how the interests and sensitivities of those patronizing parasites are the same as us of simpler minds and tastes, those who were intended to be the foundational thrust of this republic.
Elections, indeed, have to be won and seats changed. But as noted in the past, that has happened before but did little to alter the course we are now on. The institutions whose role it is to protect, foster, and grow our national purpose have been steadily corrupted and turned against both us and all that supports that national purpose. Winning seats and building “party” for its own sake is a part of what has gotten us here. A party is merely another institution within the framework of the nation to make it work how it was designed.
All our institutions have the same overarching purpose for preserving, advancing, and growing the national culture necessary for being a self-governing, free people living in Liberty. After that, each of the institutions has its own field of responsibility under that arch. They each have a purpose that fits within the complete picture of our nation. Some are necessarily a part of government while others should be as far from government’s corrupting influence as possible. But it is vital that these reflect both that culture of Liberty and the national purpose while being accountable not to their own interests and sensitivities but to the citizenry, to the republic.
Ours is a system originally designed for actions, reactions, and changes to be considered measures removed from heated-mob momentary majorities or hierarchical fiats. The institutions are in place not for a government or an ideology but a way of life. Yeah, there’s a difference.
The corruption of our institutions also has a purpose. That purpose is the destruction of that way of life. Our “leaders” have had a hard time either realizing that or naming it. Most have had their eye off of the real purpose of those institutions for too long. So the depth of the corruption and the danger it poses is easily ignored in favor of what seems like a new start that actually just returns us to the same erosive process.
In regard to our “private” institutions, they certainly need strengthening but the hand of government needs to be kept out of them. They must heal from the ground up by their own efforts and by the will of the people themselves. There are no worthy government programs for virtue. These institutions might well need reforming, but it has to come from their own hand. Three I will name now are those of faith, family, and education.
Yes, I consider education to be a private institution regardless of public involvement. The presence of government programs and money doesn’t change what their nature has to be to serve their purpose. There are certainly plenty of government programs and money supposedly directed at family. That certainly has been a positive thing, hasn’t it??
Hopefully, I will return to education by the next post for some general observations.
But for now, I will point toward the political institutions. There is a fourth estate bureaucracy to begin to dismantle, a diplomacy corps whose globalist leanings need to be reordered, a network of federal law enforcement that has been weaponized for a ruling political class against our own people, a crisis of fiscal irresponsibility as well as a Congress unwilling to take real action with any sudden impact on key issues. All of that represents a couple of lifetimes of focused work. But there is a toehold of a chance for it to begin with us.
The most important step for that work to begin in earnest is for the leadership of the GOP to actually reflect the grassroots of the “party” and the national culture to fulfill the promises of 1980 Reagan “revolution”, 1994 Contract with America, 2010 Tea Party, and 2016 MAGA. All of those were left behind or pushed to the side by the established ruling political class within the party.
But each of them gave that party a chance to direct the path of our republic toward a rebirth because of a connection to the base of not the party but of the nation. That chance was gained each time not because of the party’s ruling regime but in spite of it. In each case, in some way, that regime was flanked to get to the people themselves. But the hard truth is that ruling regime is quite uncomfortable with all those commoners sitting on the same level as themselves. There was more comfort in being a professional Republican raising money on promises that would later be flaked out on or negotiated down to little or no effect. They preferred what they considered a classier, more non-confrontational but perpetually losing approach to that of the “wacko-birds”, “crazies” or more impatient, less malleable who thought principles should be advanced.
And this approach infected almost all aspects of the “conservative movement”. Almost every corner has been filled with a smug, organized fund-raising advocacy industry that guards its ground like a medieval lord. For example, we might well be at a new dawn regarding abortion in the United States. Still, those who have worked the hardest for it will tell you that the “most vicious pushback and ostracism” they faced was from the “establishment pro-life advocates” much more interested in appearance and fund-raising than results, the ones who had it made it their profession instead of their cause.
And who did the most to bring us to this point regarding abortion? Some of the “professionals” might still be pushing each other to see who makes it in front of the camera first, but it was through the courts and grassroots legislators at the state level who wrote and passed laws on which the court cases were based. For the large part, those state legislators were elected as part of an “America First” fever rekindled in 2016 from the embers left by the Tea Party that GOP establishment types thought they had put in its place.
And those courts? Where did all those judges come from who actually made the difference? Hardly from the more proper of GOP presidents.
Abortion is simply the beginning of examples between actual results and a sputtering leadership much too comfortable with the status quo but jealously protective of their position of power.
If they admit it or not, they know that 1980 was hardly about Reagan or 1994 about Newt being Speaker or 2016 about Trump. All those and the Tea Party were about them, the patricians making promises they never intended to keep. They all sprang not from some personality but from the anxious, unanswered concerns of grassroots Americans ignored.
Liz Cheney is hardly on a crusade to save the Constitution from the single president who has most closely followed it in the last 30 years. She is fighting to keep “her” party in the hands of the established ruling class and away from the rabble in the ranks. Those individuals elected and governing along so-called MAGA lines need to be kept isolated downstream in the chain of command. That is what Liz Cheney is willing to lose her House seat for. She is more than willing to be a collaborator with an element intent on the dismantling of both our system and our way of life. The sham show-trial of the January 6 Committee is designed not just to keep a constant drumbeat going about Trump in the hope of stopping a 2024 run by him but also to weaken if not shred the Constitution itself. It makes an open mockery of separation of powers and rule of law. But the added hope is to stain any “Trump-like” up-and-comers and keep them out of 2024 as well. And to let all those at all levels understand that D.C. does have the means to intimidate and even punish politics that threaten to become more “populist”.
If they can somehow “get” Trump, the sights will immediately move to DeSantis, to Pompeo, et al. Those establishment apologists who yesterday were saying “anyone but Trump, DeSantis would be fine” will suddenly find concerns of temperament, style, or policy. Something. The discussion will eventually move toward those “reasonable” possibilities more in tune with the ruling class.
The notion is to separate by stirring rivalries. First between Trump and the stronger ones. And then between those strong ones, etc. If one of their own can’t be maneuvered into the top of the ticket, it will be argued that there needs to be “balance” created by the VP candidate.
This should be avoided completely, regardless of the arguments made. That is how we got Bush II when it was not necessary to win the election but put him in place to run in 1988 and then basically kill what the voters intended to be Reagan’s third term. That is also pretty much how we got Mike Pence.
The real MAGA sin was that it performed. The establishment GOP was shown to be useless. They were not needed to achieve all those conservative goals for which they had collected money for years on end. To quote Mel Brooks, their “phony, bologna jobs” were at stake. Or at least their position at the leadership table and all that comes with it. It was shown that they not only were ineffective but that they only about half believed what they were saying, at best.
To bore with an allegory from my coaching days, these guys might run through some drills pretty good and do well talking in the meeting and with reporters but put them on the field and they were marginal at best. Not only did they not play, they didn’t want to play. They were there for a different reason.
In every area of policy, more was accomplished in a short time than in the last 50 years with some exceptions during the Reagan administration. Since the Reagan administration, the only real gain had been a brief moment with the 1994 crowd and welfare reform.
There is a real and genuine opportunity to move the GOP toward actually being the party of the working class and that great swath of Americans who prosper and distinguish themselves when the American vision is operating at or past half-throttle. But they have to be brought directly into the governance and operation of the republic. And they have shown they are ready and willing to do it for the moment.
Now, granted that they tend to mind their own business when things are good. They might not be political animals at heart. More the reason to trust them, their instincts, and their eventual judgment. What that means is that their involvement does not just need to be used at the moment but groomed and grown. They should become used to it, have it expected of them. This was designed to be a grassroots republic and it has been, instead, turned over to self-interested political class parasites whose inclinations are more in line with the “world citizens” who would move on from the model of the Founders/Framers.
I believe that, at the moment, they are ready to be active. They feel the dying trembles of our Constitution much more than the comfortable elites of either government or media. This republic has an advantage over the one of ancient Rome. Early Romans had a clear concept of citizenship which they allowed to be corrupted. But it was centered on government. We began with not just the concept of citizenship but of individual rights. Over the long haul, those rights will only be preserved by the active citizenry.
Just recently at the Republican State Convention in Texas, John Cornyn showed up fresh from his “deal” making with Dems on gun legislation. Of course, that was a typical response to the cry of “do something”. It not only was unnecessary, adding up measures that have no impact on the issue, but also fell in with the use of “red flag” measures that directly affect rights without the benefit of due process. He was booed and often had real difficulty being heard at all. There was no support for him among the rank and file.
The “show-up” at GOP county events and precinct meetings has been running about double from past years as far as I can tell from those with long-standing. Their mood and their leanings are hardly establishment.
The increase in GOP voters from every cross-section of our society is certainly not through the efforts or appeal of the party’s establishment leadership. Once again, it is in spite of it.
Their growth and inclusion do not come from some Bush/Rove tactic of political pandering with “outreaches” that smell like Dem give-aways. Those concerned Americans who happen to be black, Hispanic, rural, urban, or even those hard-to-please suburban, educated white women can all be talked to in basically the same way, as Americans whose lives and families benefit directly from applying basic principles of Liberty. They all are more safe, more prosperous, more in control of their lives, more secure in their national safety, more free and fulfilled, and more able to reach out to their fellow citizens when these principles are applied; there are layers of recent examples to back it up. If one can’t look someone in the face and make a sincere and believable case with that in their pocket, maybe they need to work on themselves first.
We have some people much like that now. They are not always the most polished. But if we have learned anything from the last 50 or so years of GOP “leadership” it should be that for the “conservative agenda” to actually move forward on a continual basis, the party leadership has to be distinct from the DC crowd.
As an example, if someone can objectively look back through the last 50 years and find anything to mildly recommend Joe Biden as a “genuinely good man” or as someone to whom to trust the security of our nation, their judgment (or their honesty) can be questioned (be careful not to rule out both) about almost anything. Or they might be of the same class and species.
For the GOP to be the instrument for Liberty we so badly need it to be, there has to be actual leadership that takes it to an unapologetic, unflinching, proactively pro-American persona, leaving behind those who would doom the future out of fear in the present. Leadership is not necessarily about making people happy. It is about inspiration toward goals and ideals. It is not about the next news cycle or even always the next election. It is about the next generation. It is not negotiators that are needed. It is determined warriors.
I have said that this is a generations-long struggle with both wins and losses. But if the realization of the Founders’/Framers’ vision is to be alive and growing decades from now, it is one that has to begin. Those of the political class need not be thrown out. But they should be seated in the middle pews and hopefully never again be in the front.
Our purpose is centered on Liberty and Natural Rights. Not long ago, DBD used the term “Republic of the Heart”. I am not sure we share the exact definition of the term but I very much see us as just that. Ours is a way of life that begins in the heart, looking for more than survival, for fulfillment of our human potential which is only possible in ordered Liberty. Our steps should always be guided by that purpose and our hearts’ vision of it.
And now I have gone much longer than intended and am sure that I am talking to an empty room by now. Besides, I have spent almost two weeks in the hay field and am feeling the effects of not just the allergies that come with it but the few bottles of pills taken. At any rate, that and the 105 temperature are the excuses for my unorganized wanderings. But I have it on good authority that Irish whiskey has been known to work wonders for such conditions. I am sure there is research, or a CDC edict, to back that up. In this dangerous day and age, one should follow the science. And I think that is what I am about to do!
I had just wandered through a generally so-so observation about patrician and plebeian elements in our present political situation. I was not sure that I had made my points clear enough for the normal pleb to grasp fully (we are generally too preoccupied with life’s minor distractions such as rent, food, and selecting the right brand of beer).
But one can always count on their betters to provide. So Peggy Noonan was kind enough to write a Wall Street Journal piece that explains it much better than I. She, of course, is an established member of the GOP Order of Patricians and her concern was about the unwashed plebs generally known as Trump voters. Hope among her fellow elitists was that more and more of this group would abandon the notion of the former president seeking the office again in 2024, that support for him would fade and he would pass from the public’s eye. As it is turning out, that simply isn’t happening. In fact, it appears to some that their numbers might even be growing.
This is so despite the continuous dumping on the former president. Or maybe even because of it. The latest anti-Trump production is turning into a huge disappointment. It actually seems to have the opposite effect intended. Interest in the show trial sometimes called the J6 hearings has been weak and far below what was hoped for. In fact, it is probably having the opposite effect. Only the most gullible or pre-disposed believe in them and for the rest they are far too transparent. For most, they leave the distinct impression of Star Chamber episodes intended not to learn anything but to influence an election by removing a leading candidate. Plebs must be protected from their limited intellects by narrowing their choices to only acceptable options.
In any case, Trump is actually increasing in support from this sideshow. So a fresh approach in pleb management has shown its face recently. That is to agree that the plebs do have some real concerns and that maybe the down and dirty Trump demeanor helped to create attention for them. But now he has served his purpose and it is time for candidates with smoother edges to carry the banner. For the moment, they are even willing to accept some candidates who might be a little “Trumpy” themselves as long as they are not the original. For the moment, that is.
But in the end, the real call will be for “reasonable” candidates who can hopefully worm their way into those “purple” vote without really confronting the matters that will change us as a nation and having to win a thoughtful and passionate argument for Liberty. You know, the kind of candidates who made Trump possible in 2016, the kind who knows in his (or hers, or …..) heart that something can be worked out to get us by if the patricians were left to bargain among themselves.
Noonan knows enough to begin every con job with a compliment, sort of. She is impressed that every Trump voter does love America even if it is “not always been a fully thought-through love but it’s generally fully felt”. She even concedes that this is “admirable”, even if the thought process was so incomplete. So plebeian. If it got any more simple-minded, it would be on my level.
A little deeper into the piece one is able to get a clearer picture of the patrician view of those millions upon millions of the GOP base who are so regularly called on by the party elites but rarely listened to. She tries to reinforce the Dem contention that Trump was told by all reasonable and sane people that the 2020 election was fair and square but he chose to listen instead to a collection of “kooks, crooks and freaks” which was not hard to find since “Trumpworld has more than most”.
Her appeal to wayward plebs is to drop Trump or lose the shining chance to dominate in the coming elections. Everything is so very bad that just about any Republican will surely win. Any except, of course, Trump. “Only Trump” would lose.
But the truth is as soon as Trump can be eliminated, the patricians will begin to try and thin out any of the other non-conformists with plebeian tendencies. Before the discussion is over they will hope to be back to the old standard GOP patrician because they could win “in the middle”. You know, that legendary middle where gun rights can be narrowed, where new entitlements have been created, where “comprehensive” immigration reform lives, where government dollars represent educational concern, where … Oh, hell my simple mind and stubby fingers are over-loaded … You can fill in the rest.
What is so desperately needed is a clear, objective American agenda for all, with disregard for who you are speaking to. The principles of the Founding and the principles which build successful lives will reach all levels of society.
The great swath of middle America that I have spoken of very much feels the loss of our Constitution even if the patricians don’t. The party elites have yet to realize that MAGA is not a Trump thing. It is a grassroots American plebeian thing. Trump simply put a slogan behind it and then did his best to implement it.
The Peggy Noonans still talk and act as if this was about a loose-mouthed billionaire and not the saving of the republic as founded. But they do sense the shift away from them and that is what they hate, what they fight against. If Trump is at the head of the column or not is hardly the central question. The real question is the uncompromising direction of the column.
We might be in a dangerous position with our future but more and more I believe that the people who will make the long-term difference have finally realized that the damage done to us by the “warriors” on their side, it is not near the problem as the damage done by the cowards and blinded on ours. Hopefully, Noonan will save her condescension for her own kind.
By the way, if any of you fellow plebs actually want to read the Noonan column you will find it behind a paywall. Unless you have the devious computer skills to bypass “the wall”, you will have to take my word for the content of the piece. Otherwise, you can join me in some simple plebeian pleasure as I take off these smelly socks, let the air hit these more than smelly feet, pour three, possibly four fingers in a cup, and soak up the quiet of an evening that has finally begun to cool.
When I last “spoke” here I tried to put emphasis on how battles and movements can turn at critical moments. There are always examples of hope for those with the will to engage the endless battle. But it is equally important to soberly realize how dark and dangerous this moment happens to be for our republic. History can be a demanding teacher. And in arrogance, we have either forgotten or disregarded its lessons for republics.
Being a simple critter, my understandings are simple. Some may well believe too much so. The “insights” I am about to stumble through might not be exact parallels, but they are close enough to make a point. Even if only a simple-minded one.
The saying goes that Rome lasted 1,000 years. If we are talking about republics, that is only about half right. Maybe just half of a half, honestly. The Roman Republic “only” lasted about 500 years. By the time the first emperor emerged from a bloody three-sided struggle for power, the republican ways had already been diluted and the more noble beginnings centered around citizen farmers and merchants were in the distant past. Its last half-life would be spent as the Roman Empire but Rome had lost the simpler vestiges of republicanism long before Octavian became Caesar Augustus.
The over-simplified, thumbnail version sees Rome growing in influence and spreading its power into surrounding regions on the strength of its society that is fed and protected by citizen farmers and merchants who are also citizen soldiers. The hills and fields belonging to the private land-holder supplied the growing republic.
Most know that there were two classes of Roman citizens known as plebeians and patricians. Both of these were hereditary. During the first stages of the republic, the plebeian class had two divisions depending on if they were urban or rural. The small- to medium-sized citizen farmers fed the growing Roman Republic.
Although the patrician class was the ruling class and charged with protecting not just their own interests but also the plebeians’, there seems to be some evidence that in the very early days there were also plebeian administrators as well.
There grew political offices whose stated purpose was to give voice to the concerns and needs of the plebeian class. The offices were mostly elected by plebeians but still held by patricians. As the republic spread out through warfare, it brought more and more wealth from subjugated lands, cheaper grain taken by force or taxation, physical goods acquired not by the production of Roman natives but the successes of Roman armies. The patrician class prospered with the import of all these new riches. And, for a while, the plebeians seemed to feed off of the foreign fat as well. Their lives were made easier, it seemed, from what had always been a product of human warfare and would remain so for over another thousand years, slaves taken from conquered peoples.
Seemingly easy trade riches, cheap labor, and declining domestic production saw both the patrician and plebeian classes grow farther from their early roots. The plebeians were more and more dependent on their government spreading the acquired wealth (acquired – taken – wealth, not wealth they produced) among them for one new excuse or another. Small- and medium-sized farmers became fewer and fewer as they failed to compete with cheap, imported grain, and patricians wealthy from trade and political corruption bought their land for their own country pleasure villa estates. And then the displaced “moved to town” to seek their share of the government pie.
I am sure it would be a simple-minded over-simplification (is that too much simple talk?) to conclude that a political class with no or little accountability to any but themselves and a citizen class not actively responsible for the issues directly affecting it both became lazy, corrupted, distracted and disconnected from their simpler but foundational roots that had begun their climb in the world.
Now with a corrupted, self-interested patrician class and a plebeian class accustomed to governmental pandering and less and less responsible production, Romans began to discover there were barbarians in the world. Actually, they had known it all along. But now they had to begin to confront them, or at least be confronted by them.
I know I might have skipped a detail or two, or even a century now and then. But don’t let that make you miss the point about elites, plebeians who become subjects instead of citizens, and the ever-present barbarians of the world.
Patricians didn’t mind plebeians as long as they stayed in their place and let the decisions affecting them be left to the “experts” who had an entitlement to do so. But, as it turns out, patricians are a lot more concerned with how patricians are affected than the impact on plebeians unless they are forced to.
Barbarians want to take and destroy without a lot of respect for tradition or class. Oh, they will use them both as it fits their destruction. And they will use the greed and/or weakness of either class without hesitation. Barbarians are always just beyond the river, or the forest – or among you. They are always watching for a moment of opportunity to strike for the kill or to bargain for a deceptive inroad.
The barbarians have always been there. They always will be.
Our Founders/Framers knew the history of republics and what had befallen them all. They also believed that republics offered the surest way for a wise and moral free people to govern themselves. So they worked on a system that would avoid as many of the historical pitfalls as possible. They could not foresee everything, any more than we can. But they left the ability to adjust thoughtfully, deliberately.
What was left to us was insight of circumstance, clarity of purpose, commitment beyond comfort or emotional convenience, and courage.
What the Founders/Framers left us was a system in which, in theory and hopefully in practice, we were all plebeians. We have now allowed a varied group of patricians to develop among us, all lording power over our lives and feeling entitled to do it. And they are aided by a variety of plebs, some simply wanting to survive off of what is taken from others, some gullibly believing the patrician self-interested scam, and some wanna-be patricians.
In our case, prosperity didn’t come from continual war and conquest. It was mostly built from within. I know, there was expansion that took in most of North America but I will argue that another day. The growth that fueled that expansion sprang from economic Liberty, a competitive economy that favored the bold, hard-working, the inventive, and the determined. That Liberty had its rough edges but time, practiced rights, and the system handed to us allowed for a steady improvement. There were, of course, patricians. They quickly took their place among the political parties that developed and patricians are always self-interested if nothing else. But we had allowed for not just the voice of the plebs but their full participation and there have been cycles of their political muscle being used to check the patricians from time to time. But human nature being what it is, the 20th century saw major steps to not just subjugating the plebs but to destroy the culture of Liberty which put them at the center of our advancement for over a century.
One might say that we now are in an era in which the barbarians have pretty well taken over one of those political parties and have been steadily advancing aided by the trepid patricians of the other party, all in the name of bipartisanship. Surely, one set of patricians wouldn’t deliberately feed another set of patricians (as well as a whole nation and its culture) to the barbarians simply for their own momentary survival. Would they?
Over time Rome found that its supporting institutions were corrupted. Those institutions and the plebeian class were the foundation. The seeds of Roman destruction were sown before Julius Caesar ever crossed the Rubicon. In fact, the Punic Wars which saw the conquest of Carthage and the Mediterranean becoming a “Roman lake” probably sealed the deal even if the Seven Hills still called itself a republic.
The fellow patricians who put the blade to Ol’ Julius on the Ides of March were much more interested in preserving their own power in the Senate than saving a republic of plebs. But that still didn’t keep Caesar’s grand-nephew and adopted son from becoming the first Emperor. The die had been cast years before.
There were, of course, individuals of vision who saw it coming and tried to turn the tide at different stages. But they were mostly efforts of patricians simply trying to either lead or, at least, influence the plebeians. The plebeians were actually the strength of early Rome and their acceptance of the hand of government over their values left the Roman fate to play out over the next centuries.
With all the volumes that Gibbon wrote about The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, probably none of his words were more profound than the observation of a loss of “public courage” and a “love of independence” in the Roman people. These are eternal lessons for any who would aspire to be a successful republic.
Earlier I stated we were established in theory to be a plebeian nation as much as possible. Being human, we have not always traveled a straight path in that regard. But in most cases, our course corrections (imperfect as they may have been) have come from the plebs raising their voices to restrict the power of patrician elements taking themselves too seriously. Our national strength comes from the voices of the plebs.
These moments have been given a variety of historical titles but the so-called Jacksonian Era of the “common man” was such a moment that at least reminded us of the roots from which we came and the vision which founded us. The Civil War Era moved us closer to the ideal of equality. It was not fueled by the voice of the elites constantly seeking compromised solutions to avoid looking evil in the face but by a more common thread in the conscience of the people. The great growth of the last third of the 19th century came from the plebs of the world coming here for an independence that early Romans had forsaken and from our native plebs expanding their horizons. Almost all of the industrial giants and “robber barons” rose up from their ranks.
Since the social upheaval of the 1960s forward there have been a few moments of plebeian assertiveness that have offered us chances for course correction. The Reagan administration, the Contract with America, the Tea Party Movement, and the Trump administration.
Although Rome was called a republic for close to 500 years, its fate as a republic was sealed before the 200-year mark. The rest just had to play out. There might well have been opportunities for real reversals but “public courage” and “love of independence” had seen their day in the hearts of the Roman institutions.
I sense we are on the cusp of one of those historical decision points. There is a whole culture (or is it a lack of culture) “out there” more than willing to accept a secure role in a “perfect” society that can never happen.
The politicos will always compromise away pieces of our Liberty. But there are some battles which have to be fought today or the tomorrows will be too late. The strength of our national purpose is found in the voices of the plebeians. Oh, they can be a rowdy bunch. But it will be found that what they hold in common is the fiber required for not just the moment but the centuries to come. The point is not to abandon that fiber for the moment. That “love of independence” can be a unifying force. Family, faith, work ethic, self-determination, desire to control the direction of one’s own life, and divinely gifted rights are all human feelings that reach across color and class. They are unifying, not divisive. And they don’t have to be compromised just for some assurances today or fears about an election cycle.
The American plebeians were given an action agenda built around those common concerns in 2016 and for the first time in a long time saw them fought for and dramatically advanced. There is no reason to accept anything less ever again.
If this republic is to survive and then grow in Liberty as it was designed, the patricians have to be guided by the plebeians. The republic itself has to be accountable to the plebeians. And that begins with the GOP.
The day has come for “public courage”.
We have spent the last several days with a seemingly constant string of violent acts of the sort that capture the national attention and create an atmosphere in which so many take the opportunistic stage to publicly display their “compassion” and “reasonableness”. These public pronouncements normally start and end with “doing something” but rarely target the most contributing elements of our social malfunction. My thoughts on the matter are hardly original. They are pretty straightforward and will seem less than simple-minded to those so warped up in new controls or who take too much joy in endless, directionless discussions.
There are many ways in which we have all contributed to the frayed cultural fabric that is the real reason for what now strikes at all our hearts. There is only time for mentioning one or two here. In less than a lifetime (at least for mossyhorns like myself), we have allowed our national, daily attention to be distracted from the basic elements of a character necessary for a people to govern themselves.
Our attention is constantly circling around some of the most base, unnatural, self-absorbed, arrogant, and just plain stupid crap that a directionless human mind can wrap itself around.
Our national moral compass has been purposely undermined and we have “gone with the flow”. I won’t spend much time reminding how our Founding was based in the Judeo/Christian ethic and how vital its role is in responsible self-governance. But any honest reflection of our present condition has to begin with a hard realization that a committed reaffirmation of this ethic has to be central to any true American restoration. Let’s just look at one aspect of that tradition, one at the very ground level of our successful existence – and how its deterioration follows almost step by step with that of our “popular culture”.
The family is the most basic of human institutions. It is here human relations begin. It is here that values are first learned, so it is the beginning of culture. It is here that Liberty and the responsibility necessary for its practice are taught by everyday conduct and reinforcement. It is here that love is first experienced without any definition or instruction.
At least, that is the way it is supposed to be. At one time that was the rule and not the exception.
We have always had evil and murder among us. But they were not the accepted standard. Mass killings hardly began with the introduction of semi-automatic firearms, or any other firearm. Even in today’s America, far more people are killed with knives than rifles ….. or handguns. Multi-round clips are certainly not required for sick individuals to kill several. All it takes is the distorted desire to do it. I am told that even fertilizer or pressure cookers can do massive damage when the desire is there.
This world has always had a certain fraction of twisted, broken souls who would strike out at the surrounding world if given the chance. We now raise them in numbers too high to count.
Those who would rule others, regardless of what their ideology or title of the moment might be, have always known that the road to tyranny almost always goes through social chaos which breeds political chaos that opens the gate for the tyrant.
So for over a hundred years, the left has laid the groundwork for the destruction of an American culture that promises to give man his rightful dignity but requires the constant attention to principle. At first it was only the seeds sowed among us under the label of progressivism and later roots began to claim a slight hold on the soil needed for a fuller development. But now the product of those roots has become giant, thorny trees that tear at the fabric of our culture and the souls of children. The destruction of our families is intentional so that another power will take its place. The destruction has always been for replacing the family with central authority.
To use only the “mass shootings” as a measuring stick, during the 1950s there was one so-called mass shooting — one. In all the years and decades before when guns were commonly a part of everyday life, they were just as rare. Charles Whitman atop the tower at the University of Texas certainly was an example during the 1960s but the number of mass shootings was still less than five for the decade. It was 1980 before the number would ever reach 20. The “explosion” in the number of such incidents has come in the last quarter-century.
At present, there have been 20 in just a matter of days.
In almost all cases, these are the acts of broken individuals with a troubled family history.
In the last fifty years fatherless, broken homes have become not just commonplace but an industry unto themselves. They are financed by politicos of all stripes eager to prove their “compassion”. Laws are patterned to assure their perpetuation. The best way to ensure that anything will become entrenched is to have a government program for it. We now have an extended network to create a perpetual class of government wards.
The restoration of the American family begins with two parents acting as responsible adults, even when it is hard or unpleasant for them. I have stated on these pages that the most important thing we can do in this secular world is probably to raise a good human being. That is our first job, our first calling. It is our first responsibility to the world we live in.
Each of these parents has their role and contribution to make. This simple, basic observation is hardly sexist. It is the practical acknowledgment of the ideal design, one that has worked throughout man’s history.
The value system that is passed to their children is the parent’s legacy. Our nation was founded to run on the Judeo/Christian ethic. One does not have to be a believer to clearly see how following this model benefits a free, productive society better than any other. One does not have to be a believer to share in the benefits of such an ethic, or to have a vested interest in its enduring standards.
We have noted here that true Liberty requires responsibility and the accountability that comes with it. Those two vital elements of Liberty are central to parenthood. Making the decision to become a parent (reckless or not) means avoiding that responsibility and accountability is a socially destructive act that affects us all.
For this day, I will focus on just one side of parenting. All children need to have a strong father influence in their lives. Fatherless children are at the core of a great fraction of our social problems, especially among young males.
Parents should battle for their children to have a safe environment, not just in school, or on a bus but everywhere they go. It is their job to protect the treasure they are raising for the rest of us to benefit from.
Education begins and ends in the home. Children from a two-parent home that not only values education but demands it are about ten times more likely to be productive citizens. Our educational system certainly needs to be fixed and hopefully I can speak to that another day, but parents should realize that the final responsibility is theirs. And it is the father who should be leading the household, not ruling it, but leading it as a strong man focused on the welfare of all in that household.
It is our individual responsibility not to be moral failures in the raising of our children. One of the first and vitally important moral lessons is the treasuring of individual life. If every child reached adulthood with that simple truth stamped on their heart, how much different would the daily news be?
This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the realization that there really are some moral absolutes.
Although I detest playing the leftist game of grouping citizens into “classes”, I will borrow that time-worn term of “working class”. In truth, this tends to include all members of the society who are actively productive, making the wheels of the economy and national order turn. At least, that is the way I am using it, the grassroots of our national existence. That working class has been the most affected by the social fraying we have seen grow and grow since the 1960s. It is they who have to be discouraged and broken for our nation to crumble into submission.
We have not challenged the moral failures of our ruling class strongly enough, loudly enough, or determinedly enough. An example of moral cowardice within that class was seen years ago when Obama was correct enough in a speech to point out the damage fatherlessness had done to black families. Even while he continued to speak, an icon of the parasite class, Jesse Jackson, was mouthing how he would like to alter Mr. O’s lower anatomy for endangering a key pillar of the leftist platform to dominate and subjugate. Obama, of course, got the message and never mentioned it again. His soul had already been sold and he didn’t want to threaten the rewards of the bargain.
But most on the other side of the aisle have hardly been brave champions either. They will voice support for the ideals but settle for a few more government goodies to deliver back home while keeping the waters smooth for our betters to step by step advance toward a destruction of our culture. They will occasionally speak but hardly fight hard enough to draw the complete disapproval of the media culture.
Allowing the family structure to crumble is a rejection of our Founding which was justified and built on the principle of Natural Order. It is within this Order that our God-given Liberty exists. It is the structure for our maximum human potential set in place by Nature and Nature’s God. The nuclear family is a key part of that divine Natural Order. It is at its base. So the destroyers well understood where to begin their attack so that the rest would weaken even faster and more completely.
Because of our failures, far too many of our children live in a world of delusion where the most realistic, constant factors of this world are seen as fluid. Their values, even their gender, can change to fit the mood of the secular and so they have little worth. They lack the strength, support, and guidance that all children deserve from an interconnected family unit. They are unprotected from evil, which is ever busy. They deserve the atmosphere in which to grow a full heart, not a dark closed one devoid of either strength or empathy. They deserve it and our culture has to have it for survival against those who want most to subjugate.
Where are the leaders who will stand tall in front of the whole of the media and political class (who do not consist of anything close to a real majority), stomp the foot, set their jaw, and call these distortions what they are?
I would suggest that they are the ones who have embarrassed and made uncomfortable the establishment classes by fighting back at school board meetings, city council meetings and, yes, at those political rallies.
It is past time that we concede that we are the political leaders who have to turn things around. We are all the parents of our national family. We are the ones who have to loudly make these social distortions unacceptable. And expect better from our fellow citizens. Peer expectations are really leverage.
Yes, I will again say that real “change” for a more American expression of Liberty must and should come from the ground up. Men should realize they will not have the respect of their male peers if they are not a positive force in the life of their families. Those in positions of authority should realize there are lines that they cannot cross in regard to our children. Schools will be the expression of the parent’s vision for their children, not the state’s. The list goes on.
What is at stake is the soul of those who hold this republic’s future in their hands. We often speak of what is “in our hearts”. It may well mean slightly different things to each of us. But somewhere in all of our definitions is a concept of “spirit”, something that touches us deeply, something that can warm us or wound us beyond description. Many see it as some sort of guidance system, perhaps even the very reflection of our character.
However one sees it, it has to be realized that it is not the race, or class, or politics, or economic status that makes mass killers. It is what is in their hearts. It is that we are raising people with empty, angry hearts. That has been our failure. We have not protected our children’s hearts. We have not guided their development and allowed their natural growth. We have allowed those hearts to reflect a worldview hostile to our own, one that will destroy them as well as the future our heritage hopes for them. That is the responsibility of us all to put the cowards on both sides of the aisle in their place and then rightfully become their leaders.
This is only one of the many steps we have to take but one necessary for that healing heritage to spread through the power of both faith and family into the hearts that carry it from friend to friend to the heart of the community, into the hearts of the regions and states and finally into the hearts of a nation – from the ground up.
The case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is generating both passion and distraction by the left as a draft of what appears to be a majority opinion has been leaked, breaking tradition as well as the security which helps to provide what is hoped to be a political-free decision (we could only hope). The heated rhetoric and delusional predictions of doom for the republic serve to distract from at least two central and vital factors in our health and direction as a free people. It is important to the left, their goals, and the path toward them that there is a complete lack of clarity concerning these two factors and their role in this matter.
The first is the Constitution itself. The draft is a clear, simple, and direct explanation of how our republic is supposed to work and what the real duty of the Court is. The Constitution is not with us to solve every human conflict and problem. Neither is the Court. The Constitution sets the framework by which a self-governing, diverse people can govern themselves, accounting for differences not just in opinions but in regional and cultural habits and needs. The Constitution shows a faith in the ultimate wisdom of the people in their own affairs.
There is no mention or intent concerning abortion in the Constitution. It is not a federal matter. The draft is constitutionally concise and correct.
Abortion itself is not at all killed by the draft. It simply becomes a matter for each state to deal with as its citizens see fit. With the simple but deep logic of the Constitution at work, there will be 50 individual experiments dealing with the matter. Each will produce thoughtless mistakes and shining examples as the matter is refined over time by a public who has to deal with the results. In each state there will be ongoing arguments, both wise and stupid. Time and results will help to glean clearer policies.
In the case of abortion, the left does not want the matter handled along either constitutional or rational lines. That is why an imaginary right had to be created from whole cloth to begin with.
I am willing to acknowledge that about 51% of the public say they don’t want Roe overturned. But I would add that opinion is aided by a complete public misunderstanding of either the Constitution or the actual facts. For instance, about 73% of Americans agree that unborn babies are human beings. 61% agree that abortion should not be allowed “anytime, on demand”. Most Americans are hardly hard left on the subject.
The current evolution of the left has brought us to the point of abortion even at the moment of birth itself.
Which brings me to the other factor that they desperately want eliminated from the discussion. That factor is the Divine.
Almost three-quarters of Americans are rational enough to admit that the unborn are human beings. Scientifically, it has become almost impossible to deny. Each year our technologies allow us to view and trace the miracles in each developmental stage.
Recently one nationally known radio host who still holds for a woman’s “right to choose” admitted that there has to be a point sometime before birth when that growing wonder inside the womb actually is a human being. Any rational mind then knows we are discussing life and death for an innocent who cannot speak for themselves. No matter where one decides to draw that line in relationship to their own conscience, while assuming they have both the wisdom and the right to determine to do so, it then comes down to how sacred that life truly is.
So, in that light, the decision to abort is clearly a value judgment about one life against another. Despite the manner in which it will be argued, it comes down to deciding that one’s own desires or wants are more important than another’s life.
“But there is more to it than that!!” There always are in life’s very human choices. But those “complicated” choices often come back to fundamental truths.
So one has to in some way face the question about the divine hand in human life. And one of the overall purposes of the left is to separate American society from the Divine. Our special nature before Nature’s God is the foundation of our Liberty and our Rights.
Think of all the ways just within the last decade in which it has become accepted to disregard the Natural Order given to open the chance for our better existence. Without that order, the glue holding together the family structure is seen as a mere habit to be dropped at will.
The Judeo/Christian tradition has to be disregarded if we are to draw that line ourselves because it holds that “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). If human beings are indeed more than flesh and bone, if they are also spiritual with an individual identity that the Creator Himself knows not just outside of the womb and in it but before, then that imaginary line no longer belongs to the mortal.
Our constitutional tradition acknowledges that special spiritual element of man’s being. That is why rights are individual. And they are apart from government. True, a just government has a responsibility to help secure those rights but those rights themselves are above government. The person and property of that special being whose spirit was known before their body ever grew in the womb is to be respected. That is why Liberty does not mean license.
Those biblical scholars among us know that the single reference from Jeremiah is hardly the only place in either the Old or New Testament where that concept presents itself. A simple internet search will provide the curious with examples from Isaiah, Psalm, Job, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, and Galatians.
The purpose of removing the Divine from our society is to remove accountability and moral order from our society. It is to define life only in immediate earthly terms. Our Liberty brings with it the possibilities of many material rewards because of the individual efforts and rewards that can come from it. But it is far more than that. It offers a path to a fulfillment deeper and more meaningful.
One does not have to be a believer in Nature’s God to enjoy the rewards of His Natural Order. But that Order is necessary for the full practice of Liberty. Each is free to find their path to both its rewards and its Creator, or to fail by their own choice. THAT is freedom of choice.
This does not pose a religious requirement on anyone. But to be true to both the word and intent of the Constitution, one should come to realize (and admit) that religion is not excluded from government. But government is excluded from religion. Our system of Liberty works because it is designed to operate within the Natural Order.
One can argue the case against abortion without bringing the spiritual into it. And within the context of the courts that is proper. But to look their fellow citizens in the face and claim that what is carried within the womb is merely a “clump of cells”, one has to first discount both the messages of the Old and New Testaments. And that is the true goal of the left, a rejection of the ethic within the Judeo/Christian tradition. It is an attack on the cultural base regardless of the strength or lack of your religious commitment.
It is a huge step in the cultural struggle that has been silently or passively accepted by political elites for now close to a century. Small flakes chipped from the cultural foundation were easy prices to pay for political comfort and compromise. But small, individual flakes can become piles of rubble. Among those elites, it was argued that Roe would bring moderation to the issue. But the theme of “safe, legal, and rare” was just a first step with no intention of stopping. Compromised principle is easily bargained with at the next step. And the next.
Hopefully, this leaked opinion will become official by summer despite the pressures and protests that will come. Then the process within the Constitution can do its work among the several states. Also hopefully, in the future we can always remember that both Liberty and conscience necessarily have a deep spiritual side.
About five Mother’s Days have passed since I wrote what I am about to repeat here. One month and eight days later, the last mother mentioned quietly finished a 14-year journey with a cruel trick of nature. But it was one that reinforced in those who watched it a belief in human strength, quiet but determined courage, and a dignity that only comes with the assurance of a divine hand. It became a daily lesson in the grace, faith, and inner peace needed to look squarely into a known and coming darkness, plan for it and then endure it in a way that would shine through the heaviest curtain that disease could drop around one.
The quote is from a hardened and seasoned cowman known for his direct and blunt views and ways. He was also a dedicated, driven researcher and probably the best historical writer of his time. These words finished a 12-page unpublished essay written for only family and close friends in memory of his departed wife. I suspect that all of us have in our heritage, both immediate and distant, a gentle hand that wove the fabric which clothed us in a “Coat of Many Colors” whose brightest threads were “immortal love, unshakeable faith and incorruptible character”.
“Thus while I tore out my heart in mad endeavor upon the stage of action, my dear grey-gowned Nita – who really played the leading part, sat far back in the wings of life, and with vast pride and infinite patience, wove all the cloth for me to wear”
Ode To Nita, J. Evetts Haley
HAIR AND FLOWERS
Inside a hand-made shadow box more than a century and a half old is a simple, delicate, and profound expression of family, crafted by knowing matronal hands from nothing more than human hair and thin wire. The linen cloth lining the interior is tainted some by both years and dust. But the modern-day owner is slow to disturb the contents and risk his own clumsiness with what was so exactly woven with so much care.
In a day long past, especially in the South, it was common to save a lock of hair of family members and those closest. It was also fashionable in a time that seemed to treasure both the personal and the traditional for the women to create arrangements from that hair. This box was such a creation, an intricate floral design with large blooms and tiny petals forming a large “U” centered on yet another flower. The smallest of circles and the most tightly woven pedals are all made of hair collected from generations of one family and passed down to be shaped with precision and patience into a lasting symbol of a long line of mothers and their hope for the mothers who would follow them.
The shadow box was carried as a legacy by a young bride who left her war-torn home state and followed her husband to a land even more strife-ridden and dangerous. She was Georgia raised by an adventurous soul who traded in land, railroads, and cotton and outlived three wives. A family tradition says that she did not dress herself till almost a teen, servant slaves did the task.
The Civil War disrupted her world and in many ways so did a Confederate soldier laid up in a nearby field hospital. There was no heroic battlefield tale for the soldier, any good historian of wars knows that disease was as common as bullet wounds in those armies before modern medicine. And in his case, he had enlisted in a local militia for protection of his home area only to be mustered into the regular Confederate army a few months later.
At the end of the war, she packed the shadow box among the few items there was room for and made the trip to a land of prairies, post-oaks, soil that ran from coal black to rocky tough and back again, brushy creek bottoms alive with wild cattle known to kill black bears in single combat, almost constant Indian raids and white-man blood feuds which often claimed dozens of lives. It was known generally as the Forks, as in the northern forks of the Trinity River which drained south from the Red across the Cross Timbers and the edge of the southern plains and extended westward toward the “fingers of the Brazos”.
The year before 17 citizens of her new home county had been killed in Comanche and Kiowa raids. Two years before that a “citizens court” 20 miles to the north had hung 42 men in one month to maintain order. About 15 miles to the east John Wesley Hardin had been born in what served as both a house and his father’s church. Another 20 miles to the southeast was probably where a 15-year-old Hardin killed his first man on the way to what he later claimed was a 47-man count (but a close look at the historical record will turn up “only” about 25). She wasn’t in Georgia anymore.
Though the first winter her husband hunted wild cattle, roping them one by one, branding them, and drifting them into a long prairie bottom protected by two ridges where they were grazed in common with the catches from two other hunters. Each man would spend every third day watching and guarding the herd. White thieves were much more abundant than Indian raiders.
That next spring the captured cattle were joined to a Dot Gunter herd sent up a well-beaten trail just 10 miles to the west which traveled the edge of an ancient anticline that crossed the Red where it made a huge ox-bow near Preston’s Trading Post. The trail had many names; the Preston, the Shawnee, the Sedalia, and the Nations among others; but that season it would see upwards of 300,000 head put hooves into its dust and cross the Red into the Choctaw Nation pointed toward Yankee markets in Missouri and Baxter Springs, Kansas. The next year the main path would be a little farther to the west, crossing near Spanish Fort on the Red and head toward new railroad tracks in Abilene.
The young couple used the money to buy land, a strip of black prairie clay between two creeks a mile long. There was also a house built with lumber from the closest sawmill 150 miles to the east, two rooms with single board walls seven-feet high and a dirt floor.
That fall while her husband was camped miles away on another cow hunt four men rode in on tired horses only a few jumps ahead of a Union League posse. Simp Dixon, Gyp and Joe Clements, and their boyish-looking cousin Wes Hardin demanded a change of horses. The young wife stood at the corral gate with a shotgun to refuse the sorrel gelding and two Steel Dust mares behind it. If it was the spunk she showed or the closeness of the posse, according to family stories they rode on.
In 1870, that same young wife was left a young widow with two sons under the age of four. The young woman raised on carpets stayed on the hard-packed dirt floor of that simple house tucked in a grove of growing pecan trees. From it, she ran what would have been her husband’s business and, after a decade and a half, had doubled their holdings as well as having two young sons who might not have reached 20 yet but did have the skills to be considered men in a place which judged such things solely on results.
At this point, she remarried. After another ten years, she was again a widow who had just inherited quite a bit more land. She released the inherited land to a resentful former brother-in-law saying she didn’t consider it hers anyway. She then divided the rest of her holdings (the ones she had built herself) among the two sons and started over herself.
I, of course, never knew the lady. I do have a single faded childhood memory of her oldest son. It is of a 90-year man rising slowly from his chair in his living room, seemingly bent and bowed until full on his feet. Then he straightens into a ram-rod pose as if sitting in a saddle with his shoulders pulled back as he reaches for a sweat-stained felt hat that he puts on before starting for the barn.
But I remember that man’s son well, her grandson. It is from him that I like to think I get a glimpse of the woman. He maintained a quietness about himself in most everything and hardly spoke of himself at all. There was the ability to project warmth while keeping privacy and to teach life lessons with questions instead of sermons. There was a decided intent not to overstate anything, especially about himself, and a precision of truth in what he promised. His word was considered stronger than any contract by the lowest shoe-string horse trader and the banking moguls of two major cities. To carry his name was both a gift and a responsibility.
That shadow box was saved and then passed to our time by the hand of another young wife. Her DNA was not present in the hair making up the flowers in the case but she had married into it. She found it, searched for its origin, and then made sure it was safe. Though she was not related by blood to the young wife who had left Georgia, I tend to believe they shared some qualities.
Her voice has been silent, unable to be heard, for some time but occasionally the eyes will brighten into a glim and an unexplained smile will show there is still a spirit and warmth easily recognized by those who have felt them before. Somewhere within a failed body is the same young woman who, very much like that other young bride from decades before, followed her heart into a life that was not always easy but left indelible values imprinted into a next generation she helped to create out of hope and strength.
She might have lived without plumping for the first decade-plus of her married life but during that time she had the iron touch to lead a champion bull into the show ring and the gentile patience to pass on a deep reverence for the written word and the books which carry it. Despite the lack of cash money, she showed the skill with a needle and thread to create a shirt from scratch complete with the image of a black stallion on the back for a second-grade son and the creativity to transform a couple of cardboard boxes and some purple cloth into a prize-winning Halloween costume at the elementary school fall festival.
During that first decade, the settings she followed into included minor league baseball parks, far-flung rodeo arenas, dusty and distance-spaced match ropings, rented pastures, and breaking pens. The place of residence ranged from roadside campfires to single-planked shotgun houses hidden on remote creek banks. The joy, strength, spirit, faith, and character which made those times mostly happy memories may now be veiled behind a curtain of cruel disease but they all are still alive. They were nurtured, grown, and passed on long ago.
They are also symbolized in an old shadow box by the tiny and precise creations containing the DNA of countless generations of mothers which was then blended with new bloodlines. It is not just sons who become heirs to bold fathers. Daughters whose own boldness can hold the hearts of good men are the bridges between the vital qualities of those past generations and the exploring adventures that will build a future, legions of mothers who are the very breath of a civilized social order regardless of the setting.
I expected it to be snowing this morning when I woke up for good. I had driven into northeastern New Mexico by what was for me an old and one-time standard way for me to reach this retreat. It was well past dark when I began the roughly 60 miles through the canyons and mesas that follow the Cimarron back toward its origin along the rims and bank cuts of Johnson Mesa. It might have been too dark to see the colors of the “Spanish Shirts” below the rimrock that lays between Black Mesa and Cotton Mesa but they have been pretty well stamped into my mind for more than what is now a decade and half. Just the dark outline against a gray-banked sky is enough to bring life to a mental picture and touch someplace well below skin deep.
The predictors, who are rarely exactly right, had forecast snow by 5 a.m. and the skies seemed to confirm it. But when I stopped somewhere on the 16-mile stretch of gravel road that interrupts the “blacktop” to step out of the truck, there had been a break in the cloudy mass to the southeast where the stars were still clear and set in a coal-black sky. I know there are probably places in the world where the sky is blacker and the stars more sharply defined on a clear night than along this tract – but I can’t tell you where it is. I have no way to correctly count the number of times I have driven it in the darkest hour of the night and can promise you that there are few places better to stand with just your most important thoughts and miles of openness in all directions while you empty the bladder or refill the cup – or both.
There was no snow to greet me when I detected the beginning of daylight, only a gray bank of clouds and a north wind beginning to pick up. I had stepped outside about 4 this morning and it had been abnormally still so I was sure the weather was on the way. My friend and I had visited til about 1 that morning when I had arrived.
Somewhere around 10:30, a light dance of flurries started and it is now a twisting cloud as the wind has returned to a more violent pace. I have made a clearing on the table which now serves as not just a dining site but is mostly a workbench for various beadwork and primitive leather projects and set up my laptop. Of late, I have too many notes and outlines and nothing resulting from them.
I fixed breakfast and have camp-cleaned the kitchen area. More than a half a century of cowboying, rodeo clowning, and guiding hunters has taken a physical toll on someone who I coached in high school, schooled on saddle broncing, and ending up guiding for at a time when I really needed it. We all have seasons of life, as individuals, as societies, and as nations. Where those seasons lead us is important, not just for us but for those who follow.
With a recent bout with blood poisoning, a knee operation, then another infection, my friend’s long-standing injuries have been enhanced. He gets around on a single crutch but just barely and his beadwork and leather work, which is first class, is inconsistent because his right hand is numb quite often. Either shoulder is subject to “jumping out” but between the two of us, they are popped back in pretty easily. Practice makes perfect. Those are just some of the physical wounds but we all know that they are sometimes the easiest ones to manage. We should also know by now that our wounds of all types are mostly of our own making. But so is the healing. At least, we have to take the first, decisive step.
While I was busy cleaning the kitchen, he pulled on a coat (which isn’t easy with those shoulders) and stumped out the back door on that one crutch to gather wood before I could get to it. As he worked his way back toward the kitchen door an inch at a time carrying wood and operating that crutch, I opened the door and tried to take the wood. “Hell, the least I can do is carry a little wood if someone is dumb-ass enough to drive 500 miles just to cook and wash dishes for me!”
There are those who would consider my friend stubbornly independent, perhaps needlessly so. There are still a few of us who consider that streak normal.
My friend is now leaning back by the fire with a little bit of Irish comfort and a faithful blue healer’s head in his lap. It is only a few minutes till noon here and well past noon anywhere east of here.
The break has given me a chance to sit at a keyboard while looking out the window at a swirl of wind and flurries and put a final wrap on something that I loosely tied together yesterday morning. It is more or less a simple theme that I am sure has been detected before. And one that I hope is made clearer as time goes on, despite my simple and limited abilities.
An old saying concerning fish and nations is that they rot from the head down. I am willing to accept that blindly for my own purposes of illustration.
I will not bother to comment on the wide range of rot that we all comment on from time to time (at least for now). But I will suggest that if the rot travels from the top down, the healing has to come from the ground up.
It is at the most basic levels that our most important, fundamental traits are formed. It is from the grassroots of foundational truths that not just our lives, our societies, our cultures, and our nations can be built but it is from them that these can be healed after they are corrupted and the rot begins to travel down through the body.
These essential elements of human life and achievement begin within the individual. They are what create bonds between distinct individuals and preserve those bounds despite all our mistakes and weaknesses. They are what can make individuals into families, real families. It is the strengths, values, and visions of those individuals around which a society and finally a culture is built. They define how healthy the bodies of that society and that culture are. A healthy nation cannot grow from a sick culture.
I want to be clear that rot at the top certainly needs to be cut out and replaced. But that is just the emergency measures of the moment. The healing comes from the ground up. It comes from a grassroots level that will accept only the clarity of the proven foundational elements of its birth. Without them, we are without purpose. Without them, we are only filling time.
There is now a thin layer of white across the horse pens and the flurries seem to have the promise of becoming flakes. The noon hour has struck and I will poke the fire some and join my friend with a touch of the Irish. Perhaps over the next few days, I can turn those notes and outlines into something with a little more form and meaning.
We live in an affluent age. And, oddly enough, it has its challenges. I stumbled through a post about that at an earlier time here on these pages. One of those challenges is remembering that man has always had trying times – and always will have. Our greatest and most defining moments rarely come in comfort and ease but in struggle and crisis. It is then that we reveal what is most important to us, what sacrifices are to be made, and what for. Those sacrifices are things important to us given up for what has proven to be more important to our values at a time of crisis. What could be more defining?
It was said by some that when the Romans finally drove the nail into the coffin of the Carthaginians at the end of the third Punic War in 146 B.C., they not only destroyed Carthage but plowed salt into their fields to destroy even the soil that had fed them. I tend to take that tale with a “grain of salt” since Rome not only were taking over control of the trade routes of the Mediterranean but the fertile production of the Carthaginians’ north African territories as well.
Naturally, trade and commerce lay at the cause of the three wars which turned the Mediterranean into a Roman Sea and led to the Roman Republic becoming the Roman Empire. But one of the excuses used by Roman historians for their hatred of the Carthaginians was the practice of child sacrifice, something intended to brand them as deserving of the harshest treatment. And there is certainly evidence that this was the case. Carthage, being a Phoenician colony claimed a Canaanite heritage and there have been mass graves of children found around Carthage and Carthaginian settlements.
There are some modern-day historians who discount the claims, or find them un-conclusive or believe the practice might have been rare. Child sacrifice certainly wasn’t new to the world, then or later. Throughout history people have offered up what should be the most precious of their belongings, their children, during times when crisis came in the form of war, drought, famine, or disease. I don’t intend to drag us through all of the gruesome examples from just about every age of the past. These offerings were, for the most part, made to appease “gods” with the basest of human emotions.
There is something I would hope that each would grasp before we continue on with what is certainly an uneasy topic. Each child was willingly sacrificed in the hope of benefiting an adult serving their own imagined interest. The children, their suffering, their worth, their future, did not matter. All of those were sacrificed for the immediate impulse of self-focused adults. Some might even call this a signature of a sick society.
There are some among us who would say that our children are God’s promise for tomorrow. They are the gift that ensures we have a future, even after our life has passed. They are our chance to speak to the ages through what we leave with them.
As we look back across the span of history at the societies which commonly practiced child sacrifice, we generally label them as pagan. What type of ideology or religion could require such an expenditure of human life, especially of those innocent ones with so much yet to live? Is that practice done for the hopeful safety or comfort of adults even sane? How delusional do these people have to be to give their children over to either empty promises or deadly gestures of loyalty or belief?
Since the Supreme Court invented a constitutional right out of thin air in 1973, there have been an estimated 61 million abortions. At present, it is said we average about 1 million a year. Today, this “right” is cemented in as one of the most sacred “rites” of the left not just here but across the globe. It is considered rather unsophisticated among most “elites” to not accept this “right to choose” or at least to voice some acceptable nuance or qualifying condition when thinking of some limits on its practice.
In recent times, it has become trendy to imagine that a previously scientific absolute such as biological sex could actually be quite fluid depending on the whim of social pressure. It has since become not enough for grown and presumably mature adults to act on this delusion. Now, children can find themselves in the middle of physically damaging surgery and drug treatment when taken in by the whim of an adult or some misguided social instinct for acceptance. They are left with the scars and failures to sort out over a lifetime because of the self-indulgence and cowardice of both individual adults and the society as a whole.
The single most stabilizing factor for a child and their future is the security of the functional nuclear family. The destruction of this vital unit is the avowed goal of most branches of the modern-day left. Many are overt about it, at least until it is pointed out publicly. Black Lives Matter had it written into their organization’s stated purpose until called on it. Of course, the founders were trained Marxists and destruction of the nuclear family is central to that plan for society.
But the family has been under attack using more gradual means for some time. The welfare state has taken a dramatic toll in the West. The decline of intact nuclear family units has a direct, measurable effect on almost every social ill that has a name and some that don’t. The definition of marriage itself has been allowed to be twisted to the point that it has little real-world meaning at all. The society itself pays a heavy price for its own foolishness but mostly the first victims to suffer that price are the children who have little hand in it.
In ancient Sparta, the children of citizens were the instruments of the state. The males were to be the warriors who supplied the force required to keep the more numerous helots in their slave-like status and protect against foreign powers. The females were to supply the sons needed for this. Those children who were too sickly to grow into these roles were left to die in the elements. The sons were taken from the home before our kids can get through junior high school to begin their military training. Their family was the state. It was in this atmosphere that mothers could watch their sons go to war and wish only that they return either in victory or “carried on their shield”.
In Sparta, education did not serve the individual, his growth, his understanding, his spiritual development. It served to create conformity. It served to create obedience. Purpose did not go beyond the goals of the state and its elites.
Before the 1980s, the top spot for educational achievement among the “developed” nations of the world was usually held by either the United States or Australia. But the educational system of the West had been under attack for some time by “innovators” of the left steering it away from traditional classical methods. The end of the Carter administration saw the creation of the Department of Education and a giant step toward federalizing American education. Today, the United States is ranked out of the top ten in every discipline and places as far back as 32th in some basic skills.
Mostly recently, we have basically restructured our children’s existence around a disease that has a fatality rate of less than 1% for most of the population and far below that for children. But under the gist of protecting society as a whole those children have been isolated at a critical developmental stage of their lives, made to wear masks that had doubtful use under most studies at the beginning and have since been shown to have little if any effect since and now are under threat of mandate to inject experimental drugs. Why? If the excuse is to protect the society as a whole, it needs to be remembered the children are the very least likely to be affected negatively by the disease.
Since these “measures” became common, the ill effects range from the lack of developing language skills simply from masks covering the mouth all the way to a suicide rate among young girls that has skyrocketed.
On our southern border, the trade in young children and their abuse is a human tragedy that should leave one at a loss for words. In a world that steps back in horror at slavery of centuries ago but gives only lip service to the suffering of millions today, one of the surest ways to perpetuate the abuse of thousands upon thousands of children is to open up international borders so that drugs, criminals and human cargo can flow freely. Who benefits from this? Who has decided that these young, defenseless lives are capital to be spent for profit and power?
There are other ways in which our children have had a terrible price forced upon them by the adult world which is supposed to protect, nurture and grow them to an independent and productive maturity. But there should be plenty here to ponder and consider without going on.
I will again speculate that if any of these were done openly in the name of a religion, the practice would be called pagan and evil, undeserving of the mantle of religion. But what if it is done simply to support an ideology?
What does that say about those who claim that ideology?
Perhaps more important, what does that say about the others (perhaps the majority??) who allow these sacrifices to continue?
Who is to pay for the direction and the future of a society? Is a worldview that requires our children to be given up for it really going to nurture and protect you? Does it even respect you?
These evils are not new to the world and they will not vanish any time soon. But the measure of any generation may well be if they saw them for what they were and responded with clarity and determination. The prices paid just in the last few years are heavy. If we tolerate them any longer or sink back in frustrated inaction will speak loud and clear about us in the ages to come. It might well tell them we did not just value our own Liberty too little but our own children even less.
You can have anything you want
This is the land of the free
I got everything I asked for
On the day I turned sixteen
I believe in the ability of stories to teach, move, and instruct. That is why I appreciate not just the stories themselves but those who create them, nurse them, and pass them on to us. The greatest teacher this world has seen revealed his most vital lessons to us through symbolic stories that reflected everyday life, emotions, and conflicts. Such stories, if spun by the greatest teacher or any of us much lesser ones, are made to be digested, turned into nutrients to fuel deeper feelings, appreciations, and even convictions.
I believe Ryan Culwell to be one of those gifted bearers of stories, a young man (by my standards) who lives out both the dreams he has for his talents and the heritage he carries from a land branded with struggle, quiet beauty, loud winds, and a sense of heaven that only limitless space can give.
I was introduced to Culwell in the heat of this past summer. I recently returned to the same “hole in the wall” to see him again. But this time, the temperature hovered about 25 and would settle into the low teens before dawn.
It probably is not fair to call the setting a hole in the wall since it has become one of my favorite stops. Half of it (the “smaller half,” if there is such a thing) was formerly a bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. Well, not that Bonnie and Clyde. It was robbed by Ned Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde.” But it certainly was available for robbing when the real pair were active. They did stop in what was then a small north Texas farming community and steal a car from a local but drove right by the bank.
The “bigger half” is an old store with a large outside seating area and is connected to the old bank by a doorway smashed through the double wall. This evening, we were all huddled in the smaller half trying to keep the old bank just warm enough that our breath didn’t look like smoke.
Actually, it was plenty comfortable with a little liquid warmth applied. Both halves together form a bar that serves great grill items, some BBQ and ribs that more than pass the test, and is owned by a combination of former coaches and their friends who naturally believe owning a hole-in-the-wall bar is the height of retirement ambition. The house band is a talented bunch consisting of what was at one time a pretty good line coach, a world champion water skier, a former vocational agriculture teacher, and a former basketball coach. Like me, they are well past the prime of their earlier adventures, and unlike me, they are really talented musically.
But this night the sole person on the small corner stage was Ryan Culwell. The songs he writes and performs combine to tell parts his own story as well as reach into elements of a common story we all share, or should.
Culwell’s story begins at the top end of the Texas Panhandle. He was raised among the oil field culture of that region. His dad quit the fields to start a trucking company to serve that industry, and Culwell grew up surrounded by the children of the oil workers and of the ranchers who squeezed a living out of a land made for the strong. In that summer meeting, Culwell and I talked about the country surrounding Perryton, Texas, high school football playoff games, dusty back-road rodeo pens, and the features of that ground north of the Canadian River. I have been through there often. It is one of the routes I take to northeastern New Mexico, a little less direct but worth the trip.
The Oklahoma line lies 7 miles north of Perryton, and there one can turn left (west) to run the length of the Oklahoma Panhandle into the 50-mile network of mesas and canyons that would bring you to Folsom, New Mexico. Or one can go straight (north) and soon be in Liberal, Kansas.
One hot afternoon, I stopped several miles south of there on the high hills that overlook the drop into Canadian, Texas, and the banks of the river from which it gets its name. The sky was a rolling, twisting mass of almost solid black clouds with occasional bursts of lighting that seemed to be explosions. Two different rain walls could be seen below as the front side of a tornadic storm made its way to the northeast. To the unfamiliar eye, this land can appear sterile. But the flat prairies, rolling hills, and dry washes contain both power and beauty. It is not made for the meek, or the lazy or the uninspired.
Ryan Culwell is a crafter of words who eventually took his trade to Tennessee like so many others. And he had some success there. Like everyone else who takes that route, he worked several types of jobs while peddling his songs and talents.
He has a wife (who he assured me was “pretty damn hot”) and four daughters. The daughters had never lived anywhere but Tennessee. With a couple of opportunities beginning to break for him, he decided (with his wife) that it was more important for his daughters to be raised in the same atmosphere he’d been, around the same values, the same sense of belonging, and the same feelings of family and community.
If you have spent your entire life in Tennessee and are suddenly dropped at the top of the Texas Panhandle, your first reaction might be “What happened to the trees?” I like shade as much as anybody, but Culwell may well have captured what some of us feel when looking across a limitless horizon in his song “Flatlands.”
In it, he speaks of walking in those Tennessee woods blocked from being able to measure the full expanse of the land with the eye and seeing birds playing still on the ground because they have “no wind to lift their wings.” He longs to see “miles and miles of dirt in front of me” in a place where “summers are hot and winters mean; there ain’t no in between.” It might well be a place where “wind can break a man,” but it is also home to a culture of survival and freedom where people are measured by their contributions and their worth.
So his girls will be raised a few doors down from where he was. They will know what it means to walk down a street where everyone knows they are “Ryan Culwell’s girl,” not because of anything he has written or performed but because they know him to be one of them and someone worth knowing. And they will know that a standard comes with that.
Culture is perhaps a state of mind as much as anything else. It is about what you value. To share a culture, you have to value some of the same things.
The singular beauty of the American culture, or as I sometimes prefer, the American character, is that the values upon which its foundation stones lie can bind all regions, races, and social classes. It can prosper on the isolate prairies or in the mill towns or among the skyscrapers. There was a time when it flourished in all of these and more.
It is a culture that begins with the individual and the values that make life productive and meaningful. The accomplishments, be they small, large, intermittent, or constant, result from those values.
Those values, and that culture, flow upward through the families and then through the community surrounding those families. When those values and those families and communities that share and nurture them is lost, so is the culture. That is the way a culture such as ours is destroyed so that now the values flow downward toward the people.
A culture such as ours requires strong individuals with a sense of their own value and the value of those around them. Those with that sense can take the risks that breed accomplishment and show the true compassion that grows brotherhood. They also realize that this culture (if they can define it or not) is a trusted heritage that has to be taught and grown. It is a responsibility to the generations after them who depend on their wisdom and our combined experiences to make them ready to meet an ever-changing world with unchangeable values. Responsibility is just a vital thread in the fabric of independence and liberty. Without responsibility, they both are lost.
Confidence in those values gives confidence in your own ability to make it on your own. In “The Last American,” Culwell tells us “I got everything I asked for on the day I turned sixteen. I got my old man’s heart and a broke-down Chevrolet.”
It speaks of a person who believes in himself not in arrogance but because he had an example that he trusted. He knew this old man’s greatest asset was not physical. It was his heart — his try, his determination, his refusal to quit, and the steady commitment to his family. Those are not qualities or values distributed by your overseers. They are born in the spirit and nursed in the genuine bonds of family and community.
Threats to those values, that culture are meant to destroy the most meaningful moments of the human life. Those threats should be treated as the deadly attacks they are.
And be warned, later in the same song we hear “they tell ’em you can be anything you want and I believe that’s a fact. But what you give away, you ain’t never getting back.” Destroyers don’t intend to give back.
We all have a responsibility to that culture — if we value it. We are called to fight for it and not betray it for the easy, comfortable, or elite.
But Ryan Culwell’s example may remind us that perhaps the most important thing we can do is to raise good human beings who grasp the things in their old man’s heart. And understand that in that heart lies the strength to build not just a family but also a community, a culture, and a nation that reflect it.
That night, Culwell was passing through on his way to Florida driving an old, battered SUV with about 250,000 miles already on it, heading toward a festival of some sort where he was playing the Sunshine State. Building a music career from Perryton, Texas, is not meant for weaklings or the easily turned.
I hope Ryan Culwell’s music becomes well known not just because I feel it deserves to be but so more can digest those stories and find something that will help to complete a picture for them of what we have been and can be in an uncertain future.
But regardless of any fame or financial rewards, I believe Culwell will be a success. I believe that he will raise four daughters to become women of strength who will not settle for any half-hearted men in their lives. I can see them being strong mothers who pass on values that point lives toward accomplishment, fulfillment, and ethical courage. If we all had such success, our nation might operate a little differently at present. The key is not if that old Chevy runs or not, it is what lies in the heart.
But Culwell’s words deserve to be heard, regardless. Which reminds me of a couple lines from another word crafter from a few decades earlier.
and if I never have a nickel, I won’t ever die ashamed
Cause I don’t believe that no one wants to know
I have watched with interest for announced developments concerning Henry Cuellar since it became known yesterday that the FBI had apparently searched his home and removed several items. As of yet, there has been no statement from the south Texas Congressman and only scant information from authorities.
I suspect that most outside of Texas have known little or nothing about Cuellar until recently when he has been in the public eye because of his positions about the effects that the flood of illegal immigration on his home congressional district, the 28th Texas Congressional District. But Cuellar has consistently been his own man for some time. He is still a Democrat but has been more in the mold of what some might have considered a traditional moderate Democrat of decades past. He has always openly favored a stronger border and does not toe the party line concerning the Democrat rite of abortion, as two examples. But he has been a solid win in the 28th since 2005, winning by 20 points in the 2020 general election.
It has been in the primary of 2020 where Cuellar had his closest political challenge, defeating Jessica Cisneros with 51% of the tally. Cisneros is also challenging Cuellar in this year’s primary coming the first of March, barely more than a month away. She is an attorney, immigrant rights advocate, supporter of Medicare for All, and stronger spokesperson for “productive rights.”
She’s just a lot more woke than old Henry. She also has a ton more money and support pouring in from out-of-state.
Cuellar has been outspoken about the border crisis and the terrible impact it is having on his district and its people. In some ways, he is representative of the backlash among a great many Hispanics against a standard Democrat policy that negatively affects all our citizens and communities.
There have been “reports” that Cuellar is being targeted by the DOJ’s Department of Public Integrity because of campaign finance violations. This, just a week after he announced $700,000 in contributions, a record for him. There are also some rumors linking the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan to the investigation.
If Congressman Cuellar has been involved in illegalities, he deserves to be investigated. But there are some not as open-minded and compliant as I am who become suspicious when it all happens so close to what was going to be a hotly contested primary in a district whose lines have been redrawn to be a little more “blue” than before. Being less suspiciously minded than some, I am sure that it has little to do with his opponent being much more acceptable to the establishment of not just the party as a whole but the swampy bureaucratic levels of DOJ as well. Besides, if it were a set-up would you select Azerbaijan as a connection? But perhaps there is a touch of genius to using a nation that 95% of the people have never heard of and can either spell or pronounce!
But I am patient with my suspicious brethren. They tend to overreact when the FBI actively plots to discredit a presidential candidate of a major political party and then works to undermine and even incriminate him after he wins.
They point to the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer and wonder how there could be more informants and agents involved than actual culprits. They correctly argue that the FBI has often been corrupted at the top levels since the days of J. Edgar Hoover. Some even bring up the name of Ray Epps.
There are those who wonder if “Public Integrity” were a great concern, wouldn’t the son of a sitting president deserve some attention?
They feel that when a national policing agency that pays far more attention to one side of the political spectrum might need to be re-thought. Some are even in favor of tearing it down and starting over.
I am, of course, much more measured and thoughtful than these brethren but I can see where they might have ground to stand on. I have tried to reason with them but find myself seeing their side more and more. I will have to reflect on it a little more. It could be that in about two more drinks they can win me over…
When I last speculated here about the grave danger we have placed our necessary and definitive culture in, I mumbled something about the need to reasonably identify the real enemies of that culture. Since the first few hours and days of any new year are often spent in reflection on improving ourselves for the seasons to come, this might be a good time to lay out some standards for that identification. I will ignore that most often those reflections are shoved far from our consciences by mid-January, never to cross our minds again till sometime beyond the next winter solstice.
I have heard far too much lately from several directions about the threats to “our democracy” or to our Constitution. And almost every time the real threats, the real dangers, to each are misnamed, often deliberately and more often foolishly.
The first thing to get out of the way is to drop the term “democracy.” It is overused and misused by too many who have little regard for Liberty. What we have, at least in name, is a self-governing republic. I will go ahead and shock by saying that I have little interest in democracy, any more than I do some form of egalitarian, majoritarian arrangement which is what is usually meant when democracy is so loosely thrown around. I have a great deal of interest in my individual rights and their practice and protection. I have the same interest in yours, by the way.
What is threatened first and foremost is that culture of Liberty which drove us to create that republican system to begin with, one steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition of individual worth and rights. Kill that culture and the Constitution is the same as dead no matter how high you pretend to hold it or proclaim it. The culture came first. The Constitution came to try and preserve it, enhance it and allow it to grow among a free, self-governing people. I value the Constitution because I so value the culture of Liberty.
Within hours we will be bombarded with an “anniversary” of an event most enemies of that culture would like to have remembered as an “insurrection” or attempted “coup.” It was a riot that need not have happened. Those responsible for the protection and security of the Capitol that day (the Speaker of the House and Capitol Police) failed to provide enough manpower despite several “heads ups” and an offer of thousands of National Guard troops by the sitting president. Those who entered the Capitol represented a fraction of a fraction of those thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) who came to support that president or at least call more attention to an election marked by chaos, multiple unconstitutional changes in state election law, and a growing body of evidence that was being rejected out of hand by bias media, self-interested politicos and an intimidated judiciary. The intrusion into the Capitol certainly didn’t serve that president well. Any people who honestly believe that he wanted it or intended it have allowed personality and prejudice to override principles and reason. Those who foolishly took the bait and became a part of that intrusion only helped create the media mischaracterization of an “insurrection” (useful idiots — intentional or otherwise — can be found in multiple places, not just in college faulty lounges or breathlessly reading the Bulwark).
Far be it from one as simple-minded and unsophisticated as myself to offer corrections to anyone who has spent a lifetime convincing themselves they belong among the political class. I have only a layman’s impressions sorted out in the clarity of creek-bank air and reasonably priced whiskey. I will try not to embarrass myself with my simple, basic observations or move too slowly for the quicker and more sophisticated among us.
This will not be a complete list of all the genuine threats to our Liberty and Constitution. Many will be simply subsets of an overarching threat.
For example, a real “coup” attempt might be if an administration conducted surveillance on the campaign of another political party’s presidential candidate.
Another might be if military leaders actually told their counterparts in a hostile foreign government that they would not follow directives from a sitting president or give them a “heads up” in case of military action. There are even some simple minds that would see that as a treasonous act.
I would content that sidestepping the Constitution to change election law without the state legislature was totally in opposition to “rule of law” which some seem to hold so dear only in certain, isolated cases.
The abuse of FISA Court regulations by the agency in charge of federal law enforcement is a far greater threat than freelancing numbskulls.
When senior members of the Justice Department feel free to “protect us” through political intrigue, the rule of law has been discarded.
The changes in election law and procedures that the Democrats are so intent on passing before 2022 voting are a genuine threat to the Constitution and will only aid those who are so determined to change the nature of our republic.
Setting up the Soviet-modeled January 6th committee, setting aside standard procedures and practices to get the predetermined result, is more of a threat to our Liberty than the event itself.
Open borders and the flood of unvetted into our nation is, and has been, far more destructive.
Command-and-control health care certainly belongs on the list as well as a command-and-control economy.
The examples of excesses from federal enforcement agencies across the board are a much greater threat. Doubling the size of the IRS is a greater threat. And it is meant to be a threat, one to be used to not just to take their “fair share” but to keep all in their place.
The actions of George Soros prosecutors and other office-holders at various levels are direct assaults on that culture of Liberty.
Every bill written by the Democrats in the past year is a direct attack on the function of this republic and its foundations. That is true regardless of what road you might have thought was helpful to your region.
A determined effort to force dropping of the Senate filibuster and “pack the Court” with no checks and balances is intended to do nothing but assure advantage for those determined to fundamentally alter our society for good.
All of these and probably dozens more (I still have quite a few written down in front of me – a list that only took minutes) are symptoms of a government that has long since become unmoored from the Constitution that created it and the culture which provided the document.
The January 6th committee itself is an example of the political class simply “playing government” instead of performing their intended roles. It is a product of a Congress that for too long has not done its job. Legislators are supposed to legislate. But with the growth of big national government that extends itself into far too many corners of our lives and economy, both the Congress and president have simply passed on both legislative and enforcement powers to the unelected.
We cannot have “checks and balances” when so much is delegated. And those sitting in their elected seats spend most of their energy in political theater. From that, we get all the Faucis of the world, self-important tyrants serving the politicos who will keep empowering them. They just don’t crush our Liberty whenever they can get away with it, they will undermine federalism itself.
We have some very dangerous foreign enemies who would gladly help us fall. But they will never see it as long as we are the model of our Founding. It is those who so happily work to destroy that model who are our most dangerous enemies.
In the last 30-plus-year period, our Liberty has constantly faded – regardless of political party – except for the brief time when federal regulations actually decreased, a real attempt was made to control the southern border, more money was left with taxpayers and an administration followed as closely as possible the campaign promises made. The major obstruction to following those promises came mostly from entrenched politicos of all party dominations. But the same could be said of the Reagan years and the 20 years before that.
Defanging an all-too-powerful federal government with so many growing branches of delegated regulation is what that those behind five years of actual “coup” efforts fear.
As a rule, election polls and elective results have drifted center-right for some time. But those results have not slowed the leftist march that has all but taken over our vital institutions, both governmental and social. The elites of both political parties share that guilt.
The real core issue here is the state of those institutions and their relationship to those Judeo-Christian traditions embracing the individual as well as the moral order that comes with it. That is where our Liberty and our future will be lost, or salvaged for at least a little while longer.
The purpose of this committee has little to do with who entered the Capitol that day. And yes, its immediate goal is to strike at Donald Trump in another contrived way. But the real target is an engaged citizenry. It is those who show up at school board meetings or during the school day itself to have a say in the education of their own children. Or those in city council meetings. Or those who voice directly to their state legislators. The political class (both elected and not) has long since stopped being a reflection of the citizenry and have “ruled” without much concern for it.
That citizenry has begun to realize that their children are at stake.
Donald Trump is only an issue because he didn’t just address the decay of our institutions, he made progress. True, his words in 2016 might have been somewhat of a threat enough to try and sabotage his campaign but it was that he followed through with most of them and had some success that makes him such a target. The “people” don’t need to have the smell of those successes in their nostrils for very long, they might expect more of it!
No, this is hardly a “cult of personality.” Trump is not nearly as important to those citizens, or the future of our republic, as the direction. It is the direction that will save the republic. Whoever is at the wheel will, and should, change regularly. Despite plenty of human flaws he can all list, Trump began what all in the political class were either too self-interested or too cowardly to actually attempt seriously. He may have already served his purpose. That will be seen. But it was desperately needed regardless of the vehicle.
I have already overstayed my time here without the clarity I hoped for. But this “anniversary” and all the hyped drama that comes with it is, in my thinking, to be largely ignored. Those of us who would save those vital institutions certainly have to engage, desperately but with focus and conviction. Our message has a real and deep audience. But most of our time and concentration should be on those who will at least listen.
Those who are intent on destroying those institutions will hardly listen with honesty. Those who are foolishly their unwitting collaborators rarely intend to listen honestly either. They are distractions and, for the most part, intended to be. They yell and parade for the attention they somehow believe they deserve (or at least want). Move on to something or someone who can matter and leave them to their own ramblings and delusion.
Reinforce conviction with clarity from those places where it can be found. Then move on the spread that conviction and clarity to those who might actually hear it.
Often the quieter but constantly steadier sounds are the ones that leave the longest-lasting echoes. There may be loud blasts at times that seem to drown out those quieter ones. But the real test of their quality comes after that first blast when their sudden waves have just as quickly faded and the quieter, more dependable ones are still there reminding us of the qualities we need for the long haul.
Dan Reeves may or may not receive the public notice he has always deserved but has rarely gotten. He died on the 1st of January, just in time to miss being on all those lists of 2021 notables who were lost the 12 months before. There will be 364 more days for the 2022 list to fill up, providing distance to his passing and clouding all that should be said about him.
In a year when the NFL expanded the limits on Hall of Fame inductees, he once again was left out to make more modern and inclusive choices. All of the choices were certainly deserving but that does not change the long, special 38 years that Reeves spent in The League, 23 of them as a head coach who piled up more than 200 wins and four Super Bowl appearances. As player and coach, he took part in the third-highest total of Super Bowls for an individual (nine).
In a short time as a broadcaster, he was not a bigger-than-life personality. His voice had that soft, measured Georgia sound. It was steady and informative but hardly a shock wave. His bigger-than-life persona was made for eye-to-eye honesty with individuals, not mass media. It was for one-on-ones at the side of a huddle, a private office discussion, or the position meeting room. Of course, much the same could be said for his mentor, Tom Landry.
Being in the broadcast rim for the Dallas Cowboys, I was able to watch Reeves break-in as a player and later a coach as a knee injury slowed him as a player. His “break-out” season was his second with the Cowboys and my last as a high school player. He was a Paul Hornung type back with a controlled running style that could set up blocks and then cut to the running lane. Having been a three-year starter as a college quarterback, he ran the option pass off of the sweep action every bit as good as Hornung had for the Packers or Gifford had for the Giants before that. He was an excellent receiver and even approached Hornung in the area of blocking from the halfback spot, which few have done.
He had gotten that chance for the “break-out” because the great safety Mel Renfro had been moved to offense that training camp because Landry felt more speed was needed at the halfback position. An early injury to Renfro gave Reeves his chance and Dan’s 16 touchdowns that season moved Mel back to safety.
But Reeve’s presence on an NFL roster was a long-shot to start with. Being a Georgia boy, his dream was to play college ball for the Bulldogs. But he was not heavily recruited and when he missed four of his senior year’s games due to injury, the only major offer he got was from South Carolina. He had given an oral commitment to the Gamecocks but had not signed the letter of intent when he played in the Georgia state all-star game.
After being named the game’s MVP, the University of Georgia came calling with a scholarship offer. Despite his childhood dreams, Reeves kept his word as a man and went to South Carolina to play for what would be a losing program while the Bulldogs had national success.
The Cowboys were making their reputation for finding overlooked talent and fitting it into pro football. But they had a strict rule to always have a height, weight, and speed on any they considered. The time they had on Reeves was 4.95 at 40 yards, a time that even made me look speedy. Gil Brandt told him they would like to sign him as an undrafted free agent but his 40 time just wouldn’t let them. When Reeves told Brandt he had been timed after practice, he was timed at 4.75. It was hardly world-class but close enough to the standards to give him a free agent shot.
All football historians consider the touchdown plunge by Bart Starr to end the 1967 Ice Bowl as one of the great moments in the story of the NFL. But without that touchdown drive, the deciding play of the game would have been Reeve’s touchdown pass off of the halfback sweep – going to his left.
Perhaps one of the best clues to Reeves’ character as well as his approach to both the game and life is just how good a player/coach he became. As a 1968 knee injury took its toll, the Cowboys designated him as a player/coach (which actually gained them a roster spot in the days of 42-man rosters) and he coached the running backs who would replace him more and more for playing time.
The regard that Tom Landry had for him was perhaps best shown after they had drafted Tony Dorsett in 1977. If you are unaware of it, Coach Landry was pretty rigid about having things his way. The offense and defense were almost entirely of his design and he took great pride in the exactness they required. In training camp and as the first games of the season progressed, Landry was more and more frustrated with Dorsett’s running style which tended to become freelance in the middle of a play requiring precise running lanes. It was Dan Reeves who day by day, week by week convinced Landry that Dorsett’s great skill could be turned loose with a little more depth for vision and more zone on the backside to create cutback opportunities. Among the results were two straight Super Bowl appearances, a championship in ’77, and the Hall of Fame for Dorsett.
Most accounts of Reeves’ career will center on his time as the Denver head coach and the three Super Bowl appearances in a four-year run but will make sure to include that they were all losses. After being let go by the Broncos, he coached both the Giants and the Falcons, winning NFL Coach of the Year honors with both teams. His 1998 trip to the Super Bowl with the Falcons marked the fourth time he took a team to the big game as head coach. But he had to go through quadruple-bypass heart surgery to get there.
There are only two other coaches in NFL history with four Super Bowl losses and no championship. They are both in the Hall of Fame with fewer total wins than Reeves.
I did not get to meet Coach Reeves but I have shared a few brews with his good friend Wade Phillips (Wade was not only his defensive coordinator several times but twice replaced him, as the Denver head coach and as the interim when the Falcons let him go). And as Wade’s dad was famous for saying (among other things), “there are only two kinds of coaches. Them that have been fired and them that are gonna be.” It can be said that the true measure of either man or coach is not just the wins and losses but how each of them is handled. It can be measured by how one moves to the next challenge, and the next, carrying lessons which deepen the next effort.
Among the things I know for sure about Dan Reeves are the strong respect that people whom I respect have for him, the extensive work for the community he and his wife threw themselves into in their home state of Georgia, and that he was a person of deep faith displaying a quiet dignity in all the positive and negative life turns thrown his way.
Without elaboration, I will recall a well-paying consultant job that he quit after two days because of a provision in the final contract he considered insulting to his work ethic. You see, quiet men have pride too. Sometimes it is even stronger. Often times it is quieter because it is also deeper.
I believe that Dan Reeves was an example of both deep pride and principles. I don’t know if he will ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I have faith he will be. I have lived long enough to know that justice is not always (or often) timely. But it exists.
I also know that Dan Reeves was a far better than average NFL player, a great NFL coach, and a really, really good man. His well-earned peace and reward have been granted him in a higher court than any of us sit on.
Continuing on from the second post… The stone point found between bison ribs at the Folsom Site didn’t just establish a new timeline for man’s presence on the North American continent. It presented a new technology to be studied.
The typical Folsom point is between two and three inches, much smaller and lighter than the more familiar Clovis point. The Clovis people primarily used their points for mammoth hunting. These large, slow animals could be closely approached and the large point thrust into them. The bison roaming what became the Great Plains were faster and much harder to get close to. The lighter, thinner points could be launched using the atlatl throwing sticks from a safe distance with enough force to penetrate deep into the wooly animal.
Reproduction Folsom points slung with an atlatl have been tested on beef carcasses and can accurately strike deep into the target from a distance of 50 yards or more, even if hitting a rib. Most of the damage incurred by the weapon happens at the point which can be reshaped at least twice before being discarded.
The skill and precision of the Folsom point makers are greatly admired by modern flintknappers, especially their ability in “fluting” the points. The exact benefits of the “flute” are in dispute. Some believe it helped to make the point even lighter and easier to retrieve from the animal. Others contend that tests do not show the feature increases the effectiveness of the points, so must have some cultural importance that we do not understand.
To “flute” the point, the knapper creates a channel of sorts behind the point running to the end of the stone with one single, exacting strike. The slightest mistake and the entire point is shattered and worthless. This style of point was used for a thousand years in North America, mostly through the central plains from Texas to Canada. Most of the flint and cert used is identified as originating from the Texas Panhandle.
As you can guess the stone knappers of the Folsom people had to be skilled craftsmen important to the survival of their group. There are some who have developed a high level of skill in this modern time, but not many. The best I know is near Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle. I have included a picture of a reproduced Folsom point to show how they were attached to the small shaft propelled from the atlatl. The point in the picture is just over two inches long and just less than one inch across. Few are larger than this.
In later centuries, those native tribes living on the Great Plains who were gifted the horse by the newly arrived Europeans (not by intent) were able to hunt the smaller version of bison with an arrow that is similar. The buffalo arrow used by Plains Indians were short with a narrow attached point that would penetrate deep into the body, past the ribs. These points were mostly made of some sort of metal because it was available either through trade or plunder now. But like the Folsom point, it would glance off ribs and continue into the body until it was a direct, center hit.
The Folsom Site yielded 32 bison antiquus skeletons. For the most part, the heads were piled together since they seemingly had little use to the Folsom people except their lower jaws were missing, indicating that the tongues were taken. The skeletons were all either cows or calves. It is estimated that the killing took place in the fall because of the size of the calves and assuming that these bison’s breeding patterns were the same as seen in today’s bison.
The tailbones are missing from the skeletons which should tell any familiar with later practices of the Plains Indians that the animals were skinned with the tail on and the bone still intact to provide a steady handle by which to drag a raw hide carrying a load of butchered meat.
The speculation is that the meat was cut up pretty well where the animals fell (a thousand-pound carcass makes for heavy moving without the benefit of wheels, horses, or forklifts). A slight dose of common sense (which these or any other people in survival mode have or they don’t make it) would speculate that the organ meats were eaten first, they spoil more quickly and are nutrient-dense. The muscle meats were probably what was butchered and prepared for drying.
One question might be: where did they go from Wild Horse Arroyo?
There is no evidence of a large camp of any type near the site. At the Mountaineer site in Colorado there has been found what appears to be a Folsom campsite with some permanence. Cone-shaped structures of logs were used with stones stacked for a foundation of sorts and there seems to have been at least a year’s worth of artifacts. Some researchers speculate that these hunters at Wild Horse Arroyo migrated to the mountains for the winter. For some (me included) this is highly unlikely. Sub-zero mountains make for bad camping conditions.
The more sensible theory would be both the people and bison followed pretty closely to the migration patterns displayed by the bison of the 18th and 19th centuries. This would mean the animals had just drifted off the grassy mesa tops before a severe weather change. They then would probably follow the Cimarron eastward where there are canyons for protection, grass, live water in almost all the canyons, and the steady drop in elevation making for warmer weather. From there the expanse of the Great Plains is available.
As far as the people themselves are concerned, the question might be: if you have a few thousand pounds of meat to carry without the benefit of animals of burden or the wheel, would you rather carry it uphill or down??
I vote downhill.
And another friend of mine suggested that the river itself could be a vehicle for transporting the meat. A year ago he and another friend of mine constructed a primitive “bull boat” for a reality show and museum. These were constructed from green limbs and buffalo hide and known to be used for centuries even before the Ice Age. One could be pulled along from the bank, making the transport that much easier. There is no physical proof of this at present but it makes some sense.
One point of contention is also how the animals came to be concentrated at the kill site. Dr. David Meltzer of SMU conducted the last excavation at the Folsom Site and favors the notion that the bison were driven into what then was more of a box canyon for an ambush.
If one uses the behavior of the bison today and a couple of centuries prior, the ability to kill several after the first kill is often not unusual. That was a great factor in the success of the 19th century “hide hunters” who almost shot them out of existence. In a herd, bison tend to “bunch up” if a threat presents itself. They are short-tempered critters and especially the bulls can be aggressive. But if a prominent member of the herd is downed, they tend to circle around the animal. They will often hook or push on the downed one to try and get them up. As they “mill,” a hunter with a rifle can sometimes get a “stand” and kill a lot of them. Some of the hunters of the 1870s would carry water to pour over the barrels of their guns when they got too hot from the continual shooting.
They have a great smell (sometimes in more ways than one) but their eyes don’t rate as high. The poorer eyesight is one reason for their short temper but makes for a chance to get within range if the wind is right.
I think it is possible for a group of hunters to have gotten a “stand” if they were able to ambush a small herd, especially if they were setting up the attack in an area when the animals would come seasonally because of the mineral content of the grass or soil. That is the theory held by my friend and to me is more likely than a buffalo “drive.”
Those who have handled buffalo will tell you that you can drive them anywhere they were going anyway. Otherwise, good luck. They are sometimes used by cutting horse trainers for much the same reason. They don’t “sour” like cattle will. They don’t quit trying to beat you and get through you. But that short temper is sometimes hard on the horse!
There are, of course, varied opinions but I believe that massive kills of these bison before the horse culture were rare. They could happen and a few did. My feeling is that the kill at Wild Horse Arroyo was one of those chances that come several years apart.
The largest known death site for bison antiquus is the Hudson-Meng site a few miles from Crawford, NE, where about 500 skeletons have been unearthed. I refer to it as a “death” site because I simply don’t believe that primitive man could kill that many animals even if they got a “stand.” Although there are plenty of varied opinions on the matter, I believe most mass deaths among bison had a natural origin. Even if it is a popular theory or image, the idea of massive amounts of bison being driven off a cliff (for example) makes little sense to anyone who has tried to drive buffalo anywhere. Lighting storms or prairie fires are much more likely, least to my simple mind.
The Crawford site does have plenty of evidence of butchering. But it is more likely that the meat was harvested after a natural event.
As I have said, theories and opinions abound. The only evidence to feed any of them is the bone or stone that has survived thousands of years, leaving all the rest which might add clarity decayed and lost to us. At this point, no eyewitnesses have come forward to verify one opinion over another. None are expected. Radiocarbon dating of the Folsom Site puts the bison kill there about 10,500 years ago.
One of the gifts (or curses) given mankind over the rest of the earthly critters is that they can study their past while contemplating their future. Hopefully, we become practiced enough at both to add wisdom to our own choices. We can hope.
The podcaster interwoven in these last three entries was Clay Newcomb whose podcast is titled Bear Grease and is a part of the Meateater Network.
I was not aware of them before that Wednesday morning and looked them up later to listen to some of their presentations about Daniel Boone and Warner Glenn, the Arizona lion hunter. At this point, they have broadcast two episodes on Folsom and have one more to go.
I have said before I am not much of a podcast listener because each one takes about an hour and I rarely listen to anything that long. But I have seen first-hand that these are sincerely researched and well-written with a balanced approach.
As I have said before, that afternoon Clay’s friend and I were sent to the back of the museum while Newcomb recorded with my friend and Matt. The two podcasters still had to drive back home to Arkansas that afternoon and we were already way off any schedule that might have been envisioned before. After about an hour and half, I was asked if I thought my friend was out of stories yet. I replied something to the effect that if that was the goal they should brought a bedroll and provisions.
“Well, we should have already left.”
“Then we had just better go up there and stop it.”
After about another 30 minutes or so, they were able to make it to the SUV and strike out across the width of Oklahoma for Arkansas and home. They still had to meet with Dr. Meltzer of SMU the next week.
Regardless, if one has any interest in the Folsom Site, if they enjoy thoughtful and honestly done discussion of things outdoors I suggest they give the Bear Grease podcast a try.
Continuing on from the first post… After finally arriving at what has become known as the Folsom Site, there was some discussion about where the actual excavation had taken place, what the “lay of the land” might have looked like at the time of the bison kill and a few other theories connected with it. My friend and Seth gave their varied opinions. As ranch manager, Seth had been present at the last excavation in the 90s and added some insight about that. But if the podcasters expected anything that looked much different from the surrounding several thousand acres, they were disappointed. Remove the chain-link fence, and there is little to hold your interest.
We drove back to where the passengers could pick up their vehicle and follow us to the museum where Matt waited for us. There my friend and Matt sat down with the host of the podcast to record reflections of George McJunkin. The main subject of the podcast was to be the site itself but it is hard to ignore the interwoven story of the remarkable man who is responsible for its discovery. The second member of the podcast team and I retreated deeper in the museum to visit while the interview was conducted (but we were later asked to move even deeper since we had gotten loud enough to be heard in the background).
There is no better authority to consult on the subject than Matt Doherty. He is the self-appointed, faithful guardian of the legacy belonging to the man that his great-great-great-grandfather first hired to break horses in the 1870s. Matt is somewhat remarkable himself. Although that fateful night at the turn toward Branson, CO, robbed him of a great deal of his mobility and what then was considered his future, he has a strong outlook on his life. He lives across the “street” (or road) and a few yards west of the museum in what was the two-story Folsom Hotel which at one time housed several rooms as well as a café and was host to the Bucket of Blood Saloon a few feet to the rear. The hotel also served at times as the town jail since it had a room with no windows where the unsavory could be locked up without escape. It was here that Black Jack Ketchum was taken when first captured. The hotel was also home to George McJunkin during his last days.
Matt has taught himself to draw and paint, studies deeply in several subjects, and will tell you that if the accident had not occurred he would never have devoted himself to the “re-imaging” of the museum to better tell the varied history of this unique region or to help spread the story of McJunkin all the way to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Few people in this world are better at making chicken salad out of chicken [redacted] than Matt. He lives his life with both interest and purpose. It was Matt’s family which two generations back made it a mission to collect stories from both McJunkin and those who had known him so that a book of his life could be produced. There is a picture of McJunkin taken when he was advancing in age. His black face is framed with short, white hair and he is standing with a hand on a porch post. He is still straight and slim. The white-skinned toddler at his feet is Matt’s grandfather.
In 2019, George McJunkin was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Matt Doherty accepted the presentation and spoke in his behave.
McJunkin was Texas-born and a slave at birth. His father was a blacksmith who was allowed to hire-out as he could and so was able to purchase his freedom after a time. As soon as “Shoe-Boy” (as the father was called) had his own freedom, he began saving for his son’s as well. But the War Between the States was to be George’s ticket to freedom.
Approaching his teens, the young slave showed a great ability with horses while more and more of the white hands left for war, leaving work to be done at home. After the war and as Texas cattle headed north for Yankee markets in 1866, George saw the trail drives as not just somewhere that his skills were needed but an arena where he was accepted as an equal as long as he carried his own weight.
Texas cattle drives were hardly polite society. One had to have some hard bark on to fit in or to take the tests that determined if you did fit in. But when the depth of your character and skill could be properly measured, you were an equal. And few were more respected than a sure-enough horsebacker who could get all that any equine had but be as easy on him as possible while doing it. George McJunkin proved to be a cowboy’s cowboy.
George’s first introduction to the Dry Cimarron area probably came as a result of training a set of horses for Gideon Roberds to be trailed north and sold along the Santa Fe Trail. Roberds set up a headquarters east of Trinidad, Colorado. It was said that McJunkin taught Roberds’ two sons (Emmett and Coke) all he knew about breaking horses in exchange for lessons in reading and writing. Old-timers claimed that George told them when he came to that country, he rode to the top of the Capulin Crater (considered the best example of an extinct cinder cone volcano on the North American continent), looked south to the lava bed prairie and then north to the grasslands framing the rim rocks and mesas set off by the hint of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance and he decided he had found his “promised land.”
When he tried to get hired by Dr. Thomas Owen, he was pointed toward a gray mare as a test of his abilities. Although the horse had bucked off everyone who had tried her, George rode her to a standstill and “without laying a spur or whip on her.” He had a job. And a new home.
But it was more than riding that impressed Dr. Owen. George had an active mind and was already an avid reader, fluent in Spanish, and considered the best roper in the country.
Dr. Owen might have had extensive holding along the edge of Johnson Mesa but his main home and practice was in Trinidad, CO, where he had been the city’s first mayor. Before long the former slave boy became the most trusted employee that the former Confederate officer had. When Dr. Owen passed away suddenly in the 1890s, George was entrusted with managing his property and directing the upbringing of his two sons until they were deemed able to run their own affairs.
Among McJunkin’s prize possessions was a telescope given him by an army officer when the cowboy rescued him from ruffians set on robbing him. It was always carried on George’s saddle and its owner began a lifelong study of the stars.
Long before The Flood, stories of McJunkin’s abilities were common in the Hi-Lo country. There was the time he guided 20 cowboys and a cattle herd through a 10-day blizzard to safety. He was responsible for the information that set a posse on the Ketchum gang. As the proud owner of a sheepskin brush jacket in my youth, I was interested to learn that George might well have developed the first one.
After one cold winter ride in the high mesas, he visited with a local sheep raiser and traded for some skins with the wool still on. He then fashioned a coat out of it with the wool to the inside. He then took a deerskin to line the outside and protect the wool from the elements. The coat was long enough to cover the legs and split to the waist in the back so it could be ridden while in a saddle. George was a thinkin’ man!
In addition to a telescope, George had a transom. He was a self-taught surveyor whose skill and word were both trusted enough by all to settle property lines and establish fence lines.
There is much more that I can say about George McJunkin but hopefully you have a sense of the man who rode out to inspect conditions on the Crowfoot after The Flood. When he rode down the sloping south side of Wild Horse Arroyo, he noticed some bones exposed in the sediment of the straight-up north side of the Arroyo They were a little more than 10 feet below the topsoil so had to have been buried a long time. He stepped off to investigate and having once hunted buffalo professionally for a short time, knew bison bones when he saw them. But he also knew these were much larger than they were supposed to be. Among the subjects he routine read on were archeology and paleontology and he knew this had to be important.
In the years to come, George would write several museums and scientists to create interest in his finds. He did not just find bones but also some stone points. He was never able to create the interest that he was sure these items deserved in his lifetime.
As the 1920s approached, George had land of his own and a house outside of Folsom, toward the Capulin Crater, but his health was failing. In the later part of 1921, lighting struck his house and it burned along with almost all his earthly possessions, including several prized artifacts.
George moved into the Folsom Hotel but only lived a short time. In January of 1922, he died in the same building where Matt now lives.
It would be left to a friend of his from nearby Raton, Carl Schwachheim, to finally interest the Colorado Museum of Natural History in George’s find. The bones were identified as what they were but the stone points were not considered valid evidence because they had been removed from their original location. Paleontologists are only interested in bones. But an archaeological (they are interested in evidence of humans) excavation was done in 1926 and two different fluted stone points were found between bison antiquus ribs, changing the accepted history of the North American continent and establishing a whole new culture group for the period toward the end of the Ice Age, the Folsom people.
As we will see later, there can be several opinions and theories about the so-called Folsom Site and what can be gathered about it as well as the people who started it all with that bison kill. But I find little to argue about in regard to the cowboy whose life is a reminder that man should never be a victim of the conditions he finds himself in. The measure of a human is not the difficulties placed in his path but the way in which the quality of his character and mind is used. And in this case, how a curious nature made all those opinions and theories possible as well as left us with a clearer picture of our past, another thread leading backward to give us a deeper sense of what mankind has gone through to arrive in these times with so much gained – and so much to lose.
These stubby fingers are again complaining about too much keyboard time so I will give them a chance to recover and return to the mysteries that still remain for us to argue about concerning that site and those people. It has been suggested that Irish whiskey can do wonders for such fingers if ingested internally. I believe that’s worth a try!
Part III is here.
Several thousand years ago in the region that is today called the Great Plains of the North American continent, some of the humans who roamed and hunted reacted to the natural changes that occurred in the game they relied upon. To successfully hunt the thousand-pound Bison antiquus, a smaller, thinner point that could be propelled with enough force to drive deep into the hairy beast was needed instead of the larger, heavier stone points that were used to thrust into slower animals. Today’s edition of bison (about 75% as large as their ancient cousins) can outrun a horse — every time. What was developed is still a wonder of skill to even modern flintknappers. It was smaller, thinner, and lighter, with a new shape for attaching, and often had a “fluted” middle on one or both sides. Although we can’t say for sure how these stone points were launched, it was almost surely with the use of the atlatl.
These were used in the middle of North America for a thousand years but remained unknown to modern man until the 20th century. These ancient craftsmen were finally “exposed” when an amazingly accomplished ranch manager, born a slave, took note of some huge bones peeking out from the soil of an arroyo and stepped off his horse to investigate.
Only a few weeks past the 113th anniversary of that day of “discovery,” I woke up in time to make coffee and have a cup or two by myself while watching a new day cast an unclouded light on the northeastern corner of New Mexico. To the south, the Capulin crater’s eastern side brightened, as did the two prominent peaks to its west. Ten miles or so due west, the light was just starting to climb up Johnson Mesa. I had driven in a little past midnight and spent the evening in the “bunkhouse,” built several years earlier to house hunters during the fall and parts of the spring. But there would be no hunters this year. My friend was out of the outfitting business, and I would not be guiding for him. But I was there for a few days to help with some matters that were close to deadline.
I headed for the house to start another pot of coffee and probably breakfast for the two of us since it was still a little early for him of late. Old rodeo wounds from years as a pretty good bullfighter woke up slowly these days, and there were no hunters to have out at daylight. A few slow mornings were well deserved, and if he was up, I expected it to be while taking a good, lengthy hot shower. But I was surprised to find him up, almost ready for the day. His long hair was still wet from the shower, and he was braiding it in the Plains Indian fashion he favored. He was already dressed in freshly washed jeans and shirt. His best wool vest hung on the back of a chair.
“We going to town or something?” I half-joked as I began with the coffee.
“We need to meet Matt and some guys doing a podcast down out at the museum. They want to be taken out to the site, and we’ll have to do it.”
I nodded OK and continued with the coffee. From experience, I knew this was not going to be a short affair, and the paperwork that was due in just two days would probably have to be done totally tomorrow. But I had never been to the site in question myself (in fact, few people have in recent years), and I was glad for the chance to visit it.
I knew pretty close to where it was. It had been pointed out to me. As you round the last curve climbing to the top of Johnson Mesa, you get your last full view of the landscape below. “It’s right back there where those three forks are heading into that drainage. You see that kinda white-looking patch on the edge of the cedars way over there? Down from there is where Wild Horse Arroyo is.”
In the beginning of those drainage patterns lies what has been called the most important archaeological find on the North American continent.
As I could have predicted, we were a little late getting to the museum sitting on the corner of what some might consider the only noticeable intersection in “downtown” Folsom, New Mexico. It is a large building, which in its day was both store and bank. It is the keeper of several stories important to the region. Matt and the podcasters were waiting for us. Matt was patient, being as familiar with my friend’s ways as I am. I am not so sure about the podcasters.
We walked in past the handmade sign by the door informing us that “Horses and Dogs not allowed in the museum.” I will admit that my friend was responsible for the perceived need of a sign but will add that the provision concerning dogs is pretty loosely enforced.
Matt is college-educated, just shy of what some consider middle age and, due to a rolled pickup at the junction at Tollgate Canyon where the road to Colorado joins the one following the banks of the Dry Cimarron River into the Oklahoma Panhandle, is confined to a wheelchair and bed instead of managing his families’ ranch holdings. But he is also a faithful keeper of his heritage and that of the area. The building housing the museum and a good bit of the surrounding ranch land bears his family’s name.
The discovery site was on the Crowfoot Ranch, which is now the Crowfoot division of a larger holding, and we were to meet the ranch manager somewhere around the old Crowfoot headquarters. The podcasters jumped in their SUV and followed my truck as we started the trip. Naturally, it did not come off as smoothly as planned. To begin with, my friend had never been to the site from the direction most took. He had left the highway and hiked in from the opposite direction. We had gotten to the old Crowfoot headquarters and not found Seth, the ranch manager. So, my buddy decided to strike out on his own and wing it. I had been through these “adventures” before and had an idea of what the next half hour or so would be like. The podcasters didn’t.
After a few trips over rocks, ditches, and gullies, I realized that those following had stopped about 100 yards behind and were waiting for us to turn back to them. The driver explained, “This is my wife’s car, and maybe we can ride with you while we look?”
So the two jumped in the bed of the truck as we continued the search. The ranch manager was finally found, and he directed us back to a point we had been to before, and from there we would follow him. We had actually been fairly close at one time. When we came to a creek crossing with a steep bank on both sides, I yelled out the window for my passengers to “Take a deep seat” since I didn’t have four-wheel drive on this truck and was to take the entire crossing at a considerably more brisk pace than Seth had done. Luckily, I didn’t lose a soul on the crossing, and in only a couple of hundred yards of weaving between cedars, we were parked in front of a high chain-link fence surrounding the “site.”
The relatively small plot is now owned by the state of New Mexico. The last excavation was done in the 1990s under the direction of Professor David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University. The only thing that would give any indication that this ground had any importance at all is a small ground-level cement marker poured by the Meltzer group and inscribed with a date written with a nail before the cement hardened. It is protected from the elements and roving critters by an old cast iron skillet turned upside down over it.
But before this “discovery,” the debate about human inhabitation of North America centered mostly around a date somewhere between 2,000 to 1,000 years before Columbus’ arrival. Finding a new design of stone point between the ribs of a bison that had been extinct for over 10,000 years changed the history of the continent forever.
But the story of this site is not just about some old bones and a few dead bison. It actually has three parts. And I hope you will be patient with me as I break it down over this and a couple more entries. Each has its own part to the story. They are the flood, the cowboy, and the mysteries of the kill site.
The flood was not the only time that Folsom, NM, flooded. The Dry Cimarron River begins high above the little town around the edges of Johnson Mesa. In those days, the river had a distinctive “horseshoe” bend when it got to the town. That has since been straightened out with a levy that takes what is normally a trickle of a stream past without entering most of the town. But those other floods only filled the streets for a little while.
Things would be different on a hot August day in 1908. It never rained in Folsom that day. But high above the headwaters of the Cimarron, a downpour of 14 inches happened in almost no time at all. A rancher telephoned the local phone operator in town, Mrs. Sarah “Sally” Rooke, to tell her that a wall of water was only a few miles above Folsom and heading that way at high speed. Mrs. Rooke stayed at the switchboard warning people to rush to higher ground until she was swept away herself. Her body was not found until much later, 14 miles down the Cimarron. A local saloon had a number of men sleeping it off in its loft, and the entire building was carried over a mile downstream. It is recorded that the men and most of the whiskey survived. Seventeen human lives were lost that day, but more than 40 people directly gave Sally Rooke credit for saving their lives.
When the Cimarron leaves Folsom, it travels eastward through a network of mesas and canyons. Just to the north lie the flat plains of Colorado. To the south are rolling lava-flow prairies. From the New Mexico line, the river will enter Oklahoma for a short time before crossing into Kansas and then Oklahoma again to eventually join the Arkansas just west of Tulsa. The Dry Cimarron area (so-called since the stream itself seems to disappear and reappear as it works its way toward Oklahoma) was an ideal cattle country. At the time of the flood, more cattle were shipped from Folsom than at any other point along the railroad line connecting Denver and Fort Worth. The flood changed that. But it would be the origin of even more important changes.
When the waters of the flood had receded, the ranch manager of the Crowfoot Ranch saddled up to inspect fences and any other damages. That brings us to the cowboy. I will have to rest these stubby fingers from the beating they have taken from the keyboard but will continue in a day or two. George McJunkin is a man worth knowing!
Part II is here.
If you will allow me to brag a little, I will tell you that despite my clumsy parental performance I have a pretty wise daughter. The other day she was knee-deep in an intense conversation with her young son. Without going into the problem at hand it will be enough to say that the youngster was angry and upset. At that point, Daughter #2 told him, “Right now you go and saddle Gunny and ride for about an hour and come back and we will talk this out”. Then after using a rail on a fence to mount the most dependable roping horse/kid horse on the place, the boy rode off for an hour in the pastures and among the cedars.
After a return the matter was settled, or at least discussed and agreed upon. As she told me about such times in her earlier life, “I could ride Brandy (a Sugar Bar breed mare who could turn on a dime) off for an hour by myself and the whole world felt different”.
We all have things that feed and quiet our souls. They are gifts from a divine hand that created us to be much more than busy creatures hurried by survival. Oh, survival and passion and purpose are meant to be very much a part of our life. In fact, purposeful effort is one of those gifts. Because of those gifts, we don’t just feel hurt and pleasure. Our most meaningful feelings as not physical. They are much deeper than that, much more lasting.
We are in fast-moving and dangerous times. They are angry times. They are times that will require us to rise up and grasp a destiny that we are heir to; or our children, and the world as a whole, will lose something hard-won and rare. Much will, and should, be required of us in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Our role was not supposed to be easy or short.
There is a lot to be angry about. Anger can be a hot motivator. But it is a poor planner. It almost always lacks reason or wisdom. But it can become passion and grasp both purpose and direction.
But first let’s not forget that there is a soul full of quiet, joyous, and passionate possibilities that is at the core of being human.
As desperate as this year in time is, I have a grandson who is playing his first year of varsity football, another grandson who is coaching his first year as a G.A. in college, a granddaughter who will graduate from high school, there are elk beginning to bugle now along the high mesas calling to gather cow herds as the air begins turning to Fall, I have a much younger grandson who is just beginning to find the world around him. These also are the moments large and small we were created for. They are the ones we will remember in our last hours. And they might well be some of the ones that help to define a generation worthy of picking up the shield and carrying on against heavy odds.
Few things quiet me and focus me more than good horseflesh and open isolated country. There are a few who will tell you that as much of a recluse loner as I might be, I love the fight.
But I have said that Liberty must be practiced. And that certainly includes those everyday experiences that remind us why it is so important, how it enriches our lives and the lives of those we cherish most. I have grandchildren who are scattered through almost every stage of life I experienced the first two (or three) decades of life. To be a part of it is a gift to us both and is wrapped in lessons for us both.
There is not a time with a young or seasoned horse that quiet lessons given by steady, weathered but wise voices don’t come back to me. There are still a lot of colts to be started and others to be finished.
Alone with skylines showing no hint of man and winds heavy with the smells of whatever season it might be, I easily remember the stories that I believe important to share and the value I hope they have for any they are passed to. There are still ridges, rimrocks, canyons, creek banks where I feel at home. I hope there always will be.
Our liberties and our republic have never been threatened so much from within. Yes, I well understand we once fought a Civil War. But this Cold Civil War is so very close to tearing away the culture necessary for our survival.
But we each have those things which remind us, strengthen us, and renew us. They are a vital part of our culture as well. Don’t ignore them, don’t miss each and every chance to soak them up.
And then with new steel in the spine and an even brighter sense of purpose engage to protect those same types of moments for all the American generations to come.
“This is not about Freedom or personal choice.”
As usual, I was a dollar short and a day late. Yesterday I posted a picture of Anthony Fauci as the general example of big government tyranny. Then within minutes, the nation was treated to probably the worst presidential speech on record. It was one that left little doubt that our individual judgment and rights were completely subject to the whim of the state.
“This is not about Freedom or personal choice”
Of course, it’s not. At least to you.
But Freedom and personal choice are important to any people who aspire to be citizens instead of subjects. And Truth. Truth also matters. And it is becoming increasingly evident to more and more that there is an elite class of politicos running things right now who never intend to be truthful unless forced to at the last minute.
“This is not about Freedom or personal choice”
There are plenty of deliberate lies to detail and correct just in the short 20 or so minutes in which Biden spoke Thursday evening, just as there are about the Afghanistan fiasco, the inhumane, government-caused crisis on our border, the out-right attack on election integrity, a spending and debt crisis and a few more that threaten all of us. But the biggest lie has to do with tearing down the last wall between us and full-out authoritarian rule.
It is all about Freedom and personal choice. I have said before that our system was designed to continually dance that delicate balancing act between ensuring individual rights and liberty while allowing the necessary evil of government just enough power to protect those rights and a just social order. There are plenty of hair-splitters and chin rubbers who can challenge on different slight aspects of that clumsy explanation but that is the core of it.
Government exists for that Freedom and those personal choices. It does not exist to make medical decisions for individuals. There are doctors who can help with that, doctors of our own choosing.
The most used and successful siren promise of tyrants is safety. That is a consistent lesson of history from the first recorded word till now. Of course, it is a promise that is rarely kept. And when it is, only briefly.
Man was intended to live a full and free life. But he was also intended to be redeemed and saved. The vehicles for all of those have been provided for him. But they require his acceptance. And it also requires his action to maintain them.
Yes, it is not supposed to be easy. It is a daily struggle, a daily challenge. But challenges are when we reach our highest achievements, personally and as groups. The secular world will always be full of threats, dangers, and evils.
Those who promise mere safety are not just lying to you but demanding you stay at the lowest level of personal achievement. They insult both your intelligence and your courage.
This administration has already clearly shown its deep concern for the lives of American citizens. I am sure they would like to distract from that. It is becoming more than apparent that hundreds if not over a thousand Americans were left to fend for themselves in an Afghanistan handed over to medieval terrorists. Just by checking records, there are probably over 30,000 SIV applicants still there and being slaughtered as we speak. Even us with short memories can recall the oh-so sincere pledge to get all Americans and SIVs out. I wonder how safe the majority of those are feeling now. Those who still live.
In July, as I recall, the administration made clear they would not use mandates for vaccines or masks.
These people never intend to tell the truth, ever.
During the president’s dictatorial remarks, he was careful to use “requirements” instead of “mandates”. There must have been a search for terms among the Marxist staffers which they were sure would fool a gullible public one more time.
But the president was concerned that some governors were dismissing vaccines and masks since they are not quite Stalinist enough to declare mandates. It was presented as if these governors were against both simply because they were democratic (see the small “d”) enough to leave it to individuals. In fact, those governors have made it clear that individuals are free to do either. But this president says he is determined to “get them out of the way”. You had better realize that he was not just talking about a few governors. Any citizens who takes their rights seriously against government fiat will always be “in the way”.
As far as that 80 million or so unvaccinated that the president is so concerned about killing the rest of civilization, I wonder how many of them might have a natural immunity already. It is becoming clear in research and actually data from domestic sources (like John Hopkins) and several foreign that natural immunity is far superior to the vaccinated immunity. There seems to be little concern about that from the administration.
The claim that issues with the new vaccines are “settled” is a straight lie. There are both positive and negative issues to consider. To admit that is hardly to be against these vaccines or vaccines in general. It is to admit the truth.
But still the real issue is that this was an unconstitutional speech that blatantly assumes presidential power that does not and should not exist.
These remarks may seem a little disjointed and irregular since I have just had the chance to review the speech a few minutes ago. Anger and disgust make for poor expression. A good stiff drink – or two- would probably help if it were not so early in the day.
I see this as a defining moment for us. This is hardly some school requirement for enrollment with a proven vaccine. This is a decree from “on high” for the whole society with little to justify the mass need for it. In the past, those who seemingly don’t mind their authoritarianism taken a mere spoonful at a time have swallowed accordingly. Now we are nearing the bottom of the bottle and are asked to take a full gulp. How we take this will help define our nature as a people. There have been decades upon decades when we refused to accept such intrusive dictates. It offended our very nature.
Now we will see if our generation has much of that nature left. If we do, a wide-scale “resistance” and refusal should result. It should not matter what political party one has followed in the past, how one feels about these vaccines or vaccines in general, what you believe about masks or how you part your hair. It is about one’s natural instincts about authoritarianism, liberty, and the role of both government and the individual.
We were founded by an imperfect people who had a vision of what those roles could and should be. Wrapped in that vision was a realization that for man to reach his full potential he should believe there are things more important to his true existence than mere safety. They knew that the vision plotted a difficult and even dangerous course. But they also believed in the ability of free men to demonstrate firm resolve and iron will when necessary and to master their own destiny.
It is a time to decide to what and who we will willingly bend a knee and bow a head. It should never be government.
Ok, I’m decided that it really ain’t that early in the day after all!
There are so, so many unworthy candidates. But for this disgraceful distinction, I have chosen (for the moment) Saint Anthony Fauci. Today, all can be sure that he is a straight-running liar who has helped to put millions in America and worldwide at risk. Hundreds of thousands of his countrymen are dead, and millions over the globe. And at least from February 2020, he has used his position in a bloated, arrogant bureaucratic leviathan to distract the public with one false claim after another. It has been classic CYA from the beginning.
You see, it has become pretty well accepted now that the COVID-19 did originate from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is also now clear that Fauci did help to illegally fund gain-of-function research relating to bat viruses at WIV. It is clear thanks to around 900 documents now available thru a Freedom of Information Act filing by The Intercept.
Actually, The Intercept (a left-wing publication) began the filing not to catch Fauci in his lie but to discredit Senator Rand Paul who had questioned the good doctor under oath. The material has now been released and the effect will be the opposite of what The Intercept intended. There are times when the left actually starts believing their own lies it seems. Now it is clear that Fauci lied under oath to Congress, a felony with a five-year punishment attached to it. Of course, I am sure he will never serve any time on the multiple counts.
Since February of 2020, Fauci has worked hard trying to discredit any claim that the virus came from the Wuhan lab and instead came from the wild and some meat markets miles away. He has jumped from one distracting remedy to another, hoping for a complete cover-up. There was reliance on masks and lockdowns which have never worked in man’s history. There was “flatten the curve” non-sense to introduce them which turned into another month or another year, etc. Over 20 months, he has taken almost every possible position on every precaution one can imagine. Always changing but always authoritative.
Well, that’s not completely true. He never pushed for easily acquired, relatedly affordable treatments. In fact, he openly discounted them as they appeared from the field where doctors who actually treat patients found formulas that seemed to help.
But that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Back in the 80s and 90s when he became the face of the campaign against AIDS, he had put most of the effort (and federal funding) into vaccine-type research and left many promising treatments fending for themselves. There were many who felt he was far too fond of such research which, if successful, would produce high-priced drugs with patents held by companies that Fauci seemed closely connected to.
Like then, there were several highly creditable voices from the medical community who questioned our course. Or, at least, offered actual field experience that indicated another path that could be tried. But both bureaucratic despots and media clones rejected them off-hand and marginalized them.
As many may already know, Dr. Fauci, as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is the highest-paid employee of the federal government making just barely south of a half-million dollars annually. The National Institutes of Health does have a Department of Bioethics which is the final arbiter of the ethical implications of Anthony Fauci’s funding decisions and experiments. It is headed by Ms. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Christine Grady.
So, how did we get to the point that every-day medicine affecting so many people could be controlled by a “doctor” who has, by what I can find, never seen a patient as a practicing physician and the studied opinion of highly experienced and respected researchers and field physicians be dismissively waved aside by that same “doctor” who has spent half a century worming his way through layers of governmental CYA? Don’t worry, he is hardly the only example.
In fact, almost every phase of our lives can be ruled by someone much like him. There are bloated agencies controlling agriculture, education, commerce, transportation, energy production, and just about everything else. And yes, most have some type of police power and the firepower to back it up. There may be a few who would question why the Department of Education needs armed SWAT teams under their command. But I suspect there are even fewer who realize they actually exist.
Way back just past the turn of the 20th century, an assassin’s bullet and some really bad medicine passed the presidency on to the First Roosevelt. Rough Rider Teddy was the first of the “progressive” presidents although he would seem mild compared a few of the later models. He saw himself as the chosen protector of all the people, much like a patrician of ancient Rome looking out for the plebs, and the Constitution as a restraint to be avoided if necessary. He projected a robust air and helped to set a tone for times to come. Despite his bluster, the most damage he did to our system was when he actually lost a presidential race.
When he tried to return to the White House by running a third-party candidacy in 1912, he enabled the election of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a relative newcomer to politics but had built an academic career around trashing the Constitution and our system of divided government. The heyday of “government planning” was just getting its wind for liftoff that would take us in a new direction.
The Great Depression brought us the Second Roosevelt, a Fabian socialist, who would create a series of “alphabet agencies” to manage the “recovery” of almost every phase of American life. None actually did any of that, but a die had been cast.
There is little need to trace the expansion from New Deal programs through The Great Society all the way to the Build Back Better sideshow. Each installment promises a new tomorrow but brings mostly increased regulation backed up by raw power and other people’s money.
That is what each and every subsidy is. Other people’s money. There is never any doubt that it is welcome and often given at the right time to create more dependence. And something else always comes with it, regulatory strings on rights and choices.
Our system of governance was created to dance a delicate balance between giving the necessary evil of government just enough power to protect individual rights without giving it too much. We passed that mark a long time ago. The question now is how strong are we going to be now that taking back that power is needed for our next generations to know the life that should be their heritage.
The bureaucratic rats such as Fauci have power in great part because of endless federal funds created by an indebtedness that will crush our economy and our children’s future. Few risk having NIAID grant money cut off by publicly disputing Facui. So those who do raise their voices find themselves abandoned normally, even when silently supported.
But this is the model throughout the federal leviathan. Public funds flow down determining policy in education, agriculture, transportation, etc. For the most part, those policies are approved agenda items for the continual track toward a more complete tyranny.
So a life-long bureaucratic rat can actually send public funds to a sworn enemy of the United States to aid in research that can only create harm (or possible biological weapons) in violation of federal law and it hardly gets a ripple in the news cycle. But he can still step forward on the weekend news and proclaim that all our school children should wear a mask despite most data that deems it pointless.
Anthony Fauci is a villain. But as bad as he is, he is not the ultimate villain. He is merely an example of what is rendered from big, unchecked government which thrives when citizens are meek, compliant, unquestioning, silent, and inactive.
For a while now, I have been attending what is referred to as a “cowboy church”. That is not an announcement of any great change of direction on my part. I have actually attended churches of one kind or another all my life and none have caved in from my presence, so far. I believe a couple might have cracked a little but all have stood throughout.
It is a larger group than I normally seek out but even my highly dominant hermit gene has felt comfortable there. As a friend of mine of similar background observed to me, there might not be that many “cowboys” there in the sense we were raised but there is a goodly cross-section of sincere souls of every stripe who delight in a straight-forward message not gift wrapped in directionless ceremony and pre-approved doctrine. It is genuine. And with a new covered arena and several events in it weekly, it is smelling a little more cowboy all the time. Even if most there might not realize you measure the leg length of your jeans by where the bottoms strike the spurs when the foot is actually in a stirrup, not how it looks on a dance floor or just standing around.
The minister (or preacher if you prefer) only has a high school diploma to hang on his wall. You don’t hang real-life experience or studied conviction on a nail. His beard comes to about the third button on his shirt and yeah he has a tat or two. He has also fought in the ring, been an Army Ranger, a police sergeant, and traveled into the darker reaches of another continent to not just share a message but to refine it with new experiences.
All that is said to refer back to the very beginning of the Great Scare which began in the early days of 2020 and quickly grew into a blind “lockdown” with little defined purpose other than locking down.
Without dialing back to get an exact date, it was around the first of April, deep into the night when the minister made a decision. He called some of his support staff and they met at the church building, directly in front of the tall, wide double doors through which everyone has to pass. The pins were removed from the hinges and the doors taken down. The large wooden slabs were then carried to the gravel parking lot and set on fire in the darkness.
Despite the image some may be forming in their head, this was, for the most part, a drama-free event, not a media event. The services were still available on a live Facebook feed for any who wished to stay home, those who chose to sit in the parking lot in the safety of their cars or trucks could listen on an FM signal. But the opening into God’s House (as seen by this congregation) would remain open to all with no possibility of being closed to any. A vital connection to our purpose, direction and character as a free, self-governing people was symbolized by the ashes in the parking lot and the wide, unobstructed entry.
I have written here often about the culture of Liberty so uniquely woven into our Founding. I have said that Liberty requires order and responsibility, not chaos and license. The beginning of that is a distinct moral order. It is the seed, the beginning foundation of Liberty.
The foundation of our view of government, its purpose and its daily function is based in the Judeo/Christian creed and we cannot succeed without it. It is from this tradition that each person is seen not a member of any tribe or sect but as a single individual with their own unique place in this world and the creation which houses it. It is from this tradition that the sanctity of the individual was first injected into human society. This is the source of all human rights.
Ours was the first government to declare human rights to be universal for all individuals and define government’s purpose as securing those rights for all. The source of those rights was made clear. They were from Nature’s God, the Creator.
The tradition of imago Dei (image of God) meant that every person had a touch of the divine and a special worth that was far beyond anything that secular governance could grant. Each person, not some indistinctive member of some group or tribe, had the divine stamp of their Maker. Their life, their property, their work was to be respected. It is because of the individual and personal nature of the God/man relationship each and every life is endowed with the right of self-determination.
Our society, our government is centered on the individual. It is an extension of the relationship between God and man in the Judeo/Christian tradition. God deals with individuals singularly. The greatest gifts God has for man are redemption and salvation. They are personal, one-on-one gifts and can be rejected, ignored or accepted. The children of Nature’s God have free will. They are lovingly given the dangerous right to be the captains of their own destiny.
Our national experiment had the same vision for man’s secular journey. For the first time in his history, he would be allowed to govern himself not by the force or grace of a ruling government but by the natural rights given him by a power beyond any mortal institution.
But for a society to succeed in governing itself, it has to have a moral code that touches the whole society. It needs a moral order which teaches each of us how to govern ourselves individually. As the Framers finished our Constitution and presented it to a still loosely bound nation many of them expressed that only a people with virtue could make it work.
The secular and spiritual inheritance of the American Character is about the growth and fulfillment of the human spirit. The secular half of that heritage rests on the belief that only in Liberty with its rewards and challenges can man come closest to his potential on earth. That and all other rewards of secular human Liberty begin with the moral order. It is a divine order.
Before this, man’s history had been mostly cyclical, moving from one circle of power, destruction, and struggle to another. With spiritual purpose that sighted in on distinct, divine promises the American history became linear. It was pointed toward a continuing growth and combined fulfillment of an unlimited potential. You see Liberty requires direction, purpose. It is not just about survival today. It is much more about tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. It is about opportunity, growth, and fulfilling potential. That is why the “pursuit of happiness” is a right. Not pleasure, but the pursuit of purposeful fulfillment hopefully moving closer and closer to it as responsible Liberty is practiced.
One of the lies used to weaken our republic is that there has to be a “wall of separation” between the government and religion. Nothing could be farther from the intent of the Founders/Framers. They did not envision a government free from the moral order of Nature’s God. They wished for religion to be free from government. In fact, religion is superior to government. Therefore, religion was left to the individual, not any government.
But for governments to remain useful in their protection of natural rights, they must remain within the Natural Order, the divine order. It is the duty of government to preserve that order or the society will fall back into the selfish and unproductive cycles of the past.
In a world filled with evil, as our secular one is, morality must inform conduct. And wisdom is a necessity. The Founders/Framers did not exclude eternal wisdom from government. They sought it and embraced. They saw Christ’s Church not as the mortal enemy of the state but of malfeasance and a guardian against its practice.
Faith and religion are the strongest pillars upholding the core of any great society, the family. When any government is placed above faith and family, tyranny has already begun. Governments are but institutions created by men. Faith must first be based in principles. Those principles are the basis for any lesser faith to be placed in men or their institutions.
An honest study of our national history will show that every positive turning point in that history has been prefaced by a religious revival of some sort. One clear example involves the question of slavery which gave us one of our darkest moments. The movement toward abolition was a religious one. The question was not completely settled in the summer heat of Independence Hall as the Constitution was pieced together over a long string of debates, even with many of the slave-holder Framers wanting a way to break with the institution. But the document did have the seeds for the destruction of slavery. The Framers, being mortal men, sowed those seeds and left the bitter harvest to others.
But almost as soon as the Constitution was ratified, an abolitionist feeling grew so that state by state did away with something that has been an accepted practice of mankind since recorded history. In fact, it still is legal in half of the world’s nations right now. The development was not one of government but of the church. The moral charge to give equal dignity and liberty to all made in the image of Nature’s God was the driving force that quickly changed more than half of the nation to be “free states” and forced upon government the moral duty it had had all along. Great Britain and the United States were the first nations in history to ban slavery and the United States was the first to ban both slavery and the slave trade. The driving force for this in both countries was the Christian church.
But that is just one example and I hardly intend to cover them all. But it would suggest that the surest way to have a “Rebirth of Freedom” is for a sincere spiritual revitalization to occur.
The original cause of fallen individuals and nations is to assume human plans can supplant those of God, the brazen belief that the morality of the natural order can be improved upon or bent in some way to reflect more of man than of God. I certainly don’t have the time or space to put down all the ways in which that natural moral order has been systemically attacked over the last century. I have probably bored you long enough.
But a simple review of those basic natural rights and the most positive ways in which they can be expressed in human society will help you to understand how the times we seemingly are trapped in have become so very perilous. The destruction of innocent life (abortion), the rejection of necessary, natural roles, redefinition of marriage, dissolution of property rights, blurring the lines between gender, allowing the dignity of work and its rewards to be practically abandoned and a dozen other examples are hardly Liberty. They are rejections of the Natural Order and malpractice of any government that allows it. They are even more destructive abuses of government than any tax on tea. They are actually rejections of Liberty. For those who practice them, Liberty is probably the last thing on their mind.
Man has that gift of free will. But he is not freed from the consequences of his choices or his behavior. I would refer back to the riots of summer 2020 which reached from coast to coast. Those rioters might have been chanting something about liberty or rights but that was probably the last thing on their mind. They were destroying rights. The right of property for those whose buildings were burning, the right of expression for those shouted down and even the right to life for those beaten and threatened were all being cast aside by the rioters. Free will is about choices. There are both natural consequences and natural rewards for those choices. It is our government’s clearly stated role to preserve the natural rights and natural order for all. The growth of all those rejections of the Natural Order mentioned above and allowing the open violations of rights during the riots are the failure of a weak, corrupted, selfish, cowardly, and far too comfortable political class that has abandoned its purpose.
There are moments in our history both as mankind and as Americans when a sudden turn is demanded. The failure to make that turn results in a destruction that requires a faithful rebuilding. If our Liberty is lost, due to our own failures, the only real path back to it will have to begin with Faith in the divine hand and its order.
But we must always remember that Faith and Liberty come before government. For century upon century, governments ruled men by way of force and fear. For those who would rule us again in that manner, the surest course is to tear down Faith and grow fear. Liberty sometimes can actually be a burden to the weak of spirit and the fearful. Alexander Hamilton observed that fear was, indeed, the tool most used “to destroy civil and political rights.”
Besides fulfillment Faith offers courage. If Faith is real, courage will always be required since true Faith demands action. Before the birth of Christ, Cicero who was struggling to keep the Roman Republic from becoming the Roman Empire believed that, “A man of courage is also full of Faith”.
Cicero paid with his life to restore the Roman Republic but failed. But within a generation, the Christian Church began a slow but sure reordering of human society and eventually was a founding stone in a different republic with a much clearer, higher vision.
This moment for this republic is a dark one. But being of simple mind, the coach in me, the horse trainer in me always goes back to fundamentals – to foundations. And the very first foundation stone of our identity is Faith and the Natural Order given us by the Creator. Faith and Liberty both begin in the spirit. Neither survive long in the timid and fearful. Both require, demand action. Both have to be lived or they wither.
There are many things needed for our political revitalization. But the very first, the most vital and fundamental thing is a spiritual revitalization.
You will be glad to know that the front doors of that church were replaced long before April spring turned into winter. And to this point, the whole structure itself has stood up to my presence on an almost weekly basis. But the openness symbolized by the door-less entry says that at least here there will be no lock between anyone and that vital liberty. Perhaps we all need to go even a step farer and walk through that opening, reclaim our heritage of ordered liberty and know once and for all that truly fear is a “liar”.