He balanced on a 2×4, clung to the top of the wooden fence and peered through a knot-hole at his favorite team—and tears streaked his dirt-smudged and freckled face when the guys lost, 2-1. He could hardly wait to grow up when he was a kid so he could become a cowboy; but now he’s a long haul trucker, Coast to Coast. Her dream of stardom still exists for her three girls. He watched in sorrow as his older brother was laid to rest in the name of The Union. He heard taps with hot tears streaming down his face; and he addressed his Maker, “Help me love You always, and give me the courage to live or die for my country.” Wasn’t it something that Dad let her drive the old Model A home from town! He’d just as soon forget his first date when he’d stepped on Mae’s toes, and his friends had teased him for weeks! Her little sister hadn’t known the meaning of the Preamble then.
THE IDOLATROUS AMERICAN Idols are his life. With their allurement a number of things capture his dreams—fame, drugs, sex, money, power, fun… He worships at their altar… his name in neon lights; a group of his own; front-page news… a cap, syringe, match, rubber tubing and “snort”; Zig Zag; “roll your own”… a well-developed, curvaceous body, 36-24-36; or maybe one of his own kind where their “love” is shared… vast quantities of greenbacks—ten’s, hundred’s, thousand’s… to have absolute rule over any situation; Kung Fu; “gonna blow you away”… “If it feels good, do it.”
(to be continued)
THE YOUNG AMERICAN She held her breath when she saw the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho, and squeezed her father’s hand as their Conestoga wagon continued westward. He lay before the fireplace reading by its light and dreaming of the day he could serve his country. She stood with her parents and wondered at the meaning of the words that President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg in 1867. He watched with growing joy, wonder, fear and sorrow at Walt Disney’s Cinderella, Snow White, Pinocchio and Old Yeller. She arose with her little brother before daybreak to peek under the Christmas tree and they were overjoyed that Santa knew just what they wanted…but they wondered how he knew. He felt his father’s razor strap for saying things his parents forbade him to say. His principal called his dad when he misbehaved at school, and his father called him on it. His pants held a multitude of interesting play things and devices—two dead tadpoles, a rusty knife with a broken blade, a live toad, a 3/8-inch carriage bolt and a ½-inch nut…and a patch of missing hair on his head reminded others of his most recent encounter with bubble gum.
(to be continued)
THE GREEDY AMERICAN “Me first!” And he sings his childhood-playground sentiments into his adult life. He must always be served first. He cannot wait his turn. He must catch the first fish on the charter boat. He must leave the parking lot first after a movie or game. He forces his way in front of others at check out stands, commencement exercises and other meetings. Nothing escapes his view. He takes; but he does not give. His appetite knows no limits where self- indulgence is concerned; and he can never get enough soon enough.
THE POOR AMERICAN His is a plight that has long been unfortunate—maybe he can change it; maybe he can’t. He once had an important position in the community and a lovely family, but now he stumbles from hand-to-hand, door-to-door, looking for his next drink. She collects her welfare check and monthly alimony, tries to keep the wolf and the ”wolves” away from her door. He works long hours in the field for ten dollars a day, sixty a week. Her family lives high in the hills of southeastern America. Ten kids and a pack of hounds cavort around the wood frame shack. Her husband’s fondness for white lightinin’ and unemployment led him away long ago. He lives down the street in a maze of tenement houses. He sits on his stoop at night in the sweltering heat watching his shoeless kids in rags play in the street, dodging in and out between garbage cans and parked cars. He collected his monthly unemployment check, but he doesn’t look for work.
(to be continued)
OLD AMERICAN…continued from yesterdayHe saw the first “talkie” back in 1927, The Jazz Singer, featuring the voice of Al Jolson. He recalls sod houses, cotton plantations, the ice man and his tongs, window box coolers, the first macadam road and cobblestones, steam pumpers (fire engines), vaudeville, Houdini, prohibition and barn storming pilots with their wild flying machines and wing walkers. Women fought for their rights and he smiled. A sense of awe pervaded his being when he heard about the light bulb. The telegraph and telephone were mysteries; and he couldn’t believe radio. He was glad for work but sad for workers when assembly lines began. Highway transportation beget road signs and Burma Shave messages. Memory recalled those cool October nights when the moon was full. Old Dan and Molly were on a hot coon track back in the hills and he fought the brambles to keep up. Days filed past his memory… July 4, 1776; Sutter’s Mill 1848; The Klondyke, 1898; December 7, 1941, The Day of Infamy; November 22, 1963, Assassination of President Kennedy. Yes, he remembers. He remembers the words… “I have not yet begun to fight”…and… “Give me liberty or give me death.” And he wonders…how many Americans today believe these words? How many would have liberty in America or die? Will it take an Auschwitz here? Another Adolph Eichmann? Will it take a divided city like East and West Berlin?
(to be continued)
THE OLD AMERICAN He watched the earliest explorers from secret when they set foot on his shores. He was pilgrim, adventurer, witch hunter, frontiersman, whaler, mountain man, smithy, riverboat man, prospector, inventor of the automobile, assembly line worker, dairyman, toyer with scientific theories and airplane mechanic.
He preached to the Pilgrims. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He fired the “shot heard ‘round the world.’” He rode through Lexington and Concord. His pen covered the Spanish-American War. He fought in the trenches in World War I and hit the beach at Iwo Jima. He learned about Dien Bien Phu, commanded troops at Quantico and led them in Khe Sanh.
He watched his comrades fall at Little Big Horn, New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. Six men raised Old Glory on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi and he watched with pride. He joined fellow Air Force aviators along with Marine and Navy fliers in bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Old American recalls his New England Primer and Huck Finn. He read The Grapes of Wrath and cried for the Okies and the misplaced.
He watched the Babe blast the horsehide out of sight in Yankee Stadium. John L. Sullivan was his man, two-fisted and raw boned. And Jesse Owens, wasn’t he something!
She remembers Jim Thorpe and his female counterpart—Babe Didrickson Zaharias—“and what gave them the right to strip him of his medals after the 1912 Olympics!” And he remembers Red Grange a.k.a. The Galloping Ghost, The Brown Bomber, The Harlem Globe Trotters and Eddie Feigner, founder and pitcher of The King and His Court.
(to be continued)
Born a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I grew up with Red, White and Blue coursing my veins—with passionate patriotic leanings. I missed the Civil War and the Great Depression but have lived through equally, if not more troubling times—the Civil Rights Movement, the assignation of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a growing drug problem, Viet Nam and other atrocities. Forty years ago with the wheels falling off the country I loved, I considered producing a slide show capturing some of America, most of which I’d only heard or read. The show could be used in schools to inform and/or inspire youth to greater heights. Other projects took priority and that show never developed. However I offer it now…in a serialized version—proper perspective may require reading the entire (three week) piece.
American—The Endangered Species by Larry Kaniut, winter 1978
Yankee. Cocoa Cola. The Babe. WOP. The Spirit of St. Louis. Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. The Alamo. Bras Coupe and Uncle Rhemus. Tin Lizzie. Carpetbagger. Will Rogers. Slavery. Twenty-three skidoo. Sodbuster. Redman. Ku Klux Klan. Limey. The Unknown Soldier. Rebel. Words but they’re not empty words. They are pregnant with meaning. They are words to cheer the sad. Words to strike fear in the hearts of men. Words to comfort the sorrowing. Words that recall nostalgic moments. Words of bigotry. Words of acceptance. Words to live by. Words to die by. We are part of words; and words are part of us; and may it ever be so as we view America. May we learn from the past…cherish its fond memories, be inspired by its hard taught lessons and be challenged to live today for the ideals that will keep our country’s freedom—forever!
(to be continued…)
There they were. Two hoots. And a holler. What were they thinking? And what were they doing? Hey, you! What’s going on? Are you supoosed to be here? Doing that?
How much would interpersonal relationships be improved by replacing personal possessive pronouns my and mine with your?
Human nature is a beast. Why is it that the predatory man is lauded for his sexual conquests BUT the female is called vile names for participating with him? What is the reason that he is a "stud" and she is a "slut?" What is the reason men are feted for their sexual inappropriateness and women are criticized for theirs?
Stalwart. Regal.The big fella stood guard, head swiveling periodically from side to side, confidently surveying his surroundings. Moments later his mate joined him, gliding in on silent wings, both flapping to slow her descent, talons extended to touch their aerie. Through golden eyes the male bald eagle gazed appreciatively at her, his yellow-orange beak clacking a welcome as he continued his vigil seventy feet above the snow covered ground in the monster, leafless cottonwood tree eighty yards west of the Old Seward Highway.