A ninety-five year old guy died of cancer in an Ohio hospital a few days ago. Seems like a rather expected thing. So why all the fuss? I guess you almost have to have gone through those farcical exercises of hiding under your school desk to understand.
Did we really believe such actions would save us from atomic bombs? Maybe so, but it is hard to relate now to those Cold War fears and lack of hope.
After we lost a quarter of a million military personnel in World War II and fifty-eight thousand more in Korea America was about warred out. But the Soviet Union and “Red” China still loomed over us.
When Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in 1957 we did not have a space program that could get off the ground. Then in April of 1961 our C.I.A. stumbled its way into the disastrous Cuban Bay of Pigs Invasion. This was followed by the closest the world has come to blowing ourselves up during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
America was tired, back on our heels and scared. We were in the crosshairs of enemies on several sides and at a crossroads of ennui. What we needed was what the Greeks needed during the Trojan War. We needed an Achilles to inspire us, a hero whose confidence, ability and bravery could take our minds off of our fear and fire us with a will to win. Enter John Glenn.
This Midwestern, small town, normal sized unassuming product of the Great Depression, World War II, Korea and the Cold War climbed aboard an exploding cannon and rode it around the Earth less than one year after Gagarin thrilled the world and sent us under our desks.
To those of us who lived through the Cold War John Glenn represented the ability to fight back. So when Senator Glenn appeared with Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy at the Indiana University Auditorium on April 24, 1968, we students who packed the place to boo Kennedy for running against Gene McCarthy turned into hero worshipers when John Glenn appeared.
That’s what a true hero brings out, gratitude and respect. If John Glenn thought Bobby was okay, then he was okay with us. Some might say we were fickle; I say we were converts.
A national hero is an extremely rare person. Adrian Peterson is a great football player and Madonna is a great entertainer, but to call them heroes is to miscomprehend the term. As commentator Charles Krauthammer said, we may have had only two true national heroes in the last one hundred years, Charles Lindbergh and John Glenn. That’s why the old guy’s passing is such a big deal.
My great friend from our days at Indiana University, Dr. Walter Jordan, has an eclectic bent and a background in science. Over the years he has patiently striven to exposit for me numerous scientific phenomena. Occasionally I get it. However, even though I began college with the goal of defeating the Soviet Union in the space race, reality sat in during my freshman physics class.
It was not my fault that physics and I fell out of love when I was an eighteen-year-old freshman at Oklahoma State University. It was O.S.U.’s fault for seating the students alphabetically which resulted in my sitting right next to Dana Darlene Reno who was not only a fellow student but also Miss Oklahoma 1961. Somehow my mind never quite focused on the exciting mysteries of space and time. As for Miss Reno, I am fairly certain her ability to concentrate was not similarly impacted.
Regardless, it turned out that the formulation of sentences suited my abilities better than the formation of formulas. English and psychology were substantially less confounding to me than cascading atoms. However, my friend Walt has never given up hope that the light of scientific discovery might seep through my dark layers of linguistics. In fact, his most recent effort to lift the veil from my frontal lobe involved human speech and evolution. For Christmas Dr. Jordan sent me a copy of Tom Wolfe’s new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which points out that Charles Darwin’s claim that Natural Selection is the cosmogonism for the human race is disputable.
Darwin dearly wanted his theory to be the “Theory of Everything” (that’s the definition of cosmogonism) when it came to Homo sapiens. However, according to Tom Wolfe’s book, not only does Natural Selection not explain everything in Man’s development, Darwin was not even the first to have the idea. Wolfe posits that Darwin usurped the theory of Evolution from Alfred Russell Wallace and then spent the rest of his life, Darwin’s, trying to justify his chicanery.
The real problem for Darwin and numerous others such as the contemporary guru Noam Chomsby, was and is language. If Natural Selection is the total answer to Man’s rise from amoeba to atomic power, there should be gradations of speech such as from apes to humans; there are not says Wolfe.
Well, Gentle Reader, I know you might prefer, as did I, to daydream about things other than the lack of evidence for the progression of speech from specie to specie to us. If so, blame Walt. He is the one who sent me the book. I only read it because Peg threatened to have me clean the attic if she caught me with any idle time.
Christopher Columbus commanded three ships: the Niña with 20 men, the Pinta with 26 men, and the Santa Maria with 41 men. There were no women. Chris landed in1492 in what we now call the Bahamas. He thought he had reached his goal of the Indies.
That group of Pilgrims who landed in what they hoped was northern Virginia was composed of 102 passengers. While there were women on board only 41 adult males signed the Mayflower Compact in November 1620. The Mayflower Compact set forth their original destination: “[A] voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia”.
Half the passengers of the Mayflower died during the harsh northern winter of 1620-21. The main men in charge were William Bradford, Myles Standish, Edward Winslow, John Carver, William Winslow and John Alden. No women had any say in navigation from England to America.
Had the Mayflower landed in Virginia instead of Massachusetts it is unlikely so many passengers would have expired due to the weather and lack of food. A slight turn to the left while still out to sea could have resulted in a landing in a more temperate and hospitable clime. On the other hand, as the Jamestown settlors of Roanoke, Virginia experienced, the locals in Virginia were less hospitable than those who saved the Puritans of Plymouth, Massachusetts, some twenty years later.
Of course, the Wampanoag Native Americans who saved the lives of the Plymouth Bay colonists may have eventually experienced the realization of the adage, “No good deed goes unpunished”. They were, at least, invited to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621.
The Mayflower compact set the proper tone of America’s democratic ideals. It was a solemn commitment to, “… combine ourselves together in a civil body politic” and to, “ … adhere to future laws as are just and equal … for the general good of the Colony”.
President George Washington signed a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 recommending a commemoration on the first Thursday of each November. President Abraham Lincoln, during the midst of the Civil War, 1863, set a national day of Thanksgiving for the fourth Thursday in November and Congress in 1941 established a national day of Thanksgiving as a federally recognized holiday.
The events that have transpired since 1492 and 1620 due to two incidents of missed directions give those of us of the male persuasion great credence when those on the distaff side claim we do not know where we are going. It is not so much that we may be lost, it is that we have great confidence we will eventually arrive at a better place.
Funerals are a good thing. Weddings are a good thing. Naming ceremonies, graduation exercises, retirement parties and many other commemorations and celebrations distinguish us from everything else. There are sound reasons why for thousands of years humans have celebrated life and honored death.
It may be only a coincidence that Peg’s and my dear friend Ida June “Judy” Taylor and James V. Taylor share a common name. But when we attended the celebration of Judy’s life and accomplishments the lyrics of James Taylor’s song, “Rockabye Sweet Baby James” reminded me of why we take note of such things as the end of life as well as all the significance of what that life means to others who remain:
“There’s a song that they sing
When they take to the highway,
A song that they sing when they
Take to the sea,
A song that they sing of
Their home in the sky….”
Judy and her husband, James E. Taylor, made important contributions in many areas but, as most of us, they would likely point to their five children, ten grandchildren and twenty-eight great-grandchildren as their proudest legacy.
At Judy’s funeral her family and friends had the opportunity to point to her with the same love and pride. She accomplished much and re-entered the soil after a full and happy life.
The funeral rites for this proud member of the Osage tribe were a combination of Native American and White culture. Judy lived fully in both worlds. Having been born in 1928 she witnessed much of what was good and bad in the changing relationship of Native Americans and those who forced the changes. She remained true to her roots while not allowing bitterness to interfere. Her many years of service in the preservation of the history of Osage County’s multiethnic culture attests to her positive view of life.
Ceremonies are a major way we maintain our cultural heritage. Judy’s funeral rites included homage to her tribal connections and her full participation in the contemporary society encompassing it. Her Catholic faith seamlessly intertwined with Osage rituals such as the presence of eagle feathers and family members individually acknowledging Judy’s oneness with nature by reverently dropping clods of dirt into her final resting place.
When we take the time and make the effort to celebrate someone’s life and contributions we truly differentiate ourselves from all other species. We know we cannot change the ultimate outcome. That is not what we are attempting to do. However, we can honor our friends and family and when we do we also raise ourselves. For when we sing a paean to honor others, as the motto of Haskell Indian Nations University proclaims, “We Make Our Ancestors Proud Today!”, and we reaffirm that our own lives have meaning.
Forty-four miles west of my hometown Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in Ponca City a bronze statue honors the spirit of the women who were vital to America’s western expansion. This Pioneer Woman is depicted striding valiantly forward while leading her child. Her faith and fortitude shine forth.
As a child growing up in Pawhuska I remember staring at the statue with my mother, a true pioneer herself, as she recalled how she and her mother had arrived in Oklahoma before there was an Oklahoma and before women could vote. They came in a covered wagon. Women pioneers were and still are the best America has to offer.
In between Ponca City and Pawhuska lies the heart of the Osage Indian Nation and the Drummond Ranch. It is a beautiful expanse of tall waving prairie grasses. Nearby, thousands of buffalo (American bison) roam freely on the Nature Conservancy’s thirty-nine thousand acre Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. The Drummond family has operated their ranch for over a hundred years. And about a hundred years ago the immigrant from Scotland who started the ranch was operating a general store he named the Osage Mercantile Company on the corner of Main Street and Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska. On October 31, 2016 Ree and Ladd Drummond reopened it to the pleasure and wonderment of thousands of the new Pioneer Woman’s fans.
If you do not watch The Food Network on television you may not have heard of The Pioneer Woman. However, when Ree published her first cookbook my sister, another pioneering woman, bought a copy of it and gave it to my wife, Peg, for Christmas. It was the beginning of a true FAN-atic following of Ree’s televised life by Peg. Then when it turned out my old friend and classmate, Chuck Drummond, was Ladd’s father and Ree’s father-in-law, Peg was near euphoria. Peg found this out at my 50th high school reunion when Ree hosted the class for breakfast at the Lodge on the Drummond Ranch in 2011.
Now, I truly enjoyed the maple-glazed cinnamon rolls and buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy but, since I had never, until then, known about the gracious lady and wonderful cook called “The Pioneer Woman”, I just saw it as a chance to reminisce with Chuck. Peg on the other hand was like a teenager next to Brittany Spears.
Fast-forward six years to the gala opening of Ree’s new Mercantile Building. It reminded me of my first visit to Disneyland in 1963. It was exhilarating, fun and very tasty. In the two days my family and several thousand people from Alaska to Alabama bought cookbooks, merchandise and copious helpings of great food Pawhuska was changed forever and for the better.
If you are looking to find the Old West in new clothes, buffalo, Native Americans, cowboys, good food and gracious southwestern hospitality, you might want to go visit both of The Pioneer Women who inhabit the old Cherokee Strip of northeastern Oklahoma.
As a graduate of Indiana University I felt I should do my part in helping IU raise money by selling naming rights to school properties. You may have heard IU recently renamed the Bloomington Law School and the basketball gymnasium for $35 million and $40 million respectively. These events transpired pretty much in dark rooms at midnight. I suggest if this publicly funded institution wishes to maximize its pay for play naming game it should establish a schedule of prices and let everyone know how and for how much they may honor themselves by having their names pasted on university assets. Let’s open the bidding.
First we must establish how much Indiana University costs Hoosier taxpayers, then set relative values for selling off its pieces. The state of Indiana established IU in 1820 and has funded it with tax revenues each year. For fiscal 2015-2016 Hoosiers provided $3.27 billion dollars for all the state’s IU campuses. That gives us a reference point for setting relative values for the naming of individual assets such as buildings and departments.
Of course, there are other considerations besides price. For example, we should not condone the naming of our state-owned property for persons of unsavory character. An Al Capone library might not resonate with intellectual pride nor would a Bernie Madoff Economics Department. Surely we are not just for sale to all comers.
However, if the mysterious committee that decides to sell the names of public edifices and other assets has some guidelines in place we might be able to help finance everything from sports to astronomy. But in fairness, a list of things and their prices should be publicized so we all have an opportunity to participate. I have a few suggestions:
Assets Naming Price
The Whole Enchilada (IU) $3 and ¼ billion
Football Stadium $100 million
Baseball Field $ 10 million
Soccer Field $ 1 million
Natatorium $ 500,000
Student Union $ 100,000
Library $ 50,000
English Department $ 40,000
Physics Department $ 30,000
Philosophy Department $ 20,000
Sociology Department $ 5,000
Music School $ 1,000
History Department $ 500
Dining Halls $ 100
The folks who currently decide to sell these things are in a better position than I to set actual prices. These are just a few respectful suggestions as to the relative value of some of IU’s elements as might be seen from some of the public’s and the Committee’s perspectives. I hope we can arrive at a meeting of the minds over how best to encourage contributions.