America the Beautiful: From Sea To Shining Sea
For two months they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, in search of freedoms and opportunities denied them in the land of their birth. Immigrants all, they were an interesting mix of religious zealots, criminals, adventurists and treasure-seekers. Ordinary people most definitely, they took extraordinary measures to find that which they sought, and in the process gave birth to a new country.
Rebels? I doubt any of them would consider themselves to be a rebel, but seen from the vantage point of time, rebels they indeed were. Adventurers? I doubt that adventure was foremost in their minds as they boarded the 100-ft sailing ships and headed west. The Great Unknown awaited them, and apprehension and fear had to be their companions on that journey. Would they even make it across that great ocean, and if they did, could they survive in an untamed country teeming with mysteries and challenges?
We will never know for sure, but travel they did, and upon arrival they set about the business of surviving. Forests needed to be conquered, villages raised, and businesses established. As time went by, the villages grew, the commerce flourished, but always the eyes looked west, and the imaginations of thousands now wondered about the greatness that could be.
“WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT”
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, a lovely concept, but one that needed to be paid for with blood. It seems that most revolutionary concepts must be paid for dearly, and this one was no exception to the rule.
More forests cleared, more obstacles overcome, pushing west through the Appalachians and spreading the wings of liberty, taking flight towards the Mighty Mississippi. Liberty for all? Depends on your definition of course, but the theory was there, and with time, implementation would happen. Remember, revolutionary concepts must be paid for dearly. Value is not always measured in dollars and cents.
Fur traders navigated the deep and muddy waters, new businesses were established, new wars fought; this new country, founded on shaky ground, was setting permanent roots and the world was taking notice. Nothing could stop the progress of this upstart; or so it seemed. Perhaps the upstart had some old business that needed to be taken care of, some re-defining of those revolutionary concepts.
“IT IS WELL THAT WAR IS SO TERRIBLE”
A true Southern gentleman said those words as he looked out over the battlefield, strewn with the dead and wounded. All families argue, and so it was with this new family, an argument that threatened to divide and slay the upstart forever.
This fight could not be negotiated. There was only one way for it to end, and the cost would be the lives of hundreds of thousands of future explorers, doctors, clerks, and teachers, all descendants of the originals bearers of those sacred words and the sacred trust.
Clean up the battlefields, shake hands and move forward. There was still much country to explore and conquer. Go West young man! The Mississippi is just a geographical feature, never intended to be the physical bars of a jail. Cross that Mighty River and never look back. It’s time to find out what kind of courage you really have. The Great Plains are before you, flat, desolate, forbidding, and inhabited by Indian tribes who have no desire to share with you. Go West and spread the word, that all men are created equal! Go West!
No trees here; no mountains, either, but oh, that grassland! Waving in the constant winds, swaying to a rhythm of time eternal, promising a fresh start for anyone strong and brave enough to try. Push back against the obstructions, natural and human, and keep moving west. Follow those rivers, the Missouri, the Platte, the Red and the Arkansas, and stake a claim for your family. Build more towns, keep the commerce going, it’s our destiny now, the Manifest Destiny, we were meant to conquer and explore.
See the bison! Millions of them, blotting out the sun, roaming the amber waves of grain, holding onto their place, ancient guardians of a land about to change. Symbolic for sure, because there is no room in our plans for the ancient ways. This is all about destiny, folks, and we need to keep pushing west.
But wait! What lies ahead?
PURPLE MOUNTAIN MAJESTY
Now we’ll test your mettle, boys! Let’s see what you are made of! You thought the Appalachians were mountains? Think again because in front of you stands 300 miles of back breaking, ball busting, widow-making stone. This is your Manifest Destiny, boys, so let’s see if you have what it takes.
Yep, there is gold in them thar hills, and beaver pelts for them fine English gentlemen, but you better want it bad enough. Men like Bridger, Coulter and Smith have led the way, and missionaries to keep them women-folk in a prayin’ mood, but make no mistake about it, this is no land for the weak.
Push west, dammit, and let the chips fall where they will. Fly that flag, fight the good fight, walk across those damn mountains, because this country can’t be held back.
Wagons follow, cattle are hustled to market, and here comes the Iron Horse…make way, bison…make way, Indians….got no time for your bellyaching, this is progress and nothing holds back progress!
Up, over and through those 300 miles, it’s all downhill now, and look what awaits us….the Golden Land!
My Thoughts On The Legacy We Leave
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The choice is ours what kind of legacy we will leave after our deaths.
FROM SHORELINE TO SHORELINE
There she is, boys, the Pacific Ocean, and ain’t she beautiful? Get those towns built and hurry; the damn British and Spanish think they can horn in on what is obviously ours. God wants it and what God wants He gets. Send those ships out; load those trains; bring back more people. We got room! We got lots of room, and any man who can’t make it out west just ain’t much of a man.
Sure there are some deserts here but no problem. Dam up those rivers; get that water working for us cuz’ we have a job to do. Cut down those forests….and those over there….this country needs wood and we aim to please. Fish by the millions; get those nets in the water and let’s haul them in.
Hear that sound? Sawmills are buzzing, smokestacks are huffing, families are growing and Lordy, this is fine land. Don’t forget to bring the Bibles, and the law books, and fly the red, white and blue from every storefront. This is America, and this is our land, and by God you can either love it or leave it! Let the word go forth, from this day forward, that this is America, and we have a collective destiny.
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WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We can’t go west any longer, so now where do we go? Manifest Destiny, baby, so let’s spread our roots and see if we can’t persuade some others about how great our country and doctrine are.
There seems to be a little resistance but hey, if it’s worth having it’s worth fighting for. Find a way to persuade them because, after all, this is America! We stand for freedom! We stand for equality! It should be obvious to everyone that our way is the best way, so persuade them! There’s no need to always fight; give them some bread and butter and they will see the light. Let them eat from the Golden Tree of Liberty and they will sign right up!
So where do we go from here? Space? Been there, done that, no longer interested! Overseas? Been there, done that, no longer interested! When explorers run out of sites to explore, what can they do? When rebels run out of causes to fight for, what should they do? When adventure and spirit have been diluted by the passage of time, what will WE do?
Over four-hundred years ago they came to these shores, in search of a new life. They carried with them hope….they carried with them courage….they carried with them a vision. They were our ancestors, immigrants all, and their blood flows through our veins. Their legacy is now ours. What will we do with that legacy?
P.S. To the reader: yes, I took liberties with the timeline with regards to the Civil War. It flowed better this way and it was not intended to be a history lesson. Thank you for allowing me some creative leeway.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)