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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category


“Some Dreams Take Work”–because America might be beautiful, but it isn’t always easy. Available at my CafePress Store: http://www.cafepress.com/magicdogpress

I’ve been thinking a lot about patriotism lately. In the 2008 elections Sarah Palin talked a lot about “Ril Amuricans”-who they are, where they live, where they go to church, to whom they pray. She praised the screaming, rage-fulled crowds at her rallies for their american-ness. She spent a lot of time insinuating that then-Candidate Obama wasn’t  a “Ril Amurican,” that “he doesn’t see America like you and I see America.”

Many on the right side of the political spectrum have followed her lead. Patriotism has come to be associated with tight-jawed people in three-cornered hats, carrying guns to political and presidential events, with a set of values that disenfranchises millions, that seeks to impose a narrow set of religious beliefs in the name of “American values.”

I realized the other day that I had conceded patriotism to a political and social group that quite frankly frightens me–that seems to be trying to strip away the very parts of America that I find most important.

It’s the Fourth of July. I went out and sat on my lawn and watched The Boy and his buddy set off our legal fireworks. In between our beautiful, jewel-like little fire fountains I listened to the huge cannons, and oohed and ahhed at the gigantic golden chrysanthemums, the umbrellas of flickering fire, and the shooting stars the scofflaws on both sides of me were setting off. I don’t know where they get the fireworks, but it happens every July Fourth–the skies light up, and I sit out on my thoroughly-watered lawn, swat mosquitoes, and enjoy the show.

Tonight I thought about our town. I don’t know how much truth there is to it, but local legend holds that our skies full of fireworks happen because of our large migrant population–they bring their enormous fireworks, and come Fourth of July it’s like the battle of Fort Sumpter all over again, but with fewer blown-up buildings and burning boats.

The irony of this, of course, is that our most American of holidays is made more American because of the non-citizens in our midst. We have our problems–yesterday I noticed that somebody’s tagging around town, and that makes me sad. We are not perfect. But citizens or not, and despite our differences, we are all real Americans, and we all inhabit real America.

That means that I have to understand that America is big enough to hold the Tea Party and the Progressives, the GOP and the Democrats, ethnic and racial groups of all descriptions, lovers of all or no genders. America isn’t an apple pie–it’s a fruit salad, and some of us are fruitier than others.

And so today, I am a patriot. I love the symbolism of the flag. I choke up at the “National Anthem.” I believe Katherine Lee Bates had my part of America in mind when she wrote the lines,

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

I believe that everyone deserves the tools from which to build success–what you do with them is up to you. I believe that no child should go to bed hungry. I believe that we all deserve healthcare, housing, and education at a fair price. I believe that while success is American, success achieved by harming others isn’t. I believe in good neighbors, vegetable gardens, and keeping religion out of politics. I believe kids need to learn how to think clearly, to play fair, and to put themselves in others’ shoes.

I believe that we don’t have to have the same values, cultures, or traditions to like and respect each other. I believe we all make potato salad and fried chicken a little differently, and it’s okay. I believe we don’t all have to agree, but we do have to listen to each other, and differ respectfully.

And I believe I’ll go outside and watch a few more fireworks, and maybe sing “America the Beautiful,” until my throat tightens. Because America is beautiful, and I am lucky to be here.

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Here is Alex (second from the left) riding with Mandy, my Mainer cousin, and a friend of theirs.

Originally I had planned to re-post my unvalentine’s daypoem, but then last night I heard a love story that I think

Here's Bunny, ready for her close-up.

needs telling. It’s the story of Bunny and Alex, and it comes to me by way of my horse-riding sister who is sometimes Pam and sometimes Mandy in this blog, because neither one is her real name. Anyhow, last night Pam and I were having one of the marathon phone conversations we have on average twice a week, and I inquired after Russell’s health (Russell being a calf she bought so she could practice cutting in her home arena).

“Russell’s long gone,” she said.

“Why?” I asked. “I just used his name in one of my stories (which is true).

“He liked to play too rough,” she said. He liked to play tag with the boys, which was fine, but when I would go in and try to feed him he would hook me in the side of my leg, and he was just too big. And besides, he wouldn’t cut anymore. He’d just stick his head through the arena bars and stand there.”

Here's Alex again, demonstrating that she can and does ride animals other than Bunny.

I forebore to tell her that this is what happens when your sons play tag with your cutting steer, and worse, break him to ride. It’s no wonder Russell didn’t take cutting practice seriously. Anyhow, she gave Russell away and obtained four more calves who still thought that having a horse run at them was a scary thing.

“Don’t name them,” she told Alex. Alex is my nephew’s girlfriend, who helps with the kennels and rides with Pam. “These aren’t going to be pets. They’re cutting practice calves, and when they’re too big we’re going to get rid of them and get some more.”

Within a few days all four calves had names.

In spite of that, though, three of them retained their status as cutting calves. The exception was Bunny. Bunny loves Alex, and Alex loves Bunny. It started with feeding, of course, and then it expanded to Bunny liking to have her head rubbed, and then she started following Alex around, and then, as was probably inevitable, given that my nephews had broken Russell to ride, Alex decided to try her hand at riding Bunny. I have a lovely video clip of the experience, which I can’t figure out how to embed here, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

All was not beer and skittles. Bunny might love Alex, but not necessarily on her back, it turned out. But Alex persevered, and now she has a fine steed, broken to saddle and modified bridle. And Bunny? Bunny’s future is secure. For now she’s a riding cow. In a few months she will experience the wonder and magic of True Love, and then Motherhood. And being a milk cow (yes, you can milk cows that are not specifically bred for it).

I like to think of Alex and Bunny, raising their children together, Alex teaching her children to ride cows, and Bunny teaching her calves to be ridden. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here's Bunny, saddled up and ready to go.

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LINDA C. WISNIEWSKI

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