Erma Bombeck says the grass is always greener but usually only over the septic tank. For all other locations what’s beyond the next hill is pretty much the same. But we humans do not let reality interfere with our favorite myths so we keep seeking Eldorado even when we may be happy where we are. And in America the gold ring is often searched for “out west”. That has been true from Plymouth Rock in 1620 until California four hundred years later. We just feel like our lives will be better if we head west.
The Gold Rush of 1849 is the eponym for this belief that paradise awaits us across the Mississippi River. Horace Greeley exhorted America’s youth to fulfill our Manifest Destiny although Greeley decided to remain comfortable in the east editing the New York Tribune. If one drives from say Indiana to Oklahoma she or he will find themselves immersed in a maelstrom of humanity trudging along Interstate 44 in their gasoline powered covered wagons. Instead of a family lumbering along behind a team of oxen with a water bucket clanging against the side and kids peeking out from under the canvas, the parents will be sipping coffee from a thermos and the kids will never see anything but the screens of their cell phones.
Should you, Gentle Reader, have been reading this column recently you may recall Peg and I have decided to join much of the rest of America and move west. Our most recent effort in this regard involved a 26 foot U-Haul truck. It had both heat and air conditioning and covered the countryside at 70 miles per hour; oxen would have had trouble trying to keep up with our fellow travelers who let us know the speed limit is only a suggestion. When we got hungry we stopped at a restaurant. Wild game did not have to be shot. When we got sleepy we stopped at a motel. Blankets on the ground were not our lot. When we got thirsty we grabbed a Coke. Searching for an oasis we did not. Our only hardship was the U-Haul did not have Sirius Radio. Since we took two vehicles we chatted along casually when we wanted to talk to each other by our cell phones while peering out the tinted windows of the U-Haul and car.
What we did fairly quickly realize was what a debt we owe to those who blazed the trail west before us. Those old western movies depicting families suffering dust, heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and medical emergencies while fording streams and crossing mountains took on a personal feel. It feels good and gives one confidence to know we come from such stock. And it certainly puts our trivial complaints in perspective.